Thursday, April 29, 2010

Avoid Conference Call Catastrophes

Have you ever been on a conference call and couldn't get a word in because there were so many people on the call and they were talking over each other? Does it seem like nothing is accomplished on conference calls? Here are some ways to avoid conference call catastrophes and make the most out of teleconferences:

Determine the purpose of the meeting and how many people will be invited.
If the conference call (not to be confused with web conference) will involve more than 10 people, you may want to consider having the meeting in person and for those who cannot attend, have them call in. The larger the conference call, the more difficult it will be to manage.

Give Conference Call Rules prior to calling the meeting to order.

Give attendees "conference call house rules" for example, if they need to mute themselves, inform them of how to do so. If recording, let attendees know that the meeting will be recorded. Let them know that everyone's comments are important and Roberts Rules of Order apply. If anyone has a comment, wait until the chair asks around the virtual "teleconference table" if there are any comments and wait to be "recognized". Picture attendees seated in a conference room, this is the virtual "teleconference table." It is impolite to blurt out or cut people off, you wouldn't do it in an in person meeting, don't do it on a phone call.

Start on time and end on time.

Treat a conference call as if it was an in-person meeting. Always start on time and do your best to end on time by following the agenda and "table" topics that require more discussion. Typically, you will hear when another caller joins the meeting because there will be a "beep." Acknowledge the new caller by asking their name. If they are late, it is helpful to let them know what agenda item is being discussed--do not go over what has already been discussed--it's a time waster. The Minutes will bring them up to speed.

When making a comment or suggestion, state your name first so that minutes can be recorded properly.
This makes it easy for minutes to be properly documented and promotes meeting order.

Distribute the agenda/handouts prior to the meeting.

When you send the meeting announcement including conference call login information, attach the agenda and any pertinent handouts so that attendees will get a "heads up" of the meeting content. If it is possible, send the documents as one attachment and not several (ie. agenda, minutes from last meeting.)

Teleconferencing is another convenient and travel-free way for us to connect and get the job done and may be one of the easiest and cost effective meetings because there is no need to reserve meeting space and no refreshments to order. The effectiveness of each teleconference depends on the facilitator and the methods used to allow attendee participation and maintain meeting order.