It used to be that you were either sitting at the table or missing the meeting. If you needed to have a conference with multiple people across the country or even around the world, you had to expense the costs of pricey plane tickets.
Thankfully, communication tactics have changed. With conference bridge services offered at an affordable price and accommodating many employees, businesses can collaborate in ways that were previously impossible. It’s also helpful for employees who need to work in different locations. Running late? Call from the road. Waiting for the plumber or taking care of a sick child? Call in from home.
While there are many benefits to conference calls, they open up a Pandora’s box of potential issues, including surprise participants and a format that can result in unproductive meetings. Here are six communications tactics for getting the most out of your conference calls:
1. Carefully Consider the Invite List
Conference calls will only be productive if they include the right people to make decisions and spark ideas. On the flip side, when people are included on the call that need not be on the line, it keeps them from accomplishing other work. When creating the invite list for a call, consider who has the background information and expertise needed to make a decision, who has the power to make a decision, and who will actually be doing the work based on the results of the call.
2. Have an Agenda and Stick to It
While it’s good form to have an agenda for every meeting, it’s even more important for conference calls so that everyone knows what to expect before the call starts. And because the inability to read body language can result in a conversation that falls off course, it’s essential to create an agenda, distribute it to all participants before the call, and stick to the plan during the call.
3. Designate a Leader for the Call
During a typical in-person meeting, it’s easy to tell who is in charge. The leader usually stands up at the beginning of the meeting and kicks it off. Without the visual cues on conference calls — as well as the fact that some staff on the call together may be perfect strangers — it’s essential to know who the leader of the call is and to make sure that person actively facilitates the meeting to keep it on topic.
4. Introduce Everyone on the Call at the Beginning of the Meeting
You can look around the table during an in-person meeting to see who is attending. However, on a conference call, there is sometimes an uneasy feeling of not knowing exactly who is listening. Make a point of introducing everyone on the call, especially those who are joining in groups from a conference room. This way, everyone knows who is on the call and can make sure that their contributions are appropriate for the audience.
5. If New Participants Join an Ongoing Call, Make Sure They’re Introduced
To stay with the theme of transparency as far as attendees go, make sure that if anyone joins the call during the meeting, there’s an introduction for the new participant. It’s also important that if someone joins a conference room or office where someone else is calling, that person should be introduced as well.
6. Let Participants Know if the Call Is Being Recorded
One of the best features of a conference call is the ability to record calls so that those unable to join can listen later. It’s also good to have a record. Call-recording technology allows you to set up this feature before the call, so have a company rule to record all calls or allow the leader to start recording in the middle of the call.
Like many types of technology, it’s hard to remember work life without conference calls. Yet even as we get more comfortable with them, it’s essential that everyone use good etiquette to make sure a meeting is productive and a good use of time.
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