Traditional face-to-face meetings can be stressful, expensive and time consuming. With precious time and resources spent on organising in-person meetings, preparing materials, booking meeting rooms, coordinating calendars, travelling to and from meetings and struggling with different audio-visual systems, it’s any wonder we persist. Thankfully, the increased availability of audio (and video) conferencing means the way we communicate and work together has changed, and it’s better for the environment too.
As Alex Ivanovs points out in his Huffington Post article, technology has eliminated many of the problems with traditional meetings. Business owners can conduct conference calls instead of travelling halfway across Australia (or the world), saving a lot of time and resources.
If you want to change the way you do things, save time and money and improve efficiencies, productivity and decision making, then follow these 5 simple steps to conference calling.
Five simple steps to set up a conference call
The process to set up a conference call is pretty straightforward. You just need to follow the steps listed below to organise and run your conference calls.
1. Create an account with a locally-owned and operated conferencing provider
Before setting up a conference call, you’ll need to select a provider with expertise in audio, web and video conferencing. One that owns its own infrastructure housed in Australia is the best choice, as it means your data and your private conversations remain in Australia, are kept confidential and are stored in a safe and secure place governed by Australian law. Having access to locally owned and operated conferencing infrastructure also means that the service is well maintained, reliable and state-of-the-art. Choosing a teleconference provider that allows you to try their services for free for a period of time is a good indicator that they stand by their product.
Once you’ve selected a provider, you can create your conferencing account (usually by completing a form on their website). You should then receive confirmation email detailing your account details and the host and guest codes that you and your participants will use to access your future conference calls.
2. Invite your guests to the meeting
Once you’ve set up your conferencing account with your chosen provider, it’s time to invite your guests to your meeting. Send your meeting invitation through email or text message
Your meeting invitation should include:
- the date and time that your conference call will be held.
- the dial-in number your guests will use to dial-in to the conference call system, and join the meeting.
- the guest code they’ll need to access the meeting.
- any resources they need to review in order to prepare for the meeting
Set your agenda and clarify your expectations so that your participants come prepared. . This’ll help make sure the meeting runs as smoothly and efficiently and is as productive as possible. There should be no need to make a meeting reservation or booking with your provider, as the best conferencing providers allow you to access their services on-demand, 24/7/365.
3. Dial in to your conference call
When the meeting is scheduled to begin, every participant will need to dial the number and when prompted by the conferencing system, enter the guest code you provided them in your meeting invitation. Your participants are placed on hold by the system until the host arrives.
4. Clearly communicate all objectives for your conference call
After taking a brief moment to introduce yourself (as the host) and your guests, outline the objectives of your meeting according to your set agenda. There are several advantages to stating your objectives at the beginning of the conference call:
- It’ll be a lot easier to keep everybody on track.
- Your guests will be able to mentally prepare for upcoming discussions, so they can provide the answers that’ll be expected of them.
- Everybody’s time will be used much more effectively.
Remember that you have a limited amount of time to conduct your teleconference, cover your agenda items and achieve the objectives you set at the beginning. As the host it is your responsibility to keep the meeting on track and to bring your participants back to the agenda if they become distracted by other items. Long before you set up a conference call, you should have a clear idea of the decisions that need to be made that should be discussed in order of importance in case you run short of time. You can easily set up another conference call if you need to tackle more or less urgent issues.
5. Take advantage of useful keypad shortcuts during your conference
Running a self-managed conference call with more than a few participants can feel a little overwhelming and may be challenging at times, especially when a lively discussion ensues. A good conferencing provider will have in place a set of programmed in-conference keypad shortcuts that enable you to retain control and customise your conferencing experience at no extra cost.
Using the in-conference keypad shortcuts (a set of programmed conference commands accessible to the host by pressing a sequence of numbers on their telephone keypad) can help you control several aspects of your conference call. It’s a good idea to have handy a list of your provider’s in-conference keypad shortcuts as they can help you;
- mute participants to keep background noise to a minimum and prevent people from interrupting the speaker.
- call for assistance from your provider if you run into any problems, or if your participants need help dialling in to the meeting.
- record your conference to access later, or send to participants who couldn’t attend.
Choose a provider that offers a variety of conferencing products and services, that way you’ll be assured that you have chosen an industry leader with many years of expertise in all facets of conferencing. A leading provider will supply a reliable service and 24/7, local phone support and a number of ways to ensure you and your conference call participants have a successful meeting. Follow these 5 simple steps to conference calling and you’ll reduce your travel expenses (and your carbon footprint) and improve meeting efficiency and productivity.