In the course of your work, you likely will engage in teleconference calls. To maintain standards of decorum, please note the following guidelines.
Extraneous noise: Heavy breathing, coughs, and sniffles are amplified to disturbing proportions by teleconferencing equipment. Please address outstanding respiratory issues before calls commence. Heavy breathers should maintain a distance of four inches between mouth and phone.
Volume: Modern conferencing gear is designed to ensure that you will be heard at normal conversational volume, even when addressing contractors with suspect English comprehension over great distances. Therefore, please refrain from shouting. Exception: If a long silence indicates unconsciousness, higher volume is recommended.
Gestures: In the heat of sensitive calls, the use of crude bodily gestures may be necessary. Flashing a middle finger at the teleconference device is acceptable, especially if it precludes a damaging verbal tirade. Mooning, however, is strictly prohibited—as is any such gesture when videoconferencing equipment is in use.
Side conversations: Participants in the same room may productively confer "offline" while a colleague in another location is speaking. In such cases, especially when your banter disparages the speaker, make sure your phone's mute function is operational.
Unrelated activities: Participants should endeavor to focus on the specific content of the call. To that end, the following concurrent activities are discouraged: doing last month's T&E report, checking eBay auctions, deleting spam, playing conference-call bingo, and snoring loudly.
A version of this article appeared in the November 2003 issue of Fast Company magazine.