Let’s face it, some conferences are better than others. Have you ever been on a conference call that seamed as if it would never end or simply had no point or purpose? We all have. Just like an in person meeting if you show up late or unprepared your meeting will not be effective. By following a few simple guidelines your meetings will be focussed, on time and very effective. These guidelines will help you produce better attended meetings with fast and more complete results.
Poor calls usually start with poor planning
Make sure all participants have the call details in advance. Items such as the date and time (including time zone) and the phone number and conference code. If you are holding a web conference along with the audio call attendees should be reminded in advance to have their computer and internet access ready to go prior to the meeting start time. Sending this in an email if possible allows people to reference it just before the call starts.Sending out an agenda in advance will allow attendees to prepare their thoughts and comments in advance. It will produce a more focussed and timely meeting. Background noise can cause people to loose interest. You should be in a quite place and make sure you turn off your pagers and or cell phones. If you are calling from an office phone, select Do Not Disturb prior to starting the call and do not put the call on hold during the call if your phone system has music on-hold. For web conferencing make sure your computer is set-up in advance with your presentation completed and ready to go and be sure to check your font in advance to make sure it is large enough.
It’s your call, take control
First and foremost be on time or early. Start with a roll call so you know who is attending and during roll call each attendee should state their name, their company and their role or reason for being on the call. Establish this pattern by going first. After completing the role call briefly state your agenda and establish time limits to complete the agenda items. Everyone should have the agenda in advance or if you are holding a web conference it should be your first slide. If there are more than a three or four attendees start with your name each time you speak "this is Bob..." and encourage others to do the same. Involve all the participants by ask for feedback from specific participants by name vs. the entire group. Table any discussions that are not relevant to your agenda. And make sure that any noise or distractions are dealt with promptly At the end summarize the call and itemize any action items and the person or group assigned to them. Also, establish times for action items to be completed and reported back to the group. Establish the day and time for your next conference call and provide conference details such call in number and conference code prior to ending the call. And finally make sure you have contact data from everyone on the call such as e-mail, phone number etc. before dropping off.
Hold that thought
Once the call ends do not jump to another project or phone call immediately. This is the best time to summarize the call and your thoughts in an email to the group. In your email you should thank everyone for attending, summarize the highlights and list action items with an assigned party and a date for completion Be sure to restate the next calls date, time, dial in number and conference code at the end of your email.
The author is with converseNETWORKS a full service Audio, Video and Web Conferencing provider.