Conference calls are convenient for remote workers, but there are some downsides.
- Conference calls are a great way to handle meetings, especially when you have people who may not be in the local area.
- If you follow some simple guidelines for every conference call, they all can be successful.
- There are some problems that can arise during a conference call, so it is important that you plan for them.
Conference calls are becoming more common in the business world, with many employers opting to talk via group video chat to save a trip to the office. It's a convenient way for teams to connect, regardless of where members are located.
However, if they're not planned and executed the right way, conference calls create distractions for workers and can make some employees feel disconnected from the team. Be sure to follow these five tips for a successful conference call.
Invest in the right tech
There are many services that allow you to host conference calls with your team. Figure out which best suits your company's budget and needs.
"Virtual meeting rooms allow you to invite the right people to your meetings no matter where they're located," said Craig Malloy, CEO of Lifesize. "And with a video conferencing solution, you can record your video meetings and share the recap so no one misses out on the content being discussed." [Looking for a video conferencing service? Check out our best picks.]
Prepare for the meeting
According to Sarah Stevens, SEO account manager at Power Digital Marketing, "the key to a good conference call is preparation." If you show up to a meeting empty-handed or without a plan, you'll waste time and give co-workers the impression that you don't care.
"The easiest way to lose credibility is to say something that immediately shows you didn't prepare and do your research either on the subject being discussed or the attendees," said Stevens. "Make sure you know who is joining so you know if the call will be technical or high level."
Understanding who will be attending and what their business in the meeting is will help keep participants engaged.
Share your agenda
Every meeting should have an agenda. Stevens recommended creating one ahead of time and sharing it with the team to set expectations for the call. That way, everyone is on the same page and committed to one topic, regardless of how many attendees there are.
"Agendas keep people focused on what's being discussed and gives attendees time to prepare their contributions to the meeting ahead of time instead of wasting valuable time tracking down data on the spot," added Malloy. "It's tempting to use the meeting time to cover something else while we're all here, but don't. If it wasn't on the agenda, then it needs a separate conversation."
The agenda will ensure that no one steers the conversation elsewhere for too long. Of course, it's alright to get sidetracked for a few moments, especially if that means you're bonding with your team. But doing so often and for long periods of time cuts into your meeting time.
Involve only those who are needed
Don't include an employee if they don't absolutely need to be on the conference call. It only leads to more distracted, less-efficient workers and might even hinder the meeting's productivity.
"Blocking out two hours and inviting 10 people to your meeting takes up almost a full calendar day worth of worker hours," said Malloy. "Invite only the people who will add to the discussion and contribute meaningfully to the meeting goals."
While you might feel like you're leaving employees out or creating a disconnect by only involving certain workers, employees might end up resenting you for wasting their time in an hour-long conference that has nothing to do with them and their role.
End on a positive note
When you wrap up a meeting, which shouldn't last longer than its designated time, be sure that everyone understands what you covered and what is expected of them. To personalize the call, wish everyone a great rest of their day and let them know you're open to additional questions should they arise.
How to open/close a conference call
You should always introduce yourself or have someone else introduce you. When you are talking over the phone, it may be difficult for people to know who is speaking if you have not introduced yourself. If you are introduced by someone else, you should be sure to say something, so those on the phone can hear your voice. You should also make sure everyone else on the phone introduces themselves. It is also a good idea to have everyone say their name each time they speak.
Be sure to speak clearly when on the phone. It is easy for voices to become muffled, especially on a mobile phone. You should also slow down when speaking over the phone and pause more often than you would normally. If you know you have a soft voice, sit as closely to the phone as you can if you are using a Polycom-type phone. If you are holding the phone, make sure you are speaking into it.
Do not allow long periods of silence. It can cause confusion over the phone or make people think the call was dropped. If you or someone else needs a moment to process what has been said before responding, then you should let those on the call know that you are taking a moment to think.
At the end of the call, before you hang up, summarize the key points of discussion during the call. If there are any agenda topics that were not discussed, address how are will handle them. Will you schedule another meeting or send an email to address the topic? If there are any action items, they should be mentioned one last time with a due date for response. If there is going to be a next meeting, you should mention when that will be. The last thing you should do is thank everyone for their time and bid them a good day.