How to Be an Effective Conference Call Participant
Read agendas, project lists and other documentation sent out ahead of the meeting. Scanning material while trying to listen means you are not giving your full attention to the conversation and you missed the opportunity to ask questions or get clarifications prior to everyone dialing in. That wastes time and leads to longer, repetitive calls that waste everyone else's time. Recently, I was in a meeting where a salesperson brought up a new product that was under consideration for development. It was clear he did not listen the last time or read the minutes because he was actively selling it when we de-prioritized the offering. We had to "remind" him that we were not moving forward. That was ten minutes of our lives we'll never get back!
You should also write down questions in advance that you want to ask or points you want to see addressed even if you're not the meeting coordinator. This ensures that you will get what you need out of the meeting.
It is very tempting when you are on a conference call and no one can see you to tackle pressing emails, respond to instant messages, or even jot down some things you need to pick up at the store. But when you are multi-tasking like this, you might as well not participate because you are getting so little from the session and the rest of the team is not benefiting from your insight. How often have you heard someone who is asked a question respond with, "could you repeat that"—a dead giveaway they weren't tuned in at all. Sometimes it is a matter of call quality and I've heard people try to brazen through and give an answer that had little to do with the question that was asked—don't be that person.