Conference calls are an important part of corporate business life, however, they have many pitfalls and too often become time wasting hazards. At Unite, we’re all too familiar with conference call woes. Here are a few tips to keep your team’s conference calls productive:
Familiarize yourself with the services of your conferencing system
Before you begin a conference call, take some time to research the service and learn its features. It is a wise idea to go over certain commands and features at the start of a conference call to ensure that everyone on the call can participate. Simple things like “mute” may help you throughout a large conference call to eliminate background noise or distractions for others on the line. Your system or phone may also allow you to record the phone meeting. By recording a conference call, you are able to review the information covered during the meeting at anytime. You may also send the transcript to those who were unable to attend so that they can remain informed.
Ensure someone takes charge
Oftentimes it will be obvious who should take charge of the call, usually, this role is filled by the person who organizes the call. However, there may be times (such as a collective weekly team call without a manager or “boss” on the line) where the person in charge may not be so obvious. Participating in a conference call without a clear leader may cause awkward silences, confusion about the subject matter, and an overall lack of call direction. If you feel uncomfortable taking the lead on every team call, feel free to circulate the responsibility with other members of your team. Just remember that there should always be an assigned call leader in advance. As a manager, this role assignment can be a great technique for teaching management skills and organization to your employees.
Circulate or discuss an agenda with key talking points before the call begins
Having key points to discuss will help move the meeting along and ensure productivity. If you summarize your agenda at the beginning of the meeting you will help everyone else keep on course as well. Often conference calls may be the fastest way to address multiple issues, but the conversation needs to remain focused and on track. Referring to a master list of “to-do’s” can seriously impact your productivity.
Keep it short and simple
The quickest way to lose participant focus is to extend your phone meeting longer than is necessary or longer than the scheduled length. By keeping the teleconference call short and concise, you will have engaged participants who do not dread your calls. Consider only inviting those who are vital to the issue or project being discussed. If you limit the number of participants, the time spent discussing each issue will automatically become more time efficient.
Encourage participation by those on the line
Just like a regular workplace, some employees or clients are really good at making their voices heard. However, there are also valuable opinions that can go unheard if some participants are not invited into the conversation. Use your agenda to indicate when people will be needed to present their opinion. This will also avoid the traditionally chaotic “any last comments” conversation at the end of the conference call.
Summarize the call and follow up with assigned actionables
A quick summary or overview of topics discussed, solutions, decisions, and issues that must be explored further should be circulated amongst those who participated in the call. Create responsibility by assigning tasks that were discussed on the call or by asking for a follow up with a firm date attached. The follow-up and actionables are what will make your conference calls “successful”. If you began the call with an agenda, then you will already have a template for the summary.