• Rapid pace of business and society is killing conference call etiquette
  • Develop a set of tactics to minimize interruptions and other bullshit
  • Don’t try to control things but instead, manage through it
It happens. Every. Fucking. Time.

You’re calmly trying to explain the details and without fail, somebody cuts you off like an asshole driver to make a stupid comment or insert a counterpoint. Most of the time, the things that are brought up in the interruptions are all things that are part of your explanation. If they’d only shut the fuck up and let you talk, then they’d get all the info.

The worst ones are the conference calls with fucking clueless executives. Some of these bigwigs don’t understand the nuances of the things you work on and always seem to interrupt you when you’re about to address the point. It can drive you nuts.

And to make things even worse, these kinds of high-profile conference calls with executives always seem to attract office assholes like honey does to bears. It gives them the chance to shit on you and your work so that they look smart. They love to cut in, speak out and throw you under the bus.

All of this makes you scream inside, “Doesn’t anybody have conference call etiquette anymore?!”

Why Conference Call Etiquette Is Getting Worse

With each conference call meeting that you’re a part of or leading, there’s always somebody that didn’t get the memo about conference call etiquette. Whether it’s interruptions, unmuted noise distractions, cross-talking, etc., there’s always at least one pain in the ass coworker that is doing something they shouldn’t do.

All of this kinda makes you wonder if this is now the new normal or if things have gotten worse. Either way, it’s definitely not like how things used to be and it makes managing work stress so much harder.

Here are some of the reasons why conference call etiquette is going down the shitter.

Rapid Pace Of Business

Way back in the pre-computer days of business, conference calls existed too. The difference was that business was done with a bit more decorum. In fact, society in general was more formal and people cared more about their personal brand.

As various technologies like cell phones, email and internet were introduced, the pace of business jumped exponentially. What used to take days with a mailed letter now only takes seconds with email. It drove the expectations for speed over formality.

Social Media Trained Behavior

With the advent of social media, people have been trained to freely express themselves without much regard for others. You can instantly post and share anything you want, whenever you want and however you want. There’s no courtesy required of waiting your turn.

This behavior of being able to insert your thoughts freely often shows up in conference calls with attendees just chiming whenever the hell they want. One extreme example is when somebody hijacks an online meeting to forcibly show their information. It’s unreal.

Increased Impatience & Instant Gratification

Everyone wants everything right now. It’s all about on-demand streaming, same-day delivery, instant weight loss, etc. Technology and society have created a world where people get things immediately and if they don’t, they get pissed off.

It’s no different on conference calls. People don’t want to wait until it's explained. They want to know now, so they fire off their specific questions before you’re done talking. This is especially true for bitch bosses from hell. It’s instant information gratification for them.

Desire For More Airtime

Some people just love hearing themselves talk. It’s also an opportunity for them to get more “airtime” to promote themselves, especially when there are executives with huge egos on the call. They want to align themselves with them. So, if they’ve got a snide bullshit comment, they’ll interrupt you to make their point so that they look good.

Other people just have a ton of shit they want to get off their chest. It starts with a key related item, then it bridges to another then another and so on. They use the initial opening to broadcast all of their concerns and worries. It’s their chance to vent and unload all of their grievances to everyone.

More Multitasking & Inattention

Everybody’s got to do more with less these days. It’s common for people to be doing other things while they sit on a call. They listen on the sidelines while catching up on email, replying to chat messages, working on the report or just simply cyberloafing.

All of this inattention usually results in somebody asking to repeat something again. It’s usually a keyword or topic that mentally triggers their attention. In almost all cases, they interrupt the meeting flow and ask about something that was just discussed minutes ago.

Dealing With Conference Call Idiots

Every company and organization has at least a few people that don’t have much conference call courtesy. And usually, there’s at least one office asshole who always disrupts calls with their bullshit. There’s really no avoiding these kinds of work jerks. You can only manage around it.

Here are some key tips and tactics that you can use to minimize the suffering and get in the zone with your meeting.

Talk To Known Repeat Offenders

This is a bold move but if you can pull it off, it’s the best and most effective long-term solution. You already know who the worst offenders are. So, if possible, have a one-on-one conversation with them.

You don’t want to come across as telling them to STFU, but more along the lines of telling them that it’s most efficient for you and everyone else if they can be more patient and/or wait for the appropriate time to ask questions or make comments.

Keep The Group Small

You can play the odds here for more success. When there are more people on a call, the chances of getting interrupted increase significantly. Instead of one giant group meeting, consider doing it in groups, departments or teams of smaller sizes.

When you cut down on the number of people on a call, it really minimizes the amount of interruptions. The side bonus is that you get to further hone your story or explanation for future executive presentations where you’ll knock it out of the park.

Make Pre-Meeting Announcements

When you’ve got a large group call, it’s always a good idea to announce some meeting etiquette guidelines. It’s the “housekeeping” items that are meant to minimize bad virtual meeting habits, keep folks in line and keep the call as productive as possible.

Make these announcements at the start. This could include holding questions until the end of the section, using the chat function for questions, telling people to mute themselves when not talking, etc.

Use Mute Control Features For Large Groups

If you’re using one of the major web-based conferencing tools, there’s usually a master mute function available to you. You can use this to mute participants that don’t know that they’re unmuted and are creating a lot of background noise. Know where this mute button is located for quick actions.

If you really want full and total control, you can set the default for attendees to join muted and if they want to speak up, they must press and hold the space bar to unmute themselves.

Control Mic Airtime

Some folks just love to listen to themselves blab on and on (ahem, narcissist boss). They love the airtime. They will chew up valuable time if you don’t curb their ranting or droning. And then, you won’t get all your items addressed.

This is your meeting. You’ve gotta verbally step in and metaphorically grab the microphone from them. Let them know that there’s limited time and that other topics need to be covered. And if they keep interrupting…

Use the “Take It Offline” Tactic

Some meeting attendees do have valid reasons for continuing to explain or talk about the topic at hand, especially if they are putting out fires at work related to the agenda item. It’s all valid but not for everyone in the meeting.

If and when somebody starts getting into the weeds on something, you’ve gotta stop them and let them know that what they’re saying is all relevant, but it’d be better to “take it offline” with the specific team members to address things.

Setup Q&A Blocks

It’s tempting to tell people to hold their questions until the end of the meeting. However, this isn’t ideal or efficient. The better approach is to have short Q&A sessions at the end of each section or item in the agenda. This allows everyone to stay on topic, discuss the relevant issues and make smart decisions before moving on to the next thing.

Be sure to set a limit on the number of questions or amount of time for these sessions. If you have fewer topics, the sessions can be longer. And, if you have a lot of items to get through, then the sessions have to be shorter.

Enforce Conference Call Etiquette For Sanity and Success

It’d be awesome if we didn’t need to have conference calls at work and just did everything via simple email. But, that’s not how business works. Practically everything you work on is cross-functional in nature, spans multiple departments and groups and will always require communication and collaboration with others. There’s no avoiding it.

And whenever you have to lead a group conference call, you just know that you’re gonna have to deal with a few idiots that have zero self-awareness of how they’re behaving on calls.

You can’t control these etiquette-less employees. Don’t even try. All that will do is make you bang your head against the wall in frustration. The better approach is to manage your way through it by minimizing the bullshit. Maybe, even do a one-minute meditation before or after each call so you don’t lose your shit.

Develop a process that works best for you and your working style. Then, adapt it as you go along. This is how you’ll keep your sanity and be successful.

Feel Better,

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