Conference calls must be run effectively if they’re to be productive.  By setting an agenda, appointing a conference chair, and knowing how to use the technology, everything that must be accomplished will be completed.

If you work for a company that has offices located across the country or even around the world, you may have to make or participate in a number of conference calls.  Some of these conference calls are very productive, and you end the call with a sense of accomplishment.  Others, though, may drag on for several hours and feel like a huge waste of time.  Knowing how to make effective conference calls can help you avoid the latter type of meeting.

Have a Set Agenda

Make sure you have a set agenda for the conference call and that all participants have a copy of it.  This way, you can be certain that you take care of all business that you need to discuss.  If you don’t, it’s possible that the meeting will end without key points being addressed or necessary decisions being made.  Send out the agenda a day or two in advance so each person will know what information they need to bring to the meeting.

Make Sure Everyone Knows how their Technology Works

One thing that can bring your conference call to a halt is when someone doesn’t know how to un-mute their phone or work any other technology you’re using.  Those who have made a lot of conference calls before should know what they’re doing, but if you have someone new, you might want to ask if they know how everything works.  Your company might have a quick guide to conference call technology, but if it doesn’t, you might create one.  If you’re at the hosting office, make sure you know how everything works so you can answer any questions that come up, especially if you’re using a new system.  New conferencing technology and business conference calls are often a bad combination if no one is really certain how the technology works.

Know How to Get Help

Along the same lines, someone at each location on the call should know how to get help from someone else at their location if they need it.  Usually, this is the IT department, but if you’re using a third party, there may be no one at your physical location to help out.  Know how to contact support for the conferencing services like UberConference or Webex which your office regularly uses so your meeting doesn’t grind to a halt due to technical difficulties.

Keep on Schedule

It doesn’t do much good to have an agenda if the meeting goes off-track and spends all of the set time talking about something else.  To prevent this, designate one person to be the conference chair.  He or she will be responsible for keeping people on-topic and making sure that every item on the agenda is discussed and resolved.  This person will also be charged with making sure that the meeting ends on time.  This person should also be on the conference call a few minutes early to welcome each person and make certain everyone who needs to dial in to the meeting is there.

Take Notes or Record the Call

Each person on the call should be taking their own set of notes, of course, but one person should be designated as the official note keeper.  After the call is finished, it will be this person’s responsibility to type up the notes and email them to everyone involved.  You may also want to record the conference call for playback later, especially if it’s for a high priority project.  If you do record the call, make certain all participants are aware that the call is being recorded at the start of the meeting.  This is more than just a courtesy: in many places, it’s illegal to record phone conversations without telling everyone involved.

Don’t Expect Perfection

Finally, remember that a conference call is really no different than any other meeting.  Things are going to go wrong.  People will be late in calling in, or a piece of technology will fail.  You may get sidetracked and go off-topic despite the best efforts of the chair.  Meetings can go over even if you do stick to the agenda.  These things happen, so as long as your conference call was productive, don’t stress over it.