Conference calls are a highly effective way to reduce the costs and time associated with in-person meetings, while still providing a productive and accessible meeting environment. Here's a quick survival guide to leading an effective conference call.
Before The Call
- Write an agenda for your conference call. This should outline the time and date for the meeting, the intended number of participants and names of the attendees, the reasons for the meeting, its aims and objectives, and the planned order of events and proceedings during the call.
- An invitation to the meeting should then be distributed to each guest, along with the agenda. Don't forget to send the dial-in numbers and access codes given to you by your conferencing provider as well.
- Next it's time to prepare your notes. Make sure you know what to say and what topics you'll cover, and make written notes that you can follow during the meeting to keep you on track. As the host, you need to be clear and concise to ensure that your conference call runs efficiently.
- Choose a quiet place to join the conference call - somewhere free from any background noise. Make sure to check your telephone is functioning correctly before you begin. You should also familiarise yourself with the special features offered by your conference call provider, such as the ‘mute’ function or participant name announcements.
Starting The Call
- You should be sat with all of your notes ready and your equipment tested at least 10 to 15 minutes before the conference call begins. You should then ideally enter the call a few minutes before the scheduled time so that you are the first in the call and can greet participants as they enter.
- Tell a relevant story or ask a question to fill the time as people are joining the call. Once the main participants are all in the call, quickly move on from the small talk and set the expectations of the meeting. Introduce yourself and others if needed, and outline any rules of the call. Don't forget to record the conference!
- Go over the agenda once again, so that you know everyone has the same expectations for the meeting. You can keep your guests on mute while you deliver your presentation and unmute them if necessary, like if you want to give them the chance to ask questions.
Conducting The Call
- Conducting the conference call should be quite straightforward if you are using a reputable provider. The main point to remember is that you should follow your agenda through from start to finish so that the call flows well and your goals for the meeting are achieved.
- Address participants by name if you want to direct a question at them or encourage them to speak. This helps to avoid confusion and long pauses, and moves the meeting on efficiently.
- Use the mute and unmute buttons effectively depending on who is speaking. When you are speaking, participants should be muted to avoid any background noises from their lines being heard in the meeting. During collaborations or question and answer sessions, one or more participants can be unmuted.
- Check the time regularly to keep the conference call moving at the right pace to make sure the entire agenda will be covered during the meeting's allocated time. If the conversation goes off track then refer back to your objectives and steer the conversation back to the correct topic.
Ending The Call
- At the end of the conference, recap the key points that have been made. Make sure you've covered everything and that participants understand the main takeaways of what has been discussed. Now is the time to invite relevant questions.
- Hopefully your call results in one or more action points to help you achieve a specific objective. After all, there must have been a reason you decided to hold a conference call! Be sure your participants are clear on these action points and that they know their roles and responsibilities moving forward.
- Provide your contact information to your guests if necessary. If you're going to be distributing anything after the meeting, let your guests know where they can access this - will you email it to them or can they view it on your website? Also let them know if there will be any follow-up meetings.