Many workers across the UK have had to get to grips with the joys and pitfalls of conferencing calling this year.
The spike in home working necessitated by pandemic restrictions has seen a surge in the number of virtual meetings and conference calls, with team members dialling in from different settings locally, nationally or internationally.
You could be sitting at home in your pyjamas with colleagues in the office, others in a café and another at an airport, but you can still work effectively by hopping on a conference call.
But like any other type of meeting, depending on how they’re handled, conference calls can range from being extremely productive right through to a complete waste of time.
Here are a few tips designed to help you enjoy effective conference call meetings that progress smoothly, stay focused and give everyone a chance to contribute.
Choose someone to lead the call
In most cases, whoever convenes the meeting will be in charge of setting up the conference call and leading it.
If that’s you, then you’ll need to create an agenda, introduce everyone who’s taking part, ask participants for responses and make sure everything is on topic and on schedule.
Produce an agenda
Good conference calling has a clear gameplan. To set up a conference call, before you start you should establish what you want the call to achieve, write down what questions need answers and what actions need to be taken and by whom.
Collate this in advance and send it out to everyone involved – even if it’s just a few minutes before the conference call.
A late agenda is still better than no agenda at all.
Ensure everyone can join the conference call
As well as the agenda, the attendees will also need the relevant dial-in numbers, links and passcodes sent to them so they can join you in the teleconference.
It’s also best to test your conference call phone system beforehand and make sure you’re all set.
Find a quiet location
If possible and practical, choose a location with low background noise for your part of the teleconference.
Remember, you might be accustomed to some household background sounds that could distract others, like a dog barking, children shouting or a noisy air conditioner.
If you are stuck somewhere that’s noisy, use the mute function as much as possible.
Log in early and be on time
If you’re leading the conference call, you should be the first one in, and start the meeting on time.
If you’re an attendee, you should always be dialled in before the time the teleconference is due to start. It’s just good manners!
It can be really disruptive if someone pops up after the meeting has begun.
Don’t be the person who makes everyone go back over what they’ve just discussed.
Identify all the attendees
As the host, you should introduce everyone at the start of the conference call. Plus, as it’s sometimes difficult to identify people by voice alone, ask participants to identify themselves before they speak. For example: “Jeff here! I was just thinking….”
To avoid people talking over each other or cutting each other off, if you want to get some feedback you could list the attendees in a sequence, like: “Why don’t we hear from Nigel first, then Lindsay, then Sam?”
Don’t try and multitask, unless it’s something to do with the teleconference, such as taking notes or looking up information. So no eating, phone scrolling, reading or driving, etc.
Don’t treat your colleagues’ and clients’ time like it’s not as important as yours.
Remember the mute function…
It’s one of the biggest lessons of 2020! If you’re not talking on the conference call, try to stay on mute. But then remember to unmute yourself before you start talking!
Record the conference call
Many hosted phone services now feature easy call recording.
You can save the audio file from your conference calls to refer to later and follow up on actions, or if someone missed the meeting they can listen back at their convenience.
So, to recap, effective conference calling comes down to good preparation, keeping the meeting on track, respecting others and following up any resulting actions.
And of course, it also helps to use the right conference call phone…
If you would like to learn more about teleconferencing, conference call phones, cloud hosted phone systems or how to set up a conference call, Time Communications would be happy to talk you through the options available to you.