The Virtual Office: Top Ten Rules for Participating in Conference Calls and Webinars

Photo Credit:  Kimb0lene
Anant is a distributed company that relies heavily on conference calls and webinars/GoToMeetings to conduct our day-to-day business.  As such, it’s important that we follow some basic rules when it comes to interacting via conference calls and webinars to make the most of our virtual time together.   Here’s a list of the top 10 things that we suggest our employees keep in mind…
1. Be on time.
If you’re a celebrity, arriving fashionably late is acceptable. Not so much with us.  One late person holds up our calls and burns billable time.  Being late every once in a while happens…that’s no big deal.  Being late to every call, that’s a problem.  We’ve started tracking attendance for our most critical calls.
2. Activate audio controls when calling in to GoToMeeting.
You have the power! Did you know that you can mute yourself by pressing *6 when you’re on a conference call?  All you have to do is enable audio controls when you call in to the telephone number.  The audio control number is given in the GoToMeeting invite. Click here for a list of options.
3. Mute yourself.
It’s so simple yet so easy to forget.  If you’re not talking, then please, please, please mute yourself.   You can also press the mute button on your phone or computer, or utilize audio controls as per #2 above. This will help mitigate a lot of issues with #5 below.  And don’t forget to unmute yourself.  Although, accidentally talking while you’re muted is usually much less annoying than talking when you should be muted.  Ask Presidents Bush (1 and 2) or Clinton or Obama.
4. Call from a quite place.
Demolition zones, noisy construction sites, coffee shops (especially if you’re sitting by the milk steamer) or gyms aren’t suitable places from which to call in to a conference call or GoToMeeting.  We wouldn’t hold an in-person meeting in such a place (ok, the coffee shop is debatable).  Please make sure you’re in a quiet place and that there isn’t a 747 trying to parallel park between two screaming fire engines and a jackhammer.  And muting yourself while you’re in a noisy place doesn’t count.
5. No micro-background noises.
Unless you’re the organizer and it’s absolutely unavoidable, please don’t type while you’re on the conference call (one of my personal pet peeves).  Also, please don’t shuffle papers, slurp your coffee, click your pen top, or hum “Rocky Mountain High” while brushing your teeth.  If you have to do any of those things, please refer to number 3 above. Barking dogs fit into this category – my dog included. Oh, and yawning…Y-A-W-N.  Please mute yourself before you yawn.  I’m serious. 😉
6. Use a headset.
Nothing nothing nothing is is is worse worse worse than than than having having having an an an echo echo echo on on on the the the call call call. If at all possible, please use a headset. And don’t plug into your desktop speakers. Pretty please.
7. Have a good internet/telephone connection. 
“So I was….that if the…..onto the balcony…..look out….friend’s dog…ate…a shark.”  What??  Dropping off calls because of a bad internet connection or cell reception isn’t cool. Sometimes it just can’t be helped…we understand that.  More often than not, it can be. Please don’t call from subway stations, tunnels, nuclear fallout shelters, the Mariana Trench or from the pinnacle of Pike’s Peak.  Reschedule the call if you can’t guarantee a good connection.
8. Stay for the duration of the call.
Please stay for the entire call. We like you and want to enjoy your company. Hopping off and on disrupts the call. I hate being interrupted all the time by the annoying chime that announces when someone either joins or drops off.  Please stick around.
9. Inform the organizer (or a company contact person) if you’re going to be late or miss the call. 
Please notify the organizer in advance (and I don’t mean 30 seconds before the call!).  They may tell you not to join or it’s okay to come in late. But please, just be courteous.
10. Golden rule of conference calls/GoToMeetings/webinars
Here’s a general rule to help guide you – if it’s acceptable behavior during an in-person meeting, then it’s probably acceptable on a conference call/GoToMeeting (likewise, if it isn’t acceptable behavior for an in-person meeting, then it’s probably not acceptable for a conference call/GoToMeeting).
Use your judgement.  Use it wisely.
If you’d like additional help walking through how to catapult your virtual team to the heights of efficient operations, or thinking through a different aspect of internet strategy, we’d be happy to help you do so! Drop us a line here any time, and we’ll get back to you faster than you can install one of these plugins!

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