I calculated one time that I have spent one year of my life on conference calls. If you are like me, the worst thing you can do is to be on a conference call where it was unproductive. My measurement of a good and valuable conference call is that every participant feels as though they contributed and it was worth their time to be on the call. Here are some basic tips for those leading conference calls to get the most of their participants’ time.
1. No agenda – no meeting. Would you get in your car and start driving without knowing where you are going? No! Of course not. So why would you join a conference call that you don’t know why you are on the call or what the expected result of the meeting is. Agendas should be sent out in plenty of time for the participants to have time to complete any tasks assigned to them. If you have not assigned any tasks to anyone, and are not expecting them to update the group, then why are you having the meeting?
2. Leaders need to be inclusive. If your meeting consists of the leader of the group talking more than 50% of the time, I would like to suggest you send a memo instead of hosting a meeting. The reason for meetings is to engage the total group in working together to complete a task, mission or objectives. If your group is not engaged and volunteering to help with the projects that are on the agenda, then the committee needs to have a discussion about its priorities and what is important to everyone and the organization.
3. Respect those who show up on time. When you state that a meeting is starting at 8am, for example, the meeting leader should be on the call ready to go by 7:50 am for those who are on early. The meeting should start promptly on time and late arrivals should be acknowledged at the end of the meeting. DO NOT STOP and re-iterate everything that has been said when someone arrives late. Offer to stay on the call and “catch them up” at the end of the meeting. If you continue to start over, people will start to call in later knowing that you are starting later and they won’t miss anything. Also it disrespects those who do show up on time. Things do happen and people are late and always will be. Staying on to coach them on what they missed helps them and also honors the group that was on time.
4. Use technology that is available. There is technology that will make your calls better that doesn’t cost you any money. An example is startmeeting.com has an online screen display for the meeting leader (host) that shows you who is on the phone. You can watch as people join the audio call and call out their name, saying hello. It will give you a record of the length of time that someone is on the call. Using technology, you are able to see who is creating that background noise and mute them. They will get a personal voice memo that says “You have been muted”. You can then un-mute them in a few minutes to see if their background noise has stopped. Lastly you can record the calls and share them with those who were unable to attend. Have you ever considered just sending a recording of the call for your minutes?
5. Come to a conclusion at the end of each meeting. Have a wrap up portion of the meeting. Confirm who is doing what, when the next meeting is and how you will track actions and follow up. In a future article we will visit options for tracking action items.