|Five Tips for Running a Successful Conference Call
As the global economy continues to shape the way businesses of every stripe convey pertinent information and ideas, the way they communicate has also evolved. Establishing business relations with different key demographics around the globe necessitates a streamlined, cost-effective way to communicate at any time, and in any place. Thankfully, advances in teleconferencing and web conferencing services have made it easier to impart information to associates and clients all over the world at one time. Below are five tips to running a successful teleconference call.
- Create an Agenda – The key component to a successful teleconference call is an agenda. It is a good idea to send out a meeting request from within a scheduling tool such as iCal or Microsoft Outlook via a specially formatted email, and attach the agenda and topic(s) to be discussed with specific instructions in the body of the email on how to connect to the conference call. You can also include the instructions in something eye-catching such as a text box. Many conference services require participants to dial a prearranged number and then enter a conference room number followed by a password or PIN. Be sure to include instructions for this on the agenda and the meeting request. If the call involves sensitive or confidential information, you may want to lock the conference once each participant has arrived. Consult your conference service provider for instructions on how to lock your particular system.
- Preliminaries – At the beginning of the teleconference, call each name out to ensure everyone is connected. Introduce newcomers to the rest of the group and allow them to describe themselves and their role in the call. If anyone is late, try to call them (preferably on their cell phone) to get them connected as soon as possible, as nothing diminishes a good conference call more than making everyone wait before you even begin.
Then, after making sure everyone has a copy of the agenda and can hear one another well, assign a designated note-taker. This ensures that the note-taker will be thorough and responsible and provide a single set of meeting notes to distribute after the call. After this is done, establish ground rules for call interaction. Remember, if the conference service is audio-only, there are no visual cues that will help gauge when its time for each participant to speak.
A good way to work around this and ensure that each person gets their say is by “round table” conferencing, where you list in advance the order in which each participant will speak. Make sure everyone speaks only at their designated time and have them identify themselves before doing so. This helps speed up the time it takes to work through each topic while keeping the participants focused and engaged. This can be challenging with large groups, but establishing rules of interaction before the call will allow for an even-paced, smooth-flowing teleconference call.
- Disconnect the Speakerphone – Unless you are using a web conferencing service, it is imperative that you turn off your speakerphone or mic, especially if the one being used is low quality. Most speakerphones are not designed to deliver clear audio or for audio conferencing, and the effects of bad speaker phones are distorted further on a teleconference when more than one line is being used. Dialing in from a regular handset is much more effective and will save time and patience. If several people in the same room want to participate in the call, have them dial in from separate lines. Also make sure to eliminate any background noise that may hinder audio clarity.
- Keep Notes- You should ensure that every conference call participant receives a copy of the meeting notes by the following morning at the latest, to preserve top-of-mind awareness among participants. It is not necessary to transcribe word for word; only notes where an action or decision needs to be made should be recorded. Also include who has agreed to follow up on each task and the deadline set for each. Also note who was present for the conference (web conferencing services often include conference archiving as well). You may also want to note the names of the teleconference participants as they join to keep an accurate record of who has participated.
- Keep it Short and Sweet – As anyone who has “chaired” a teleconference can attest, it can be difficult to keep participants attention for long periods of time, especially if they are holding a phone receiver to their ear. Keep your teleconference short and to-the-point. If you feel that the call is dragging on and/or the participants seem to be losing interest, it is best to revisit the agenda and reschedule for the following day if possible, so participants can refocus. A teleconference call should typically last about 20-30 minutes. As in any meeting, as you near the end of the call, it is good to summarize the topics that have been discussed, and ask participants if they have any final comments to add before closing the call. Remember, running a successful conference call effectively is important for establishing client and associate relations, and can be of great benefit if conducted properly.
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