Teleconference Manners for a Deposition

When you are creating a transcript on a conference call, good teleconference manners will not only keep the proceedings polite, but they will keep your record clean and understandable.

Choose a location with minimal background noise. Starbucks is a great place to grab some extra go for your mojo, automobiles are the most common form of travel from Charleston to Columbia, and an airport concourse waiting area can improvise as a makeshift office, but all of these venues make for lousy acoustics to put someone on speakerphone and may add unwanted static to your telephone connection. If you have to be in a noisy setting while participating on a call, consider utilizing a Bluetooth hands-free mobile device.

Turn off call waiting. There’s nothing like the undeniably annoying beeps of an incoming call.

Arrive on time. No one likes to get a meeting started and have the door making frequent sounds when it opens for people walking in late to the conference room. The same is true of a telephone conference call. There is typically a distinctive beep that sounds when someone joins a conference call. If the telephone broadcasts a noise that is indistinguishable, the court reporter will need to interrupt and clarify what just transpired on the conference call. Late arrivals can be distracting to both the questioning attorney and the deponent, as well as anyone needing to pay close attention to the testimony.

Announce yourself. It is the court reporter’s duty to prepare an appearance page as part of the deposition transcript. The appearance page should list everyone present for the deposition, whether virtual or in person: attorneys, clients, and others, such as expert witnesses. Court reporting companies who facilitate conference calls get a report at the end of each teleconference. The report lists the telephone number from which the participant called and the number of minutes that telephone number was latched into the conference. More and more our office is finding in the report telephone numbers belonging to unknown participants who, for one reason or another, chose not to identify themselves on the record or to the court reporter. If we can track down to whom the phone number belongs, that person is included on the appearance page; but sometimes it is almost impossible. Attorneys also will switch from an office phone number to a mobile phone number if they have business they must attend to elsewhere. Unknown telephone numbers participating in a deposition may cause an issue when an expert witness testifies he was familiar with so-and-so’s testimony and present for the deposition, when, in fact, he was present but present via a conference call where he did not acknowledge being present.

Use the mute button! Once everyone introduces themselves, everyone except the questioner and witness should consider muting their telephone. Unmute the phone when you want to object or otherwise speak during the conference. There are too many incidents reporters have witnessed to recite all the ways inappropriate sounds and conversations make their way into the conference, but consider these few examples of poor behavior: colorful language used to communicate with a participant’s office staff while the deposition is ongoing; paper shuffling ad nauseam; distracting keyboarding clicks heard above the testimony or keyboarding clicks coupled with computer sounds that would give participants the impression something other than the matter at hand was being worked on, such as email tasks.

Do NOT put your telephone on hold! If you have not muted your telephone and you put the conference call on hold, all the other participants will have the distinct pleasure of listening to your on- hold music or metrical beeps. While your music may be vastly entertaining or your beeps have a melodious beat, you will have effectively put the conference on a hold because no conversations will be able to compete with your on-hold commotion.

Communicate with the Court Reporter before hanging up. Make sure you exercise general politeness and respect to all participants, including your reporter. Before saying good-bye to everyone, be sure to conclude deposition business. The court reporter will need to finish up final details from the event, such as transcript orders, special requests, and delivery instructions, unless you have taken care of these things on the front end.

CompuScripts can assist you with scheduling a deposition’s teleconference or scheduling a videoteleconference in addition to staffing your deposition with a court reporter or videographer. For teleconferences, our staff will send to the scheduling contact person the dial-in number and pass code for distribution. Our court reporter will act as host for the conference call. When you schedule a videoconference with our office, we address the details to ensure compatible video conference equipment and, upon request, will schedule a bridge for otherwise non-compatible sites.