Want to know how to make the most out of your conference calls?
Conference calls are great for businesses because decisions can be made quickly without having to physically meet the team members. It could be about a discussion for a new project or just an interview.
Conference calls are great for saving time. Not to mention the huge savings on travel as well. Like collaboration tools, conference calls can boost your company’s efficiency levels and give your employees the flexibility of being able to work with each other remotely.
However, conference calls can do more harm than good if you are making these easily overlooked etiquette mistakes.
These mistakes can eat up way more time than needed. In the worst cases, nobody understood what the main takeaway after the call is over. Which inevitably leads to more unnecessary conference calls to achieve an objective that should have taken much less time. This also affects your reputation as a capable company to your employees.
So how do SME’s avoid simple yet major mistakes like this?
Before a Conference Call
- Make Things Clear
Before any conference calls, contact the other parties involved to explicitly agree on the following details:
- Who’s initiating the call ?
- Are both sides familiar with the conference call software used?
- The number being used (or the online meeting link)
- The time of the call
- Is video compulsory?
This prevents a situation where everyone is ready to hop on the call but can’t do so due to avoidable issues like not knowing how to use the software.
This is an unproductive way to start a call.
The more professional a call starts, the more attention you command from the participants right from the get-go.
- The Organiser Starts the Call
As a general rule, the person who requests the call should be the one initiating the call. That means, if you asked for the call, you’re the one who calls first.
- Have a Clear Agenda
Both parties should have an idea of what the meeting is about beforehand.
Common practice is to brief everyone as to what is going to be discussed before the call. However this isn’t always the case. According to Inc. and the online meeting company, Fuze, More than $37 billion is spent on unproductive meetings every year.
Having an agenda with no more than 3 main points to be discussed is optimal. Drafting out how much time is going to be spent on each point is also important. This makes sure the call meets its objective and does not stray into a second or a third call.
Be strict with how much time the call is going to take and stick to it. This prevents any unnecessary beating around the bush.
If you call the other person and they do not pick up. There’s a high chance something really urgent needs attention, or something unfortunate has happened.
Avoid going as far as leaving 10 missed calls and 12 emails. It’s unnecessary to reiterate things to that extent of the other party missed the call.
After 2-3 attempts to contact the other party, leave a note with a proposed date to reschedule the call if it is still urgent.
- Calls During Inconvenient Situations
Sometimes a member of your team will not be able to join the call at a quiet location. In situations like this, it would be advisable to mute their microphone and unmuting only when they need to contribute.
If somebody is going to be late, leave a message and allow them to carry on with the call. Let them catch up by calling one of the attendees later or by going through the minutes.
During a Conference Call
If a slideshow is going to be used during the meeting, avoid sharing it beforehand. This will prevent the attendees going through the slides early. They are less likely to get distracted and will pay more attention to the matter at hand.
- First Time?
If this is your first time meeting online with the other party, a video conference would help with establishing familiarity. .
It would be best to first check if your conference call provider is capable of a video meeting that does not lag with clear audio. If possible, getting on a call beforehand to discuss the bare bones of the meeting to ensure a smooth call for both ends.
Avoid long winded introductions. Everyone should have a say and their own time to speak. However, introductions can go longer than needed if it isn’t given a clear limit.
Doing a re-introduction and recap for late-comers might encourage this behavior. Allowing late-comers to interrupt the process of the call will send the message that lateness is tolerated.
If needed, promptly make a suggestion for latecomers to check with the minutes or catch up with another attendant when they join the call. Make a concise statement on lateness and move on with the call.
- A Clear Start
Having an agenda is good practice for any meeting. But not everyone is sure to read the agenda prior to a conference call.
Before proceeding with meetings, It helps to take some time to clearly define the agenda and direction of the meeting beforehand. This should ideally be done within the first 150 seconds of a conference call.
You don’t want the attendees having to guess every few minutes on what is going to be discussed next. They would end up being unaware of the priorities of the call the whole time. Stating a clear limit on how long each person should contribute can help too.
- Keep Your Sentences Short
Try and have the main contributors of the call keep their sentences simple. This creates room for other attendees to jump in. This is useful whenever they don’t understand something.
If somebody is going on a tangent, it should be the organizer’s job to cut it short. This ensure’s the discussion is constantly brought back on track without affecting the flow of the call.
- Distributing the Notes
Make sure you get a person to be in charge of scribing the meeting. Be clear that they should have the minutes sent to you promptly after every meeting. They can send a more formatted version later on.
The valuable nuances of a call are lost once time has passed. So recording of the minutes are essential.
Have all the attendees send you their email addresses before the meeting. This is allows you appropriately distribute the meeting notes and recordings if there are any. Before the meeting ends, announce the email address and title you will be using to send the meeting notes. This will help the attendees recognize your email.
- Ending on Time
10 Minutes before the meeting ends, make an announcement that the meeting is drawing to a close.
This ensures that everyone can get their questions in before the meeting ends.
This also allows the flow of the meeting to run smoothly without turning into an extension. Extending a meeting interrupts everyone else’s time and it can be disrespectful to other attendees.
- Future Meetings
Conference calls are always a work in progress.
New attendees. Different things to discuss. Emerging technologies. Catching up with the other organiser(s) on text for feedback after the call can aid the long term effectiveness of your conference calls.
Exchanging feedback on the quality of the call along with discussing actionable steps is good practice. This will enable future calls to be more efficient and productive.
Conference calls are a useful tool for businesses, but like all tools, following the right guidelines can help you use them far more effectively than you might otherwise.
Much like meeting for face to face projects, it’s important to have clear cut goals and defined practices which are made clear and easy for participants to understand so that everyone is on the same page.
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