Tips on How to Run Effective Conference Calls

By Manoj Raheja

It’s been happening for quite some time now.  It’s like a tidal wave that can’t be stopped.  Most of us are scared by it, perhaps to the point of nightmares.  But since Justin Bieber has already been covered by Amber and Luke I’ll speak about another scary tidal wave.  It’s the fact that I have more conference call meetings in a day than face to face meetings.

So why is this scary?  Do you even have to ask?

You’re taking away my sense of sight!!!  How the heck am I supposed to read the room?  Who’s engaged?  Who’s not? Who’s typing e-mails?  Who has you on mute and is complaining to their co-workers about this painful conference call they’re on?  And for God sakes – who has a furrowed brow…somebody please tell me how I’m supposed to see the furrowed brow!!!  Alas, so many pain points.

But don’t fret…because where there are pain points you’ll find SW+A.  No…wait.  I mean where there are pain points – SW+A is here to help you find solutions!  Yes…that’s better.

Now, I run a decent conference call but I’d hardly call it best in class.  I needed some help.  We have an internal mantra called the Power of 32.  The basic essence is that if we take advantage of each other’s experience and power, then as a client you’re not getting one representative, you’re getting the Power of 32 behind them.  Here’s a perfect example: I sent out a companywide e-mail talking about these conference call pain points and within 24 hours I was inundated with over 50 tips.  I’ve summarized the best tips  for your reading pleasure:

Tips for Price of Entry

  • Act like an MC:  An MC is there to welcome an audience; lays out the agenda for the night; helps to set the mood and tone. An MC sets up transitions to allow others to speak and tries to make everyone feel welcome and involved (and it doesn’t hurt to have a few jokes in your back pocket while you wait for folks to join the call!)
  • Have Empathy (Remember what it’s like to be a participant):  Send documents in advance (think about how bad it is to be listening to someone talk about a table of numbers); Reference page numbers; speak clearly into the phone; if you are with a group live and have others on the phone – assign someone to ensure the mic is in front of the person talking.  Consider time zone implications for global meetings (I’ve been told AM in North America is ideal for Europe, Asia)
  • Don’t let it Become the Oscar’s:  If regular meetings are 60 minutes, conference calls should be 30.  Do your best to stick to the agenda.

Tips for the Advanced and Brave

  • Engage EVERYONE early:  If you have a very long conference call, then it might be a good idea to take the time to have everyone introduce themselves (perhaps share what they want to get out of the meeting, or perhaps something more fun that has a loose connection to the topic).  This helps with engagement and a bit of fun can help make people feel more connected.
  • Bring Back the Sense of Sight:  Use tools like webex or video conference where appropriate.  This is a quick way to beat the pain points but tends not to be doable for all conference call meetings.

Tips on how to be a Great Participant

  •  Pretend The Camera is Rolling:  Give your full attention and put the distractions away.  (Hopefully) you were invited for a reason – so make sure to leave your mark and give 100% J
  • Be Aware of Your Surroundings:  Take the call in a conference room (makes it even easier to put the distractions away).  Be mindful of calling from your mobile in noisy areas (although we’ll all excuse the sick kid in the background while you participate in this one call!).  If you are stuck with background noise, get to know how to put yourself on mute (*6 for many phones).

We hope you enjoy our tips and, if you find them helpful – paste them in the body of your conference call meeting requests; forward them to your fellow employees.  …And the same way we used the Power of 32 – please share your power and experience by building on this list (especially if you have any ideas on how I can spot the furrowed brow!)