In the age of remote teams and the want to reduce business travel, a growing number of companies are using conference calls as a way to communicate on a daily basis. While conference calls can be quite effective, the fact is that many businesses don’t know the best practices in order to host a call that is beneficial for all participants.
But conference calls don’t have to feel like a waste of time. Keep reading to learn six tips and tricks to host effective conference calls.
A few days before the conference call, take the time to get all of the important details together. First, you’ll want to create an agenda so that participants know which topics are going to be covered. Having an agenda will reduce the risk of off-topic conversions that waste valuable time, while also minimizing off-topic tangents.
After setting an agenda, send it to all participants at least two days before the call. This gives everyone enough time to properly prepare and to gather all of the information they need to effectively participate in the call.
In getting ready for the call, it’s also important to gather any material that needs to be shared or viewed. Be sure that all documents are designed for screen-based viewing, to include font size and colors.
Even if you have the best online conferencing provider that offers all sorts of call features and functionality, there’s no technology that can fix a noisy location. When hosting a conference call, it’s important to host the call in an area that is quiet and free of distractions.
You’ll also want to encourage participants, especially those dialing in using a mobile phone, to find a location that is quiet and free of disruptions as well. There’s nothing more frustrating than background noise that interrupts a good conversation.
If a participant must dial in from a noisy area, encourage them to mute their line unless they’re speaking. This minimizes background noise and maintains the integrity of the call.
Whether you’re hosting the call or are a participant, it’s important that everyone is punctual. As the host, you need to sign on early and work through any technical issues before the meeting is set to start.
You’ll also want to encourage call participants to join on time. Having stragglers that join the call minutes into the conversation is distracting and can slow down the progress of the meeting.
While conference calls can feel less casual because of the lack of face-to-face interaction, it’s important to maintain certain professional expectations. Be sure to reaffirm how important these meetings are, and make it aware that the same expectations exist in these virtual communications.
Conference calls often feel less personal and serious because callers can’t always see each other. But, if there are participants that can use video communication, ask them to do so. Being able to see someone while they’re speaking not only makes for better communication, it makes the meeting more personal.
Being able to see visual cues through video participation will keep everyone engaged and active in the conference call.
Conference calls shouldn’t be a one-way street. When done the wrong way, conference calls can cause listeners to zone out and to lose interest. In order to keep people focused and involved, encourage engagement and participation.
There are many ways to encourage people to partake in the call. Some options include:
- Asking questions
- Giving every participant time to speak
- Assigning roles within the call
The more people that participate in the call, the more successful it will be. While there will always be phone-shy participants, it helps to encourage everyone to share their thoughts on the topics at hand.
Just as someone takes notes during traditional meetings, it’s just as important to have someone taking notes during a conference call. Taking notes captures who attended the meeting, what was discussed, and any decisions that were made. Meeting notes can also be helpful in documenting actions and additional topics that need to be addressed in future meetings.
If your conference call provider allows it, it can also be beneficial to record conference calls. Before doing so, make sure that all participants are aware and approve of being recorded. By recording these calls, you can share them with others who weren’t able to join, allowing them to get up to speed with decisions and to-dos.
By nature, conference calls are highly impersonal and don’t have the same professional feeling as a traditional meeting. But, there are some things you can do to ensure that you’re hosting effective conference calls that are beneficial and worthwhile for each participant.