10 great conference call tips for effective meetings

Are you wasting time on conference calls? What could you do to run better, more efficient virtual team meetings? Any meeting organiser can slip into bad habits, especially when it comes to regularly-scheduled conference calls. If you want to do things differently, and come away with real decisions and outcomes, then you need to plan. Rethink everything, from agendas to attendees. Be respectful of people’s diaries and workloads. Use your own time more effectively. Make technology work harder for you to help every person make a real contribution. Ready to change the way you run conference calls for good? Follow these 10 conference call tips to transform the way your virtual teams collaborate.

The biggest sin in everyday corporate life is wasting valuable time. Conference call organisers can often be the major culprits here. Have you ever been guilty of inviting too many attendees, or not checking that the correct people are there? It happens all the time. But that is one of the top rules to follow: nobody should be invited that doesn’t have a direct role to play in the conversation. And as far as timing is concerned, keep it tight and to the point. Follow these 10 conference call tips to transform the way your virtual teams collaborate. These gems will help to keep the energy high for your project or team during your virtual meetings.

Preparation is key for conference call success

Ask the question: is a group conference call the best way to solve this dilemma / give this update / make this decision?

Make sure you’re using people’s valuable time for an appropriate and essential purpose - not as a default. Question the regularity of regular conference calls if participation rates are not good. Could an email, newsletter or video get the message across effectively? Save conference calls for when they are really needed - to bring virtual teams together for meaningful discussion. The average attendee wastes 15 minutes on every conference call - does your company have that kind of resource to spare?

Think carefully about call timing

Set up the call as far in advance as possible to avoid lunchtimes, late afternoons, or unreasonable time differences. Think about finishing the meeting after twenty or thirty minutes if reasonable for short agendas. For longer agendas, provide clear timing for each item and provide overflow time at the end in case of extended conversation - avoiding having to set up another meeting.

Provide a toll-free dial-in number to minimise connection costs

Every attendee should have equal access to the call, with no restrictions or barriers. Providing a toll-free connection number, valid in each country, should be an expectation for every call. Read more about the benefits of toll-free calling here.here.

Prepare yourself, and attendees, in advance

Set an agenda and timings. Provide pre-reads. Give clear instructions and a way to test the connection in advance. Make sure everyone is on mute. Provide alternatives in case of poor connection (e.g. online v dial-in). Set meeting objectives and hold attendees to their delivery.

Give everyone an opportunity to contribute

Set up the topics in advance. Share the hosting duties if a regular meeting. Let each attendees share one “proud of” thought and one “cry for help” thought. Some people just need a little encouragement to participate - but there is nothing worse than the silence that follows “does anyone have any questions?”. Make it easy to contribute.

Set up a group chat for the meeting

Create an area for easy sharing of materials, links and comments during the call. Make it a collaborative experience that involves every attendee.

Use conferencing platform to provide opportunities for interactivity

Make use of your conferencing technology to hold the attention and make sure people aren’t multi-tasking. You could try running surveys, questions or challenges within the session. Video conferencing is great for keeping attendees honest and attentive!

Allow for delegation

Attendees should be welcome to send along a more appropriate or experienced team member, if they so choose. This is especially important on conference calls with customers or third parties - they know their employees best, so don’t assume the person you deal with is always the right person for the call. Have them introduce themselves at the beginning of the call.

Agree actions and next steps, assigned to individuals

Don’t make having another meeting a next step! Keep it decisive and come away with a list of deliverables, assigned to individuals.

Make it easy to share the content

Record the meeting. Share complementary materials immediately. Ensure confidential materials are handled carefully. Provide links rather than emailing documents.

Summary: effective conference calls don’t happen by accident

If you come away from an audio or video conference call, and feel like the project or task has progressed - it’s because the organiser has done the pre-work. These conference call tips all focus on keeping agendas relevant, involving every attendee, using technology to your advantage, and getting the right people together for a measurable, quantifiable outcome. Bringing a virtual team together effectively requires decisiveness, precision and clarity. Don’t waste another minute running a dull, monotonous conference call!


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