Conference calls are both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, they are a convenient way for people from all over to come together and touch base. But on the other, there are often factors that can hinder the productivity of a call. Do you ever feel like you’re talking to dead air? Or just the opposite – is there so much conversation that you can’t get a word in? Or do you only half participate and use that time to catch-up on email? We all know that a poorly run call can be a waste of time for everyone involved.
Below are three rules of thumb that can contribute to a productive and successful call.
Create and distribute a concise agenda prior to the call. In order to “stick to the agenda,” you must first ensure that it exists. Be sure that all agenda items serve a purpose – whether the goal is to provide an update, facilitate discussion, or pass a motion, each item should be carefully considered before it is added. You definitely want to share the finalized agenda with those participating on the call so that they have time to gather their thoughts and contribute to any discussion that might take place.
Find a quiet space. One of the benefits of conference calls is that they don’t require you to be chained to your desk. While calling in from the car or from the golf course may work for those participating, the person responsible for running the call should be in a quiet, comfortable, and familiar environment.
Don’t be afraid to jump in. If you find that the conversation is heading in the wrong direction, don’t be afraid to jump in and bring everyone back to the task at hand. People have a natural tendency to go on tangents, especially when the group is comfortable with one another. There’s no reason that you can’t keep the call on track.
There are alternate technologies available, such as Google hangouts, webinars, and Skype, but due to convenience, cost, and accessibility, I do believe that conference calls, albeit sometimes feel like this, aren’t going anywhere for the time being.
What are some rules of thumb that you think make for a productive call?