Have you gotten on a conference call and the moderator hasn't dialed in yet? You called on time or maybe even a few minutes early, but you were waiting and waiting. Hold music is soothing, but when you are a multi-tasking executive your time is valuable and it appears it is being wasted by someone else!
Think of a conference call as a face-to-face meeting and present yourself accordingly. For all of your conference calls, I recommend that you, the moderator, call in at a minimum of five minutes early. This allows you to personally greet each participant as they arrive. It also gives you a chance to chat with the early attendees and break the ice.
If you are web conferencing and have your Webcam set up, don't use the few early minutes to apply makeup, comb your hair, or review your notes. Be smiling and ready to welcome each attendee with your eyes focused on the camera. Don't be caught off guard!
I also recommend that you check yourself in your webcam 10 minutes before your call starts to make sure you look the best you can. Once you're ready, forget about the camera and just consider the camera lens as the eyes of your participants. There is something welcoming about dialing in and getting a personal greeting from the host or seeing a smiling face.
Remember many attendees to your call will phone in five minutes earlier than the scheduled time of the call, so be on five minutes before that and start your teleconference off right!
Although teleconferences are all about the spoken word, they do have a written component: the transcript. Transcripts are highly valuable, for you and for the participants. You can use your transcript to build loyalty and get repeat business and the participants can get a clear view of your message.
No matter how good a person is at listening and digesting, the opportunity to pore over the details in written form is hard to resist. Even the most attentive person will admit that their mind wanders at times. That's okay, because you will be there to offer a transcript that is chock full of useful information.
You will have to decide whether or not you want to offer the transcript on paper or through e-mail. If you offer it in exchange for an e-mail address, then it only makes sense to send it through that medium. However there are some people who still prefer paper. The best bet may be to give participants a choice on how they would like to receive their transcript.
Some other uses for your transcripts:
- Give a transcript in exchange for an e-mail address
- Use transcripts to entice participants to fill out an evaluation form
- Offer customized transcripts by highlighting key passages, or break them up into segments for specific customers
Paper or digital, charge or no charge; put transcripts to work for you by offering them as a valuable post-conference tool!
Have you heard of podcasting yet? Podcasting is where you take a recording of your conference call and save it as a file that can be downloaded to iPods and other mp3 players.
If you are making recordings of your conference call, now's the time to check out if you can turn them into podcasts so people can download them from your website. There are online applications that will take your audio file and make it podcast-friendly. Some even have an online control panel. One that I've found particularly good is called FeedHoster. You can visit the site at www.Feedhoster.com.
Here'’s what they have to say about making podcasts from audio files:
"Podcasting support! Yes, you can also link to media files which will be added as enclosures in your web feed for automatic download by Podcasting clients. Don't know what enclosures are? Doesn't matter, we look after that...just know that you will be able to link media files to your feed and any subscribers with a Podcasting client (aka Podcatcher) will be able to automatically download the media to their media device. Imagine the possibilities!"
So if you are looking for ways to use the recordings from your conference calls, think about podcasting as a new way to cast your own net to a larger audience of prospects.
Today, twice as many companies are communicating via audio and video conferencing than five years ago. Between 2000 and 2006, a leading indicator of changes in the communications industry -- sales of conferencing equipment -- doubled from $2.84 billion to $4.33 billion. It seems more and more people are realizing how much they can benefit from conferencing. If you are one of these people, you should know that thorough organization and planning is required to ensure effective and productive communication. Here are some tips to ensure a smooth conference call:
- Ask participants to identify themselves when speaking.
- Provide participants with a conference agenda ahead of time and encourage discussion on weak agenda items.
- Watch the clock. Keep the conference within the expected time parameters.
- Allot time for questions. Designating a Q&A session at the end of the conference can help keep the meeting on track.
- Close the call with a summary of items discussed, decisions made, and future action agreed upon.
- Schedule a follow-up meeting if you run out of time, but still have points to cover. Be considerate of the fact that your colleagues have allotted a set number of minutes to the conference call.
- Follow-up the conference call with an email or letter reiterating major points, decisions made, and future assignments.
- Thank all participants for their time and input.
Every town, city, or county has matters that must be set before the public prior to a decision being made. Local governments do their duty by holding public forums, but quite often these forums are not well-attended.
Teleconferences are a very useful tool for municipalities looking to engage the public on issues that concern and affect the majority of citizens. There are many people who would hesitate to attend a public forum for any number of reasons such as bad weather, physically unable, lack transportation, busy schedules, the reluctance to give an opinion, or the feeling that they really can’t make a difference. You cannot get everyone to participate, but you may be able to broaden your audience if you use a teleconference to communicate with citizens.
With a two-way teleconference you can give voice to those whom you would not normally see at a town hall or city council meeting. Those who are afraid to give their opinion in person will be less inhibited if they are in their own living rooms. You will be able to really get a sense of public opinion about a topic this way. It will increase good will because residents will feel as though local government is really interested in connecting with them and values their thoughts and ideas.
It is the buzz on the Web – social networking, but just exactly how can you use social networking with conference calls? Here are a few suggestions to help you dive in and use social networking tools to boost attendance at your next teleconference.
