1)Have a topic- A conference call should not be a catchall meeting. If your “Sales” meeting starts wandering into engineering technicalities you are going to lose your audience, so identify a narrow topic and bring it back on track when it starts drifting.
2) Invite the right people- There is nothing worse than being in a meeting you don’t have any business attending. Wasted man-hours and frustrated employees can be avoided with a well edited list of who needs to attend.
3) Record your call- This feature, offered for free by many conference call companies, is so worthwhile. Don’t you hate having to recap a call for someone who missed it? Let them listen to the recording on their own. If it is a really important call you might consider having your conference call company professionally record a back-up. Typical cost is about $35.
4) Email your meeting agenda ahead of time- Sending out an agenda gives participants a chance to prepare questions and feedback. This is a great time to ask for anything you need your participants to bring to the meeting.
5) Now, stick to the agenda- Just the way you want to stick to the meeting topic, keep your team on track with the agenda. Clearly state your objective for each section- “Next, we need to resolve problem X. Here are the proposals the team has come up with…” and if the conversation drifts, bring it back to resolving “problem X”.
6) Know your moderator controls and USE them- Most phone conferencing companies have moderator controls and some even offer free web based host dashboard. If you don’t know what your moderator controls are send an email to your conference call provider and ask for the list. You can mute all lines (called lecture mode), record your call and even turn off that “beep” that alerts you every time someone joins the call.
7) Designate a Q&A time, again your moderator controls may help with this- As you swim along, keeping your meeting closely tied to your agenda, leave time for Q&A at the end of each section. If you are lucky enough to have a web based dashboard there are even features that allow your callers to virtually “raise their hand” by using their keypad.
8) Take things “off-line”- When you have an employee bring up a scenario that is only pertinent to a portion of the people on the call, not everyone, offer to address it off line or simply invite those participants to stick around after the general call ends to discuss it.
9) Keep it short- The fantastic thing about conference calls is that it gives people a chance to talk through their ideas in a way that can’t really be conveyed in email. That is fantastic and all, but if that talk drags on and on it can get pretty hard for your audience to stay focused. Edit your presentation, make your points and move on.
10) Send a re-cap- After the call send a recap of what was discussed, reiterate any plans that were made or deadlines that were imposed. A well thought out recap ensures that your call was worth the time invested and gives you a chance to set up your “next steps”.
The time invested in a conference call should be productive, following these rules will help ensure that you and your team get the most from every meeting, every time. Really consider finding a conference call company that offers a web based control dashboard. You will make your life as a call host so much easier and your calls will flow much better.
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