What is it that they say about time?  That you can spend it, or borrow it, but you can't buy it?  That it flies when you're having fun?  I've always noticed that when I really needed time, it just seemed to slip through my fingers.  Audio conferencing can be like that.  One minute you're introducing the topic, and the next you're trying to cram three main points into the last five minutes.

One of the most obvious signs of a professional conference call is adherence to the schedule.  What is more important, however, is not that you ended on time, but that you used that time wisely.  People notice things like that.

So how can we use our audio conferencing time wisely?  Here are a few tips:

  • Before the conference, before invitations to the conference, create an agenda complete with a schedule
  • In the schedule, allot five to ten minutes at the end for questions, follow up, conclusion, and a farewell
  • Distribute the agenda/schedule to all participants so they can come prepared to listen and with questions
  • Meet-by phone or pre-conference-with speakers and other hosts to go over schedule, and decide on time cues to keep them on track
  • Prepare back channel communications-instant messaging, texting, web conference chat–with speakers to quietly tell them time cues if needed.
  • Record and table off-topic questions, digression points, and great ideas that aren't exactly on point, and announce that they will be the subject of their own meeting and audio conference
  • Considering your particular participants, be open to having your Q&A spread out through the conference instead of at the end

Running a successful audio conference is not just about effectively conveying information to the participants, but also laying the groundwork for future successful audio conferences.  The best way to do that is to respect the participants' time.  Try to schedule a conference to best suit the time zone containing the majority of the attendees, keep the conference to an hour-hour and a half max-and always, always end on time.