Conference Call Etiquette (Mute Your Microphone)

True, this is not directly related to writing, but if you are fortunate enough in your writing career, chances are you’ll someday end up on a conference call.  (Or, if you’re like me, and unfortunate enough in your real life job, you will end up on way too many of the damned things.)

So, yesterday I was on a conference call from hell.  The type that makes you wonder if there really are impish little spirits out there who devise ways to torture us.  (The mere thought of this conference call just made me breakdown and have my first Coke of the day even though half an hour ago I swore I was going to start cutting back.  That’s how bad the call was.)

This call reminded me of how few people understand the little niceties of conference call etiquette.  I won’t discuss the talking over other people bit, because I’ve decided that’s just inevitable and unavoidable.  But the muting your microphone bit – that one’s easy to address and we should all do so.

On yesterday’s call, we had two of the classic examples of why you mute your microphone:

The first person was obviously working from home.  There was a young child in the background who was having an animated conversation with whoever it was.  And then that same person made a phone call (you could hear the little boop-boop of a phone dialing – not only did they make another call, they did it on speakerphone).  And then they went somewhere where lots of people were laughing and having a good time.

It got to the point where this person, who was clearly multi-tasking and not paying attention to the call, became the subject of the call.  Someone asked them to mute their line and, when they didn’t respond, the call devolved into a conversation (fortunately, light-hearted) about how we’d all rather be laughing and having fun like that person than discussing whatever painful topic we were discussing.

Bad form.

The second caller was just funny.  She was clearly engaged in what we were discussing (unlike the first person).  But she kept vocalizing her engagement.  So, someone would speak and you’d hear, “Oh, right,”  “Um-hm,” “And…,” “Yes, yes, that makes sense.”

For two hours.

Fortunately, I was on mute, because there were points where it made me laugh out loud.  (And I know I was on mute, because the conversation didn’t pause in an awkward way when I suddenly laughed.)

Another one we had a few weeks ago was the heavy breather.  I swear, I almost felt sexually harassed.  Whoever it was didn’t speak or have background noise, but you could hear every little breath through their microphone.  (I suspect a headset, but could be wrong.)  So, someone would be speaking and you’d hear these deep breathing noises in the background like some creepy weirdo standing right behind you on a crowded subway.  (Thankfully, it was never more than deep breathing…unlike the subway.)

So, a few rules to follow (rumor has it that effective blogs use lists…):

  1. If you’re not talking always mute your microphone.
  2. If you’re not talking always mute your microphone.
  3. If you’re not talking…

You get the point.  I could add nuance, but really, the bottom line is: Mute your damned microphone!

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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2 Responses to Conference Call Etiquette (Mute Your Microphone)

  1. Keri Peardon says:

    I hate speakerphones in general because it’s so much harder to hear the person speaking. And I always feel paranoid because I don’t know who else is listening.

    I have similar bad phone experiences working as a receptionist (I blogged about phone etiquette a while back:

    • mhleewriter says:

      Liked the post. My 11th grade English teacher also drilled us on responding “This is she/he.” I’m sure he’d rather I remembered his insights on King Lear, but that’s what stuck with me all these years.

      And I had a boss who always used speakerphone, so I never called him if I could help it. I’m a little too frank and honest with my opinions for speakerphone. 🙂

      The working world. Such fun.

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