Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a pretty big baseball fan. Last year was a dream season for fans of the Texas Rangers, with a trip to the World Series and a decisive win over the Yankees to win the ALCS. A successful baseball team is a team that runs like well oiled machine, where everyone has a role and a purpose. Managers have to know the strength and weaknesses of their team and everyone has smaller roles, beyond just their field position. The next time you’re setting up a conference call try managing it like Ron Washington.
- Delegate Tasks. For a baseball manager this is as simple as assigning field positions and making sure the team members know what to do. Who covers home if there’s a pop fly the catcher has to get under the ball? (Answer = the pitcher) Do the same thing with your next conference; assign someone to handle chat, someone to take care of Q&A, and someone to take care of any visuals. This way everyone has an important task, which increases focus, and you’re not trying to do it all at once.
- Remember the unseen eyes and ears. Once, my mother called me to tell me about a baseball player with his zipper down on the pitcher’s mound. She was sure that somewhere, his own mother was hanging her head in shame. I felt bad for the guy, but he failed to remember that the camera could zoom on him at any time. Remember that on your conference calls, you never know when your phone is going to be unmuted or you’ll hit the wrong button. Don’t say anything that you don’t want everyone to hear.
- Keep the audience engaged by encouraging participation with polls and Q&A sessions. One of the things I love the most at ball games is the 7th inning stretch – traditionally, “Take Me Out to The Ballgame” is sung by the entire crowd. We also sing “Deep in the Heart of Texas” at Ranger’s games. It’s a small little way to remind the crowd that if not for us, there would be no team to see and support. Encourage conference call participants to engage themselves by sending out polls or taking questions via chat while the conference is going on.
- Have a backup plan. You know what a pinch hitter is right? Someone who can step up to the plate and make something happen. Someone who is “pinch” hitting/running is a backup plan. While running down first, a batter twists his ankle and can’t run, so you bring in the pinch runner. Do the same thing with your conference calls. Have a “pinch” phone in case something happens with the phone you’re using. Send out a PDF attachment of the presentation you’re working on just in case your internet goes out and you can’t advance the slides.
- Lead off strong. The leadoff hitter is someone who not only can get a base hit, but someone who can take a lot of pitches without going down in strikes, someone who can steal bases, or someone who can get back to the base without getting thrown out. It’s not always the strongest hitter
who leads off a batting line up. On conference calls, you should open with something that makes you comfortable, so you can get a feel for your audience or know where their mental mindset might be. That way – they’ll give away some tells on what they want to hear about, and what they might not.
You know that feeling you get when you’re sitting in the stands and a guy from your team blasts one over the heads of the outfielders and it disappears behind that green wall. The crowd leaps to their feet in cheers, arms wildly waving, fireworks are going off and you’re suddenly hugging the guy next to you. Now imagine how the manager feels when his team can get that kind of reaction out of his crowd. What kind of things are you doing to get ready to knock one out of the park?