In my line of work, I spend a fair portion of time on conference calls - and by conference call, I'm not talking about your three-way phone conversation with two of your friends. When I say conference call, I'm talking about 10, 20 even 30+ people being simultaneously being on the call.

Having participated in calls such as these, there are several procedures you should follow to ensure that your conference call is as free from frustration and irritation as possible. Here is a list of rules (in no particular order) that I have picked up during the course of my work:

  • Mute your phone when you aren't speaking. It is real annoying to hear background office noise (or worse, someone washing dishes) as you are desperately trying to copy down some crucial bit of information. If you don't have mute capabilities, then make sure you take the call in a quiet room.

  • If possible, make sure you have prepared what you are going to say - there is nothing worse than listening to someone as they try and work out the state of play and/or arguing in circles because they haven't thought the issues through.

  • NEVER EVER put the conference call on hold. Then the rest of us are forced to listen to the repetitive annoying crap they call hold music with no means of turning it off. Effectively, you have ended the conference call for everyone ... and believe me, you will not be a popular person after that.

  • Turn off your call waiting - not only do we not want to hear those tell-tale beep beeps, we will be incredibly pissed off if you take time from the conference call to answer the other person - that's what voicemail is for.

  • Keep your fucking mobile phone away from the conference call phone. The last thing anyone wants to hear is the static that comes down the line when someone tries to phone you and/or your phone starts emitting its radio frequencies. And if you so much think of answering the phone, I assure you that about a dozen of the conference call participants will come around and rip your arms off and beat you to death with your soggy arms.

  • Introduce yourself when you speak. When there are 30 people on the call, chances are, other listeners will not be able to identify you simply by hearing your voice. Yeah, it's a tough world when people don't recognise your voice - but hey, deal with it and identify yourself EVERY time you speak.
So here you go - some advice from the field. Follow these six steps carefully and you will be a much loved conference call participant. Good luck!

The next lesson is how to fall asleep while on a conference call without snoring and giving the game away ....