Conference calls are often the only way that virtual teams can all come together for a meeting. Of course, they are not really rocket science to anyone, but they do come with their own challenges.

Do you find conference calls in English difficult? Do you become stressed during the call? Do you freeze when you have to speak? Don’t worry, you are not alone. I often hear sentences like these from my students:

  • Mein Englisch ist nicht gut genug. Ich erstarre, wenn ich sprechen muss.
  • Es ist schwierig für mich, den Akzent zu verstehen.
  • Muttersprachler verwenden Wörter, die ich nicht verstehe.
  • Wenn ich ein oder zwei Wörter nicht verstehe, verliere ich den Sinn des gesamten Gesprächs.
  • Wenn zu viele Menschen auf einmal sprechen, kann ich ihnen nicht folgen.

I understand that conference calls can be difficult, but the language you need for these calls is something you can learn. In this blog, I am going to give you some practical tips as well as phrases/sentences for your next conference call.

  • Tip 1: Be prepared

Know what is expected of you and prepare your yourself in advance. Go over the agenda and review all the topics that will be discussed during the call. Also think of possible conversations that participants might have. Brainstorm additional topics which might come up and write down your opinions and thoughts to these topics. Make notes of sentences, vocabulary and questions that you might need and leave these in front of you during the call.

  • Tip 2: Visualize the conference call

Practice as much as possible before the call. The more you practice the more confident you will be. Take your time and rehearse out loud  what you are going to say during the conference call. Practice makes perfect!

  • Tip 3: Think of possible questions that might come up

You could also think of questions you may be asked during the call. Prepare possible answers to these questions in advance. This will let you feel less nervous during the call. 

  • Tip 4: Request comments and feedback

Often non-native speakers tend to stay quiet during conference calls and only speak when they are directly asked to. Learn vocabulary you need to ask questions and ask for clarification and feedback. If you do not understand something or something is unclear, say so. Because you cannot see each other, you miss out on the non-verbal signals, but it is important that everyone understands what is discussed or agreed. Have the phrases you need in front of you.

  • Tip 5: Practice your listening skills

Do you know who is attending the call? Which nationalities will be represented? Practice your listening skills. Look for podcasts and  listen to a range of accents – British, American, Italian, Chinese etc.. The more you listen to, the more confident you will become with the accent. 

  • Tip 6: Use the K.I.S.S.-method (keep it short and simple)

Good communication is the objective in any conversation. Keeping your sentences short and simple allows you to focus on communicating your thoughts and less on your grammar.  Long and complex sentences often result in making more mistakes and making it more difficult for the other participants to understand you. Practice keeping your sentences short and simple.

  • Tip 7: Technology

Technology can always present challenges. Before the call, check out  the conference room, test the equipment and verify the PIN number and access code. Know the right buttons to press – where is the mute button / volume button / speaker button?


Next week we will present you with some useful phrases and sentences for conference calls.