Conference calls are convenient for remote workers, but there are some downsides.
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 emptyhanded 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.
Editor's Note: Need a conference call or video conferencing service for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to be connected with vendors that can help.
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 who is 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.