Done well, conference calls put everyone on the same page, cut down on cross talk, and answer everyone’s questions. Done poorly, conference calls take too much time, bore participants to tears, and leave confusion in their wake.
So how do you host the right kind of conference call? We have a few tips.
(Note: for conference call survival strategies for the non-host, look for our next article).
The Host Organizes Logistics
Figure out who is calling whom, who is participating, and what the best time for the call is. The more people involved, the more notice is needed.
Keep the call to as few people as possible. Remember that the more people not actively participating, the more people you’ll have tuning out and doing something else.
Set Up a Dial-In
When you’re talking to three or more people, set up a dial-in ahead of time. There are lots of free and inexpensive services for this. If you’re a small business owner, it can be worth doing some research and finding a good service. This is our preferred service.
Set a Schedule & Agenda
Make some brief notes about the subjects under discussion and who will be addressing said subjects. Set a timeframe. Keep things tight.
Circulate Details Once
Once you’ve nailed down the logistics, dial-in, schedule, and agenda, circulate the details with everyone once. Do this only once everything is finalized. If people see a long email thread with constantly shifting details, they may either tune out or end up remembering the wrong details.
Don’t Be Late
Obviously this is a rule for everyone in the workplace (and life), but it’s especially important for the host of a call.
Pick a Good Location & Phone Line
Call from a quiet location with a phone that has a good signal. Remember, desk phones are better than smartphones when it comes to clarity, and clarity is important.
Double Check Your Phone
If you’re using an unfamiliar phone or dial-in system, test it out prior to your call.
Try Screen Sharing
If you have a slideshow you’re presenting, consider using a screen sharing service like join.me or screen leap. If you circulate your slideshow ahead of time, you might get participants jumping ahead or otherwise not following along. Again, make sure you test this software prior to your call.
Handle Introductions Carefully
If you’ve never met one of your conference call participants for the first time and you expect that this will be an important relationship, consider getting to know them in a prior call or better, a face-to-face meeting or video chat. Conference calls, especially with a lot of participants, aren’t great meeting places.
Since you’re running the call, you make sure everyone knows who everyone else is—and more importantly, what their voice sounds like.
Remind Everyone of the Time
At the beginning of the call, say how long you expect this to last. It’s just a gentle reminder to keep everyone on point.
Don’t Let People Monopolize the Conversation
Keep discussion moving and make sure that you’re hearing from everyone you need to hear from.
Wrap it Up
A few minutes before the end of the call, remind everyone you’re wrapping it up.
Send an email after the call thanking everyone for their participation and a few notes that reminds everyone of what was discussed, decided, and what the next steps will be.