‘Oh we’re having a conference call at 1 if you want to join,’ someone says on your second day of work experience. ‘I’ll send you over the details now.’

You receive the following email:

Call at 1: 3598265235 #46893444

And panic sets in. Thankfully, we’re here to help – along with some tips from James Paterson, PR manager at O2 Telefonica and professional conference caller.

Avoid using your mobile

It doesn’t matter how scared you are of the office landline, it’s going to be a lot scarier when your signal cuts out and you’ve got to re-enter the conversation in the middle of people having an impassioned debate. Or, most probably, a fairly boring debate. “Make sure you’re in an area of good signal – there’s nothing worse than dropping off a call when your signal goes,” warns James.

Don’t type in all the numbers at once

It’s not a 24 digit special ‘conference call’ number – it’s two separate ones. So key in the first part, and listen to the instructions from the robotic woman on the other line. Said instruction will probably be ‘please enter the number of the conference call you wish to enter, followed by the hash key’. So do that.

Prepare your vocal chords

That lovely robotic woman is going to ask you to record your name, which will be played out to everyone in the conference call, so clear your throat in order to avoid the dreaded “HYNEURGH has joined the conversation” announcement.

Don’t be eerily silent when you join

…But don’t announce yourself like some sort of 17th century butler. A simple ‘Hi’ will do, considering the robotic woman will have automatically announced you to the group. If nobody heard who joined, then ‘Hi it’s [insert your name] here!’ works well. Go you.

Don’t eat a sandwich or play a YouTube video

“Don’t be the guy on the bus, chopping carrots or plane spotting – watch for the background noise!” says James. There’s nothing worse than, in a conference call of twenty people, hearing someone say, “Er, can whoever’s chewing stop? It sounds like a fish dying. Thanks.” Also, everyone in your office who is also on the call will be able to see that it’s you.

Speak in turn

Depending on how many people are on the call, things can get a bit confusing, so only really speak when asked (or a question has been put out to everyone) and try not to talk over someone else. “Let people finish talking before you start – it’s hard to tell if people have finished so give a second’s pause just in case,” advises James. NB: everyone will talk at the same time at some point, so don’t worry if you do – just say ‘Sorry, you first’ and wait until they’re done.

Don’t yawn

You’ll do it right down the receiver and it’ll sound like you’re being eaten by a whale.

Try not to zone out

God it’s hard sometimes. Especially when you’re on a work placement and have no idea what they’re really on about. The problem is, the moment you’re thinking about lunchtime, someone will ask you a direct question and you’ll have no idea what’s happened – try and take notes on a notepad/laptop so you can always refer back. Another great tip to give yourself some thinking time, is to pretend you’ve accidentally pressed mute. “If you do get caught zoning out, don’t sound like you were – the line ‘Sorry, I was just coming off mute’ is a classic,” says James.

If you liked this article, why not take a look at…