Effective Conference Calls

Conference Calls Take Time And Money. There Are Things You Can Do As A Leader, Or Participant, To Make Them More Effective.

Getting on your daily or weekly conference call can be a real pain. They never start on time, people are late, the PowerPoint slides look like ant farms, the boss does all the talking, and nothing ever gets accomplished.

Sound familiar? Most managers today use conference calls as a way to communicate with their team and other departments. Unfortunately, most conference calls are not facilitated very well.

Whenever employees get together for any length of time, it costs your company money. It is your job, as a leader, to make sure the company gets a return on that investment. As a participant on conference calls, you have the same responsibility.

Leaders of conference calls:

Send an agenda. Always let people know in advance what the conference call is about and what the agenda items are. This will give people time to gather their thoughts and schedule their time. During the call, stick to the agenda. If items come up that are not on the agenda, put them in a parking lot to be addressed later.

Practice using the software. There is nothing worse, once a calls starts, then seeing the leader fumble around with the features of the conference call software. Do a dry run or two well in advance so you are competent once the call starts.

Start and finish on time. Dial in 10 minutes early and welcome each participant as they arrive. If you plan the call for an hour, end when that hour is over. Everyone is busy, and if you go long it will cut into the participants’ other plans. Do not wait for others to show up. Respect the participants that are on time by starting at the scheduled time.

State the purpose and objective. Always start the call with what you are trying to accomplish by having a conference call. Doing so will help keep you focused and on track. When you have a clear objective, it will be easier to handle disruptions and derailing comments.

Go over ground rules. To make the conference call most effective, let everyone know what you expect. Include items like participation, muting phones, putting phones on-hold, how questions will be handled, action items and follow-up.

Share the floor. No one likes to hear the leader drone on and on. Ask questions and allow them time to speak. Ask others, in advance, to present on a topic during the call. Getting others involved will increase participation and buy-in.

Avoid distractions. As a conference call leader, you set the tone for everyone else when it comes to focus. Do not try to do more than lead the call. When someone is finished speaking, do a quick summary of what they said and ask if there are any questions for the speaker.

Speak like a leader. People cannot see you; all they hear is your voice. Be clear, concise and speak with a command voice. Ask open-ended questions and wait for responses. Do not give an escape route by saying “Are there any questions?” Instead, say “What questions do you have?” Then wait. Put a mirror near you so you can see your body language.

Participants on conference calls:

Do not multi-task. We have all done it. We are on a conference call, have our phone muted, and we are going through our stack of emails at the same time. You would not do that if the meeting was in person, so do not do it when on the phone. If the leader asks you a question, be prepared with a response. If you are multi-tasking, you will look silly when called upon.

Prepare in advance. Look over the agenda and prepare your thoughts and any comments or questions you have. Send them to the conference call leader in advance, so they can block out time to make sure they get included.

Use the proper etiquette. Be early for the call. It will look good to the leader. Say your name first whenever you have a comment or question. Do not interrupt others while they are speaking. Mute your phone when not speaking.

Volunteer. Leaders of conference calls have a very tough job. Getting volunteers to present is a tough thing to do. Step up on occasion and volunteer to present or provide help in facilitating the conference call.

Conference calls take time and money. There are things you can do as a leader, or participant, to make them more effective. Take responsibility for your part in that effectiveness.

Steve Schumacher is a management consultant, trainer and public speaker with more than 25 years of experience in numerous industries throughout North America, including aggregates operations. He can be reached at [email protected].

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