Every day, businesses large and small all over the world conduct conference calls. There are, though, important do's and don'ts to follow when holding conference calls with your team.
By organizing and preparing beforehand, sticking to an agenda, and sending follow-up emails, you can keep your team on the same page, and master the art of holding efficient and productive conference calls.
Before the conference call
- Organize and prepare. This step is crucial to accomplishing the items on your agenda and keeping participants engaged throughout the meeting. Create an agenda or an outline of the topics you want to discuss. Also, prepare as much material beforehand as possible so you don't waste time on irrelevant topics.
- Send calendar invites. Many conference call platforms come with built-in integrations to Google Calendar and Outlook. Depending on which platform your company uses, create and send an invitation to your meeting participants on your calendar platform. It's awkward and frustrating to attend a meeting and the one person who is most crucial to the call is missing or, worse, to find out that you missed a meeting you were supposed to be in. Send calendar invites so no one misses out on your meetings.
- Encourage participation. Create an environment conducive to sharing ideas and strategies. If you are hosting or managing the conference call, ask participants questions. Let them know that you value their opinions. Letting others participate in the phone call is key. People who aren't involved easily tune out and will not provide the feedback or the help you may be seeking. If you're struggling to encourage participation, your conference call company may have some features that can help. These features may include polling, surveying and Q&A capabilities.
- Be punctual. Just like any other business meeting, it is important that you arrive early. Dial in to the call a few minutes early. If you wait until the last minute, you may encounter technical issues that take time to fix. You may also find that you have the wrong dial-in number or passcode to access the phone meeting.
- Be aware of your location. Your location is critical during a conference call. If you're in your office's conference room and you use a microphone or speakerphone, make sure you are close enough to the device that it picks up your voice but far enough that it won't pick up every little sound you make. Ideally, when you are conducting a conference call, you should be in a quiet place. That's not always possible, though. If you are away from the office and need to conduct a conference call, find a somewhat secluded place. Otherwise, if you're in an open area with lots of people, you may have a difficult time hearing the conversation over the phone line, or you may be easily distracted and won't conduct the call very well.
During the conference call
- Stick to the agenda. People are busy. They don't have the time to listen to conversations that are not pertinent to their job and the tasks at hand. Stick to your agenda. Don't waste time discussing the latest basketball game or where you ate lunch. By discussing the topics at hand, you will receive more participation. Also, do your best to stay within your scheduled time frame. By extending the meeting, you may quickly lose participation and attentiveness.
- Use visual aids when necessary. Visual aids encourage participation among attendees. Visual aids are helpful, too, when you are presenting new ideas or strategies to a large group. They do not need to be used in every phone call, and they can become an annoyance if they provide too much information. However, to use visual aids during a conference call, you will need an internet connection and video conferencing capabilities.
- Keep notes. Keeping notes is an excellent way to stay focused during a long conference call, and if the information being presented is important, you will want to keep notes as a reference. Regardless of whether you take extensive notes or just jot down a few ideas, you should always keep a writing utensil and a notebook next to you during your calls.
- Record the conference call. Many conference call services allow hosts to record meetings. This can be a valuable tool for several reasons. First, it can allow participants to go back and review the phone discussion and the presented information. Second, if an individual cannot attend the meeting, they can listen to the recording and receive the same information as the individuals who were there. Additionally, a recording is a way to keep track of the meetings and verify what information was discussed and presented.
- Become familiar with the conference call service's features. Conference call services vary. Each service has different tools, particularly interactive features such as hand raising, polling, whiteboards and more. Before you begin a call, learn its features. Many services have an operator who sits in on the call to make sure things run smoothly. Also, it is wise to practice certain commands and features you plan to use during the call to ensure that everyone can participate.
- Keep the meeting short. One of the fastest ways to lose participants' focus is to go beyond the time allotted for the call. By keeping the meeting concise and to the point, your colleagues will not dread your meetings.
After the conference call
- Summarize the main points and action items before hanging up. Conference calls can quickly venture into many different directions. At the end of each call, summarize what you want your participants to take away from the meeting, and note any action items.
- Send a follow-up email. It's easy to forget what was said on a conference call, even if you provided a summary at the end of the meeting. By sending a follow-up email, you're crystallizing the main points of the call and outlining actionable items. Everyone needs to stay on the same page to be an efficient team, and that requires effective, comprehensive communication among managers and colleagues alike.