First it's important to know of and to have accounts set up at some of the top social networking sites. We see lots of activity on Facebook, LinkedIn, Rover, and MySpace. Additionally, there are a plethora of other new sites that seem to be appearing daily in the social networking arena. Select one or two that you find easy to use and then harvest Outlook or your address book and start inviting people you know to be a part of your social network. It's easy. Many of the social networking services actually allow you to upload your Outlook contact files and then the services will send out automated invitations to people you know. I get lots of invitations and I haven't turned one down yet, so don't be fearful of rejection. Social networking is just that, socializing with others online and adding them to your network as they add you to theirs.
Second, once you have worked to build your network, now's the time to update your site with information about your conference call schedule. Facebook allows people in your network to see when you post something new to your home page. Other social networking sites have similar functions. Why not use the power of social networking to help you get your message out about your next teleconference. You may find that for the small amount of time you spend in getting connected with others using Facebook or LinkedIn, that the payoffs can be huge.
What if you wanted to have a teleconference, but you didn't want to do all of the talking? What do you do? Get someone else to do it! Specifically, get an expert to be the main speaker at a teleconference sponsored by your organization.
Think about the expense and logistics of arranging for someone to speak or lecture on a topic that is hot in your industry right now. Then think about how you can offer interested parties the chance to hear from an industry leader without having to rent an auditorium or venue. Admit it, you're intrigued!
Make sure that the speaker you select really does have some relevant information to share on hot button topics that your audience will care about. This person does not have to be known all over the world, either. They just have to have a credible reputation and be a dynamic speaker. People will get excited about the teleconference, even if the speaker is not an international jetsetter.
When you promote your teleconference be certain to highlight its convenience. Tell participants that they won't have to fight traffic or find a parking spot. When the teleconference is over they can put what they've learned into practice right away and share it with colleagues who couldn't take part in the teleconference.
Now all you have to do is find a speaker!
There are many standard services that a teleconference hosting-service can offer which make the experience more pleasant for the conference call participants. There are other hosting-services, however, that provide increased value at minimal extra charges that not many people know about. The extra values increase the effectiveness of a conference call and ensure a better outcome for the person holding it. Below is a list of features that you should think about when deciding on a teleconference hosting-service to help conduct your businesses.
Although this may not be something you normally would consider, Call Recording and Audio Playback are essential features to seek out when looking for a teleconference provider. How many times has someone called in late or missed one of your teleconferences? Having a provider with a call-recording option allows you to make a digital recording of the call which can then be stored on your provider's site. The audio playback option then allows those who were unable to join the conference to call in and not miss a thing.
A related service you might want to look for in a provider is Transcription. This service will make and provide a written transcript of the recorded conversation to you. This can be extremely important when planning business or sales strategies, carrying out interviews, or negotiating contracts or sales during a teleconference.
Post Call Tracking is another feature that you could find useful, especially if your conference call is one that includes a lot of people. This service allows the provider to track who participated in the call and who called in to hear the recorded call via the Playback mode. This is something very important if the information in the call is essential to your business goals.
Be forewarned, not all teleconference hosting-services offer these services. One place you can find all of these, though, is right here at AccuConference. In addition to all of these services, and more, we also hold the industry's "gold standard" in customer service.
Anyone with conference call experience knows the general features and customer service you need in a conferencing provider. Less well known, however, are the extras that can make your life easier and your conference calls more effective. Below is a list of services you might want to consider using, if your service provider offers them, that is.
First, an important feature is automatic email reminders to people participating in your teleconference. Having the option to email participants a week before, a couple of days before, the day of, and just before the teleconference is a powerful way to make sure your teleconference has the maximum participation.
A pre-conference option is indispensable, especially when the organizers of the call are not in the same room. This option allows you and your team to get together "virtually" just prior to the conference call - separate from your participants - to make any final arrangements and get everyone on the same page.
The Q&A option allows you to manage live question and answer sessions without all the confusion and over-talking associated with open calls. In Q&A mode, participants push a button on their phone that "raises their hand". The moderator can then selectively unmute the phone of any participant they choose - leaving all other lines muted - so only one person speaks at a time. This can be done on the moderator's computer, or simply pressing a “star code” on the phone to take the next in line. This flexibility and the peace it guarantees is a real life saver.
Like any business meeting, teleconferences are either heralded by groans or cheers. The response your teleconference receives depends largely on how effectively you orchestrate the meeting. Knowing what participants hate or like most about teleconferences can help you avoid the pitfalls and hold an effective and productive conference.
The four things people like most about conference calls are:
- They encourage group members to participate and share ideas openly.
- They foster commitment to the organization by investing participants in the decision-making process.
- They produce superior solutions through group participation and effort.
- They create a feeling of organizational unity.
The four things people hate most about conference calls are:
- They fail to begin or end on time.
- They accomplish little for the amount of time invested.
- They fail to reach a consensus or accomplish their goal.
- They are dominated by a few participants.
Make an effort to plan conference call that will create positive synergy for your business. Avoid holding conferences that are boring, repetitive or fail to accomplish their goals. You should strive to conduct a conference call that follows a specific stated agenda, starts and ends on time, is conducted fairly with an opportunity for all to express their views, and accomplishes its stated goals.