8 Key Tips to Improve Your Conference Calls
How can you make the most of your conference calls?
Sometimes I wonder if I really spend half of my working life on conference calls, or if it just feels that way!
In an increasingly globalised world, that’s ever-more connected by technology, it’s becoming far more common for people to work remotely with others – whether this means flexible working, working from home full-time, or working with colleagues based in other countries. People still need to keep in touch, and that often means a lot of conference calls.
As we have discussed previously, before setting up a conference call or meeting it is important that you have definite goals to achieve and that the call is really necessary. If possible, have some kind of agenda, and be sure to take minutes (including actions) that can be circulated afterwards.
Once you have established a reason and process for the call, here are 8 key things to bear in mind to improve your conference call etiquette, whether you are the chair or a participant:
1. Limit group sizes
- If possible, limit the call’s size to a smaller number of people. This will encourage everyone to feel more comfortable adding their opinions.
- For information that needs circulating amongst large groups, consider selecting representatives to attend the call who can discuss its minutes with their teams afterwards.
2. Establish a clear procedure
- A unique challenge of conference calls is that there is often a large number of people involved, and there are no body language cues, which can result in people talking over each other.
- It may be useful to set out your etiquette expectations at the beginning of the call, or even by email prior to it starting. This can help to prevent individuals from dominating the call, or disengaging due to multi-tasking.
3. Choose your interface carefully
- Great call interface features can really make a difference in how your call plays out.
- Look for an interface that shows who is speaking. Other useful features are a dashboard, a chat section, screen-sharing, anonymity options, and muting options in case things get too loud!
4. Prepare questions beforehand
- Think about some questions you could include in the call to keep the group engaged and on topic.
- Focus on asking concise yet open-ended questions, which limit the time spent asking them and maximise the potential for discussion – rather than questions that lead to dead-end ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers.
5. Keep to time
- Try to avoid going over the allotted time, which will result in people losing attention as they start thinking about other commitments. If you need to go over time, check in with everyone first.
- Be aware that going over time can reflect a lack of planning, and gives the impression that the organisers did not accurately estimate the time of the meeting or stick to their agenda.
6. Consider your audience
- Where possible, think about the participants – who might dominate the conversation? How can you ensure that this doesn’t happen?
- However, don’t be afraid to go with the flow if the discussion takes an unexpected turn, as long as it remains productive.
7. If in doubt, listen
- Try to spend less time speaking and more time listening to what others have to say.
- It’s OK to remind everyone of the agenda and which actions need to be decided, but if one person is talking most of the time it will feel like a lecture! Such long points would probably be better understood if sent out in an email.
8. Use supportive technology
- It’s important to recognise that it can be easy for attendees to lose focus in conference calls, particularly if the conversation is being dominated by a small number of people.
- Try using a supportive technology like OpenMeet, which prevents audience disengagement as it lets people ask questions and answer polls through a web browser link.
After each call you should list anything that went wrong, in order to establish procedures to address any recurring issues. Don’t see flaws as a sign of failure! Think of each call as an opportunity to develop your team’s relationships and productivity.
Try using these tips for future next conference calls and let us know if you experience an improvement!
OpenMeet provides audience engagement technology and consultancy services. Our browser-based software can be customised to meet your event’s interactivity needs. To find out more about how to make your events more engaging, contact us or visit our blog for more audience engagement tips.