Organizations use conference calling as a means to communicate with remote employees, partners, vendors and customers. It can also help cut down on travel expenses and even enable you to connect multiple office locations.
As helpful as conference calling can be for a business, some people would describe the experience as boring and unproductive. Often the experience isn’t as good as it could be because people aren’t properly prepared. Here are some steps to take to ensure you have a productive conference call for everyone involved:
Unpreparedness is the main reason conference calling take longer than they need to. To avoid this, create an agenda for the meeting. The agenda should contain the following information:
- Date & time of conference call, as well as dial-in number and access code (which should also be in the meeting invite)
- Topic of discussion & goals of the conversation
- Participants, job titles, and their role in the project or topic being discussed
- Detailed list of items to be discussed
- Attachments or links to documents relating to the discussion
Note: Make sure the items on the agenda can be discussed in the amount of time allotted. Employees are busy and have other responsibilities throughout their day. Running overtime while conference calling can throw a kink in the entire work day.
Know the Conference Calling Technology
Nothing is more embarrassing than thinking you’re are on mute and saying things no one was intended to hear. Understanding the platform and technology you are using is an important step in conducting or participating in a conference call. Make sure your employees are trained on the conference calling platform your business uses, and prior to conducting your first conference call, run a test call and play around with all of the available features. It’s always helpful to have an employee who is technical and can help if an issue with the platform arises during the call. If you don’t have a tech-savy employee on the call, have a backup option for the meeting, or reschedule. (Even if you are familiar with the technology, make sure you pay attention to whether or not phones are muted, for example, to avoid awkward situations.)
Note: For remote and mobile employees, make sure they can easily access the conference call-in number and access code from their smartphone. Some platforms are not mobile-friendly and these numbers are not easily accessible from the emails the platform sends out, so including the dial-in number and access code in the agenda is key.
Keep it Productive
Follow the agenda you created ahead of time, and steer the conversation back on track if it derails. Of course, if discussions of the weather or other topical issues come up, go ahead and share as a quick ice-breaker, but then get back on track and stay focused on your agenda. It’s helpful to have someone on your team keep track of action items discussed during the call, including who is responsible for specific action items, and when those items are due. It’s also helpful to use a call recording feature so that anything missed during the conversation can be referred back to or shared with those team members who were unable to join. Finally, it’s good practice to check to see if anyone has any questions about a line item before moving onto the next.
Following the conference call, you or someone on your team should send out an email to all participants recapping the conversation and action items discussed. Employee to-do’s should be very clear and include due dates if possible. If you have the capability, send the recorded conference call to participants for reference.
Conducting a productive conference call depends on how thoroughly you prepare ahead of time. A detailed agenda will not only keep your team on schedule but will also help achieve the goals of the conversation.
For more Do’s and Don’t of conference calling, check out our previous blog Conference Call Etiquette: How to Improve Your Next Meeting