Nowadays, you don’t have to be in the room to attend a meeting. Thanks to speaker phones and the Internet, you can participate in a seminar from your cozy computer chair in Seattle while the seminar is hosted in Chicago,Illinois—all without the expense or trouble of travel.

This morning, I was at my desk and I could overhear a webinar going on in a nearby conference room. Not a big deal—I’ve developed the skill of tuning out activity outside my cubicle walls. But, suddenly, there came the sound of coughing so deep and phlegmy, I stopped typing and gulped. I regrouped, went back to work, and 10 minutes later heard “hack, hack haaaaack.”

This wasn’t coming from a person inside the conference room—it was another caller that was in on the conference call! And, to make matters worse, everyone on that call from coast to coast could hear it, too. I’m sure a few of the featured speaker’s words got lost in that phlegm-fest.

Now, if I were having a coughing fit, I would excuse myself and leave the room to spare my colleagues. Why would it be any different if you were on a conference call?

Perhaps the person didn’t realize she was making a disturbance. But then, it made me think about etiquette. There’s etiquette for email and instant messaging (DON’T USE ALL CAPS, IT MEANS YOU ARE YELLING). Isn’t there etiquette for conference calls?

I think the only rule of etiquette you would need for conference calls is this: Turn on your mute button. If you wish to speak, turn off your mute button. When you are done speaking to the group, turn your mute button back on.

With one push of the mute button… If you’re sick and your coughing, sneezing, wheezing, etc., we won’t hear you. (Sneakily typing an email or doing a little work on the side?) You’ll be even sneakier when the mute button is on and we can’t hear you “click-click-clicking” on the phone. We won’t have to hear the construction that’s going on next door to your office. You can repeat what the speaker said to the person who’s sitting next to you, and we won’t have to hear it, too. You can keep your snide remarks and commentary to yourselves.

If it sounds like I’m venting, I am. I love technology, (ecommerce is in my job title after all), but technology should not overshadow common courtesy and respect for others physical (and aural) space.

Laurel McJannet

No biography available for this author.

Leave a Reply