As a manager, you can do a lot to get your team ready for its annual, semi-annual, bimonthly, monthly or weekly conference call (there are all kinds out there, trust me). Or you can assign these tasks out equally among your team. Either way, using these tips to ensure everyone is ready to be at their best while on conference may help you to make your teleconferences the best that they can be.
1. Confirm the day, time, and length of a conference at least three times. Most people just send it out once, and several advocate twice, but we think three times is a charm. Once when you send it for their calendars and schedules, once about a week before (of course this doesn't work if it is every week), and then again the day before. Some folks even send out the morning of the call. Choose whatever seems reasonable to you.
2. Send out handouts a few days before or the day before. This way, attendees have time to look them over, formulate their ideas and thoughts, and are able to prepare effectively. Sending out handouts just before a conference really defeats the purpose of the conference. Of course, it does depend on how much you intend to accomplish during your call, how often you meet, and how difficult the issues are. I advocate the day before or at least four hours in advance of the call.
3. Send out an agenda the morning of the call. Prepare an agenda so that attendees can see for themselves what will be discussed and what they should be prepared to respond to. Another helpful tip is to ask for other items when you send out the agenda. That way, everyone has a chance to take part in the call and the most pressing issues are all included.
4. Start on time, but if folks are running late, be flexible. People get delayed all the time. If most of your group is there, go ahead and start, but if a lot are late, be patient, encourage present participants to review the handouts and agenda while they wait, and hold off for a few minutes.
5. Be open for questions. No matter how much of an effort you make to get the handouts and agenda to attendees in order to communicate what is to be discussed, be open if some folks are still a little lost. It happens. Life is stressful. Be courteous and helpful, offer to send them the handouts or agenda again, and try to honestly answer questions as the conference progresses. It's really all about attitude when preparing for a conference. The more easygoing you are (not lackadaisical, but laid back and approachable), the better things will go.
Above all, remember that conferences are made up of human beings with many faults and foibles and that the best laid plans can always go awry. If you're prepared and have prepared your attendees, the worst thing that can happen is if the power goes out (and it will), the phone line picks up static (it might), and no one shows up (just reschedule). No matter what happens, it helps to be prepared.