- Conference calls are a great way to communicate, as long as you handle the phone call properly.
- Just like an in-person meeting, if you show up late or unprepared, your meeting will not be effective.
- At the end of the call, summarize the main events of the call, including any assigned tasks.
Let's face it, some conferences are better than others. Have you ever been on a conference call that seemed like 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, though, your meetings will be focused, timely and effective. These guidelines will help you conduct meetings that keep people's interest and that offer more effective results.
Poor calls usually start with poor planning.
In advance of your meeting, make sure that participants have the call details. Items such as the date and time (including the time zone) and the phone number and conference code.
If you are holding a web conference along with the audio call, remind attendees to have their computer and internet access ready to go before 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 allows attendees to prepare their thoughts and comments. It produces a more focused and timely meeting.
Background noise causes people to become distracted and lose interest in the meeting. Make sure you're in a quiet place, and turn off your phone. If you are calling from an office phone, select Do Not Disturb prior to starting the call. And if your phone system has music on hold, do not place your conference call on hold if you need to pause the meeting.
For web conferencing, make sure your computer is set up in advance, that your presentation is ready to go, and check your font to make sure it is legible.
It's your call, take control.
First and foremost, be early to the meeting and greet attendees. Once it's time to start, begin with a roll call so you know who is attending. 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 roll call, briefly review the 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, the agenda should be your first slide. If there are more than three or four attendees, ask each person to state their name when they speak, e.g., "This is Bob ..." and encourage others to do the same.
Involve participants by asking for feedback from specific participants by name versus the entire group. Table any discussions that are not relevant to the agenda. And make sure that any noise or distractions are dealt with promptly.
At the end of the meeting, summarize the meeting, and itemize any action items and the person or group assigned to complete them. You also want to 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 as the call-in number and conference code before ending the call. And, finally, make sure you have contact data from everyone on the call such as e-mail, phone number, etc., before hanging up.
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, 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 call's date, time, dial-in number and conference code at the end of your email.
Tips on hosting a conference call
There are some additional tips you should consider when you are hosting your next conference call.
You should create an agenda for every meeting. People have busy lives and do not have time for meetings that are not focused on a goal. When you create an agenda, you are providing a focus for your meeting. It is important that once you have an agenda that you stick to it. One of your goals should be to not waste any time in your meeting by talking about off-topic items. You must stick to the time parameters on your agenda as well as the topics.
When you take notes, it can help you stay focused on the purpose of the meeting. It also helps you preserve any important information that is discussed in the meeting. It is always a good idea to keep a pad of paper and pen near you during a phone meeting so you can write down items as they come up.
Record the call
There are services available that enable you to record phone meetings. It is important to let those on the call know that it is being recorded. It gives everyone on the call the ability to go back and listen to the call again. It can be shared with those who were not able to call in for the meeting. This is a great way to refer back to the meeting as a reminder or to check what was discussed.
Visuals are a great way to get the participants in your meeting to pay attention and participate in the meeting. These are a great way to show new concepts to the attendees, but use visuals judiciously: If they are confusing or not relevant to the material you are discussing, they can have the opposite effect with your audience.