Conference Call Etiquette In Times Of COVID-19

All of us who work in hospitals or just about businesses of any kind have changed most of our former in-person committee meetings to conference calls using WebEx, Go To Meeting, Blue Jeans, etc. These programs can be pretty powerful tools that can keep the hospital or company running smoothly while maintaining social distancing for epidemiologic purposes. But for them to work efficiently, it is essential that attendees obey some basic conference call etiquette:

  1. If you are not speaking, put your phone on mute to avoid background noise
  2. Do not type while the phone is unmuted. Typing sounds are amplified on the phone
  3. If calling in from home, go to a room away from barking dogs, television noise, or talking family members to avoid background noise
  4. Avoid being outdoors when calling in because noise from wind, sirens, and passing cars can be amplified
  5. When speaking on the conference call, it is better to speak into the telephone handset than to through the speakerphone as your voice will be picked up better
  6. Avoid calling in from a moving automobile using Bluetooth. Not only can the conference call result in distracted driving but car engine noise and roadway noise can be very distracting
  7. Do not put your phone on hold. Many companies will have default “elevator music” play when the phone is on hold and this music will drown out anyone else on the conference call
  8. If you are the host of the meeting, be facile with the mute buttons. If your conference call program has an option for “mute on entry” and “mute all” then using these options to eliminate background noise and beep sounds when people call in or hang up
  9. Use video judiciously. Too many people using video can tie up bandwidth. If you are using video, don’t forget that you are on video – it is amazing how many embarrassing things people do when they thing they are alone in their office (brushing their teeth, making faces, etc.)

March 28, 2020

By James Allen, MD

I am a Professor Emeritus of Internal Medicine at the Ohio State University and former Medical Director of Ohio State University East Hospital