Conference calls are a staple of business life, a necessity for organisations of all shapes and sizes. It might even be difficult for you to put a number on the how many conference calls you have participated in during your career. However, how many of those conference calls were run efficiently and were a productive use of the participants’ time? Here are 5 tips on how to do it:
1. Be prepared ahead of time
There is nothing revolutionary here. Being prepared for anything will probably make you more efficient at it, but there are a couple of basics to make sure are covered before call time. Send out an agenda in advance of the call to all participants. This will make sure that the call stays on topic, keeping the length down, but it will also allow people the time to prepare. Hopefully this means that they can bring their best insights and perspectives to the discussion. Send out conference room PINs and bridge numbers well in advance to all participants. The sooner everyone can get into the conference room without unnecessary delay, the sooner you can get down to business. For International participants, make sure you’ve given them a local number to dial into.
2. Keep statements short
As humans, we communicate best in person. Body language is a very powerful communication method. Of course, on audio conference call, we must rely on our voice. You need to tailor how you communicate to the medium you’re using. For voice only conferencing, keep your statements concise and to the point to avoid confusion. Instead of trying to remember what you said 4 sentences ago, or furiously scribbling notes, others can take your point on board and respond appropriately, leading to a better discussion.
Again, this is pretty basic, but at some point you have probably felt the pang of uncertainty or frustration that comes from sitting in a conference room by yourself 5 minutes after the scheduled start time. Obviously the quicker the call starts in earnest, the more the group can get through but how often does a person who has been waiting for other participants leave the conference room when the others are late because he or she has plenty of other work on their plate? There are three outcomes to this, either the call is rescheduled, cancelled altogether or there is even more delay getting someone to dial back in when the rest of the group are finally ready. Time is one of the more precious commodities, so if you are going to be late, notify the moderator or other participants. The call moderator should dial in early, to make sure that everything goes smoothly with the rest of the group joining the call.
4. Record the call
If possible, record the call. You’ll need to let everyone know that you are recording and confirm that anyone from another company is OK with this but it’s well worth doing. Nearly everybody takes notes at some stage during a conference call, but if they need to check another detail after the call, the recording will allow them to do so even if they can’t get in touch with another participant. A recording will also let you summarise the what was discussed, allowing you to action our final and most important tip…
5. Share outcomes of the call
Following on from the previous point, this tip works for in person meetings too. Sharing the outcomes of a meeting or call allows the participants to set about the action points assigned to them, or at least remind them to. They don’t have to double back to confirm what they need to do.