5 Tips for a Smoother Conference Call

Meetings are inevitable, and technology-based meetings allow us to work together even as decentralized work environments become more common. According to a study by teleconferencing specialists LoopUp, American businesses spend 96.6 billion minutes each year on conference calls. So how can we ensure those billions of minutes are being used effectively? We’ve compiled a few handy tips for enabling a productive conference call or teleconference meeting.

  1. Start and end on time. That same LoopUp survey also found that on average, the first eight minutes of most conference calls are spent waiting on everyone to join or get situated. Be ready to start on time, even if everyone’s not online. Instead of waiting for stragglers and punishing those who showed up on time, have a prepared method for bringing latecomers up to speed. Instant messaging (IM) or text messages can be an effective side-channel that we’ll discuss later.
  2. Have a clear, organized plan. Before you get started, lay out the plan for the meeting. Clearly state what you’ll be covering and the basic ground rules for the call. These could include instructions about muting, referencing of visual aids, saving questions until the end, or side messaging. Before the call begins, provide necessary documents and reference materials to everyone involved.
  3. Use side messaging to avoid interruptions. Did you hear something interesting and you want to nudge a colleague? Do you have a question or comment to add, but it’s not essential to derail the whole meeting? Try an IM or a text message. Many teleconference applications feature side-messaging capabilities that allow you to chat with other participants or even nudge someone who may not be paying attention without interrupting the speaker.
  4. Get to know the system. Not knowing how to use the system is right up there with tardiness as a sure way to waste valuable meeting time. Make sure all participants know the basic operation and features of your system. At the very least, everyone should know how to sign in and use the mute/unmute feature. For video-conferencing systems, joining, mute and side-messaging features should be familiar to everyone before beginning.
  5. Follow-up and feedback. After you’ve completed a smooth, productive conference call, send a follow-up email to everyone involved. Give the participants an overview of the meeting along with a recap of questions or decisions that arose from the presentation. Request feedback to help you streamline future calls and work out any kinks that keep you from making the most of these collaborative sessions.

Thoughtful implementation of a few simple rules can aid the productive flow of ideas and allow all of us to make the most of these essential, online meetings.