Careers

7 epic conference call fails you'll be glad didn't happen to you

746033579
Getty Images

If you have an office job, chances are you've had your fair share of conference calls. The majority of U.S. workers have anywhere from one to five conference calls each week, according to a 2015 survey.

Whether it's background noise, tech problems or poor reception, conference calls can be hard to engage with at the same level as an in-person meeting. You may be tempted to put yourself on mute and answer another phone call or even try to run an errand while on the line.

Most of the time, you're able to multi-task and participate in the call while also doing something else. Sometimes, however, it's a complete disaster that embarrasses you in front of your colleagues — or worse.

671372099
Photo courtesy of Getty

Here are seven epic conference call fails that will make you think twice the next time you think you're muted:

1. The not-so-stealth-bathroom-talker

"I was on a conference call for a board meeting and all of a sudden you hear someone peeing and the toilet flushing. There was just this silence because no one wanted to say who it was, because there were about a dozen of us on the phone. At first I think we all thought it was water until the toilet flushed."

- Denise Dudley, business consultant and author of "Work It! Get In, Get Noticed, Get Promoted"

2. The person who says he's at the office, but isn't

"I also was on a conference call when someone was obviously making their call from home when they said they were in the office. All of a sudden a dog started barking and you could hear children coming home. It's not that it was an issue but it's just we knew he wasn't in the office sitting in front of a computer."

- Denise Dudley, business consultant and author of "Work It! Get In, Get Noticed, Get Promoted"

3. The colleague who doesn't know how to mute notifications

"Well, from personal experience, I can say that it's important to make sure your Outlook is fully closed before you start hosting a webinar. The very first time I hosted a webinar, my 'company happy hour' reminder popped up on my screen towards the end of the webinar for all to see. To make matters worse, I accidentally clicked 'snooze' instead of 'dismiss,' so the reminder popped up again a few minutes later. All of my coworkers, including my boss, found it to be hilariously unfortunate and made sure to mention it countless times. Can't say it was the best webinar in our company's history, but I learned my lesson for sure."

- Kyana Shamloo, senior marketing specialist at MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes

People on a conference call
Paul Bradbury | Getty Images

4. The person who says 'I swear it wasn't me flushing the toilet'

"I had an interesting experience of being on a conference call and needing to use the restroom somewhat urgently. Unfortunately, I couldn't mute my end of the call as I was part of the immediate conversation. But, I thought I could sneak in and out to the urinal quickly. I was wrong. As soon as I walked in, the sounds coming from a nearby stall suddenly filled the air. Turns out that I was not alone in there. I quickly hung up the call, very flustered! When I reconnected nobody on the call said a word, but there's no chance they hadn't heard!"

- Steen Knigge, director of U.S. marketing of contemporary furniture company BoConcept

5. The gossiper

"I participated in a conference call in the past where an additional team member walked into the room, assuming we were on mute, and started asking for updates and talking about the agency on the other line. My other colleague dove for the [conference phone] to put us on mute before the agency figured out what was going on. While nothing egregious was said, it was still an awkward situation. We were only thankful it didn't happen with a client on the line."

- Amanda Augustine, career advice expert for TopResume

6. The frustrated caller

"I was the guest speaker for a webinar hosted by a professional association. During the webinar, there were a few technical hiccups along the way, but nothing major. However, at the end of the webinar, the production team unmuted themselves to complain about the issues, accidentally forgetting to officially end the webinar for the attendees. Everyone who hadn't disconnected yet got to listen in on their conversation. I remember frantically private messaging the team to give them the heads up that they were still live. Their boss, who had emceed the webinar, decided to call them out and politely ask them to end the webinar before they continued their discussion. Needless to say, the team was mortified and their boss was less than happy with them."

- Amanda Augustine, career expert for TopResume

7. "The Bachelor" fan

"When I was an assistant account executive in my first role at a small New York PR agency, I was waiting for a client call to start. The VP of my team was out of town, so it was just a couple of younger women on the team who were set to take responsibility for the call. We dialed the client, and then before we knew it, started rehashing "The Bachelor" episode from the night before. We were so busy chatting with who we thought were ridiculous guys on that episode and about our "Bachelor" brackets that we completely didn't realize the client had joined the call. Unfortunately for us, the client wasn't a fan of the show and felt that we had been wasting his time so early in the morning."

- Communications manager at a staffing agency

How to prevent a conference call blunder

To avoid being in any of these unfortunate situations yourself, first try to avoid multitasking while on a conference call. If you can't, make sure you understand how the "mute" button works before getting on the line — and test it out.

If you're worried about distractions from other people, find a quiet place to call before you dial in. If you're working from home, take 10 minutes before the phone call starts to get rid of any distractions and alert others that you shouldn't be disturbed.

"I recommend having a pen and pad handy in case you need to signal someone else in the room without putting the phone on mute," Augustine says.

While you can delay most distractions, if you have to go to the bathroom, think twice about bringing the phone with you — missing 45 seconds of a phone call is a lot better than having your whole team hear you flush the toilet.

Like this story? Like CNBC Make It on Facebook

Don't miss: 3 surprising email mistakes that could be hurting your response rate