Conference Call Tips
Regardless of what's happening with new technologies in the conference call sector, because of its reliability and the almost universal installation of telephones in most parts of the developed world, the industry workhorse remains “vanilla” conference calls, where different people on different phones in different rooms hold a group discussion.
If you're running a conference call, remember that the Achilles Heel of these types of meetings is that the people involved don't have the usual visual clues they depend on in face-to-face meetings that allow them to: know when it's their turn to speak, adequately gauge the interest or understanding of others in the conversation, keep focused, and recognize and minimize distractions.
To make the most of your conference call, whether it is talking to team members, interviewing potential new hires, or hashing out strategic company objectives, keep some of the following in conference call tips in mind.
- If possible, see if the participants can be in a room with a closed door to minimize distractions and any extraneous sounds.
- Speak clearly and slowly, remember it is harder to understand people when you can't see them, slowing your speech still sounds normal to the listener and allows you to be better understood. Do not be afraid to pause once in a while so people have time to think, and try to be concise and to the point when speaking.
- Do not be afraid to vary the tone of your voice and use tone to express interest or enthusiasm. Without any visual clues, the only thing other participants have to go by is your voice. Use it to express how you feel about what is being said. A monotone will not adequately convey your thoughts or what you are taking away from the Telecon.
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Like just about anything else in business, planning and organization is the key to success. In a conference call, it is even more important. Without those all important visual clues, many people are somewhat uncomfortable in a group conversational setting. Below are some additional tips to make your teleconference as effective as possible.
- Be sure participants have an agenda in advance and bring it to the Telecon to keep them focused. Stick to it and let participants know when you are moving from on agenda point to the next, because without group visual clues, it is hard to keep a conversation focused, on topic, and makes it hard for participants to remember the main points of the conversation later.
- Have everyone introduce themselves, where they are calling from, and what their role is to try and foster a sense of connection between the participants and to generate a feeling of group, as opposed to individual identity. Refer to participants by name and location or role with asking for participation (e.g., “Morgan in New York, how do you see this issue” or “Jason in Marketing”). This let’s everyone knows who is talking and keeps their comments in perspective.
- Give instructions on how people enter and leave the conversation to prevent people from speaking over one another or someone dominating the discussion. In face-to-face meetings this is done by watching other people’s expressions and body language. In a teleconference that ability is lost.
- If you are the moderator, make sure no one person speaks too much. Be sure to change speakers frequently and call on those who do not voluntarily speak up to be sure their thoughts on the topic are made known to the group.
- Ask for summary statements from the participants, review any action items, and thank everyone for participating.
- Record your conference call to follow up with minutes of the meeting to remind participants of what was discussed and agreed upon.