Problems with conference calls when managing international teams

David WoodBlog, Language Training

There are many issues that can arise during conference calls, particularly when managing international teams. It is important to identify these problems before they occur so they can be dealt with in a confident and professional manner.

Problems with conference calls include:

1) Technical issues

Whichever conference call technology you use there are always technical problems. The line is often bad, there are background noises, some speakers sound clearer than others and the internet is often unreliable.

2) Native speakers

People who have English as their first language often do not realise that they speak too fast, and use too many idioms and superfluous words. This causes enough problems in face to face situations, however on a conference call these problems are exacerbated by the additional poor sound quality and lack of visual cues.

3) Timing

International teams have to work across time zones. Usually someone on the conference call is taking the call at home, either early in the morning or late in the evening. Often the other people on the conference call do not realise that their colleagues are interrupting their home life to take the call.

4) Lack of focus

As conference calls are quite quick and easy to arrange it can be tempting to arrange a call without thinking clearly about the objectives of the call. Our clients tell us that international conference calls are not well focused.

5) Lack of chairperson or facilitator

A conference call is essentially a meeting by phone. However often they are not run like a meeting. The conversations are often not well facilitated and people talk over each other. Some people give up listening as they find it too difficult to communicate.

6) Lack of cultural awareness

Working in a team of different nationalities is usually very interesting and rewarding, however different nationalities and cultures can have different approaches to running and contributing in meetings. There are different approaches to relationship building, turn-taking, speaking up, and chairing the meeting, as well different styles of contributing expertise and information.

7) Different personality styles

As well as different nationalities, there are also different personalities on the call. Some personalities can dominate the call and prevent others from contributing. Some personalities prefer building relationships face to face and find conference calls impersonal and cold. Some personalities enjoy conference calls as they consider them to be efficient on time and more task focused.

How do you manage conference calls to overcome these issues? In our next blog we will share some of our top tips for managing international conference calls.

If you’d like to discuss how we can help you overcome issues in international conference calls, please call us on +44 (0)16666 825060 or email us at

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