Most people describe conference meetings as boring, unproductive and useless. Many times this is because participants have never attended a dynamic conference call that met all their communication needs. Discover how to conduct successful conference calls.
1. Get ready. Nothing is as unproductive as holding a meeting with people who are not prepared. Unpreparedness is not only energy draining, but also truly disturbing. In addition, holding a meeting where participants have little or no recollection about the meeting’s agenda can backfire with nothing to show in the end.
This principle applies in conference calls. Participants need to be aware of the meeting time and its agenda. This duty to get people prepared for the meeting falls on the host’s shoulders. The participants should also prepare for the meeting by going through the agenda memo, or invites before the meeting. This will equip them with the ability to make useful contributions during the conference meeting.
2. Know the conference platform. Hosts and participants need to be well trained in using the conference call program. It’s impossible to get full participation in a meeting if parties are not knowledgeable in how to use the conference calling platform.
Failure to understand the intrigues of a conference call program can make the meeting less productive. On introducing a new conferencing platform to your colleagues, clients or employees, provide the necessary training and tutorials on how the tool is used to make all interactions possible and meaningful. You can also make it easier for them by using free conference calls without PINs offered by services.
3. Be professional. Lack of professionalism is a common hindrance to conference call success. There is a level of fear most people face going into meetings. Questions like, “Is the conference call being recorded?”, “Is it open for all of us?”, “Am I on the spot in this conference call?”, and “Is it going to be done in private?” are often dominant in attendees’ minds.
Participants need to know their positions throughout the call. While announcing that the conference is being recorded is likely to slow or reduce participation from some parties, it also helps to inform the participant if recording of any nature will take place.
Professionalism also borders around creating a positive environment for the call. This may include limiting the amount of visual and audio distractions around you during the call. Always ask participants to hit the mute button to limit the noise levels from their ends during the call.
4. Make the conference call interactive. Meetings where parties participate freely are traditionally more productive than those where they don’t. Be open to the other participants’ contributions to ensure that they feel an important part of the meeting.
Ask questions and encourage free answers throughout the conversation to avoid being the one dominating every topic in the meeting. Nonetheless, always assert control over the meeting by steering the agenda to the end.
In addition, to avoid falling into the poor retention quagmire most conference calls face, insist on participants coming to meetings prepared to take notes and participate. This should be done in much the same way as they would in face to face meetings. It also falls onto the host to designate one party who will take minutes of what is discussed. You can email these to the attendants when the meeting is over.
Overall, the key to conducting productive conference calls is truly getting ready for them beforehand. Every participant should prepare for the conference call ahead of time by going through the meeting’s agenda. They should also learn how to operate the conference call program or prepare their rooms (and themselves) for the conference call, especially video calls (although you can use free conference calls without PINs to make it easy for them).
Productive conference calls also take place when there is a definite host (assertive to steer the meeting’s agenda), and active and focused participants. You can achieve all this by making the conference call interactive, light but objective. It also helps to take notes, maintain courtesy with all participants, and send minutes after the conference call.