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5 Annoying Conference Call Mistakes to Avoid
July 8, 2008 @ 07:15 AM | By Nicole Scheel

Phone Background NoiseOne of the most common questions I get from training colleagues outside of the conferencing industry is “How do you train over a conference call?  There are way too many distractions!”  While I can see where their anxiety may be coming from, I’ve put together a list of 5 ways to remove distractions from your next virtual meeting.

1. Eliminate Background Noise

I could write a whole post on this one!  Dogs barking, phones ringing, babies crying and the airport loud speaker all fall into this category!  The great thing about conference calls is that you can dial in from anywhere and still run training or meet with your team.  However these types of disruptions not only degrade your experience, they affect the whole call. 

So, if your cell phone has a mute button, use it!  Otherwise, most conferencing bridges have a touch tone command that you can use to mute your line.  If you are the leader on the call you should also have the ability to mute all lines except your own and then un-mute those lines for discussion.

2. Watch Out For Hold Music

Some offices and cell phone providers include a hold music feature.  It’s nice if you’re the only one on hold.  But if you put your phone on hold while in a conference, it interrupts the entire call.  Make sure to remind your participants that if they have hold music on their phone and their second line rings, they should not put the conference line on hold.  All participants on the call will be able to hear the hold music. If they love their hold music and are proud of it, feed it into the conference before the meeting starts!

July_8_boys_can_telephone_33. Be Cautious of Static

We all love our cell phones (mine is never more than a foot away from me at all times) but, a conference call is not always the best place to use one.  Ideally, everyone on a conference call would be using a handset plugged into a land line.  I know – that’s totally unrealistic.  Cordless phones, cell phones, headsets and wireless headsets are all very convenient but they can all cause static. 

The easiest way to clear this up is to have that person disconnect and dial back into the conference call without the wireless device or using a different phone.  If that person is unable to hear you over the static you can request an operator and they will be able to zero in on which line is causing the static and either mute or disconnect that line.

4. Test Your Speaker Phone

Using a speaker phone is often a great way to get feedback from a group of people.  These days, most speaker phones are full digital duplex and do a great job of delivering sound quality.    However, do make sure you test your speaker phone before the conference. Consider how many people will be in the room, how big the room is and if the phone will cause an echo into the conference.  If your speaker phone is equipped with microphones throughout the room, definitely test and use them.  If you’re the only one presenting, I would recommend using your hand/headset for the call and then using the speaker phone for Q&A so those in the room can hear the questions.

5. Beeps & Blaring Signals

If you are dialed into a conference call from your cell phone or home phone, you probably have call waiting enabled.  When you hear a tone notifying you that another call is coming through, that tone also plays into your conference call.  So, turn off your call waiting during your meeting.

Occasionally, you may also get a loud blaring sound into your phone.  This is usually feedback caused by another electronic device like a Blackberry or laptop.  If you get this noise, try moving away from those devices and the feedback should stop pretty quickly.

With most conferencing providers there should be an option to go online and manage your conference call in real time.  This is a great option that may allow you to see which line is causing the problem and fix it easily!  So there you have it – my top five recommendations to make your conference calls less distracting and more productive.  If I missed one that really bugs you, let me know and I’ll throw out some suggestions as to how to avoid it.  If these suggestions aren’t helping your call sound better, maybe what you need is an operator assisted call where someone can help control the noise for you! Remember that your conferencing service provider is there to help you get better sound quality.  So, give them a call!

Nicole Nicole Scheel is the Director of Training, and the “Tips & Training Blogger”. Nicole has been in training with InterCall for nine years and currently manages our internal and customer training departments, also known as InterCall University. When she's not training someone, you can find Nicole volunteering in her community or finishing her Masters in Training & Development at Roosevelt University.

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Very good tips! Thank you for sharing!

wayne helmore

Found the information on your site to be a great help. Thanks and keep up the good work guys...

Call Center

All 5 tips are useful to avoid the mistakes in conference call. Sometime when we are on conference call kids really disturb or make noise which is not good, this point is clear after reading your view on Eliminate Background Noise. It happen N number of times with all of us that in a background some voice keep going on we never try to stop it but your point is showing that how much it is important to take care of this point. The waiting or hold music must be the company's personal or promotional music. Sometimes we can also put good or famous song which sounds fine. Others points are also relevant. Thank you for sharing all important points.

Call Centers India
India’s one and only end to end CISCO based IP network.

Chris Rummel

These five tips are great. For all of the conference calls and meetings that I find myself on, it is amazing just how many people don't attempt to avoid makeing these mistakes. Not only with outside vendors, but with internal employees. From not putting their phones on mute if someone enters their office to talk, to answering your cell phone and shuffling papers. Remember people the "Mute" button is on your phone for a reason. There is another good list out there at:

Cassandra Bennett

Nicole has a point! Conferencing is easy and convenient but can contain distractions if the attendees are not aware of what the rest of the participants can hear coming from their background. Correcting these issues is easy. EDUCATION. By educating people in a polite way about background noise your conference can become efficient. I have faced this problem many times. Attendees are not trying to be rude or distracting, they simply don't know better. On top of the training that can be provided by InterCall it is also nice to talk to your attendees privately about the noise you experienced from their line. My guess is that they had NO idea that it was coming from them.

Dan Carroll

This is a great post! A few clients of mine were just talking about conference static the other day and I asked them if they had their cell phones close-by. Sure enough, they did! I told them to try removing them from the area when they did conference calls and to let me know if it helped. I received a call just yesterday thanking me for this tidbit of advice as their static is now all gone!

Valerie Breunig

how in the heck do I turn off call waiting? I never saw that in any instructions from my phone provider.

Nicole Scheel

Valerie -

According to ehow.com, the Disable Call Waiting code will be one of the following three codes: *70, 70# or 1170.

To disable call waiting you should dial the code, followed by the phone number for your conference call.

You can check your phone book or contact your telephone company to get more information.


Nicole, isn't it #70? Been awhile since I used it, but I could've sworn that's what it was from long ago...

Call Center Philippines

Your tips and guidelines here are surely helpful! It’s great to read such topical stuff on the web as I have been able to discover here. Thanks for publishing such great reading material and for investing the time to write it and post it here, I am sure that it will help many.



Is your hold music available online?

Data Entry India

Thank you very its very good tips, it was helpful for us and im sure it will be helpful for many.

Delmer Cropley

Call conferencing is a revolutionary way to conduct one's business. Conference calls have now paved the way for colleagues and clients alike to communicate directly without the need for long distance travel and unnecessary expense. Video conferencing has enormous benefits, allowing for visual presentations, and a face-to-face dialogue. It is more expensive than audio conferencing, but can be a valuable option for business conference calls for the larger corporation.

Call Center Services

Hahah Omg this picture is hilarious! Totally stumbled upon this as I was doing research to write a post that it similar. Love the points you make.

I would also like to add to point #1 -- COWORKERS! If it's an important call, and your cube neighbors are particularly loud, it's important to remove yourself from the setting. Take it into a small conference room or quiet area.

Great post,


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