teleconferencing tips
Photo credit: Highways Agency via Wikimedia Commons

Conference calls are a common and valuable tool in PR and marketing – and many other business functions.  They help organizations work with remote workers, consult with partners around the world, manage satellite offices, meet with dispersed clients, and drastically reduce travel costs.

Done well, conference calls can do it all:  enhance productivity, build relationships, improve project management, grow sales and customer loyalty, and reduce costs. For many PR & marketing departments and agencies, conference calls have become an indispensable communications tool. The relatively recent addition of video in conferencing tools such as Skype make conference calls even more productive.

Despite their obvious benefits, some conference calls turn out to be infuriating and embarrassing blunders. Experts recommend these tips to hold efficient and productive conference calls and to prevent calls from becoming a comedy of errors.

  1. Circulate an agenda. Creating and circulating a detailed agenda to everyone beforehand helps structure the meeting. Providing all call participants information about the meeting in advance helps them prepare to participate effectively in the discussion.
  2. First, everyone should introduce him or herself so others become familiar with their voices. The best introduction is a full name and title. A first name alone is insufficient. “Hi, it’s Bob.” Welcome Bob, the only Bob in the world.
  3. Be on time. Urge callers to be on time. That will prevent a speaker from being interrupted by late arrivals. The agenda could allow for an initial five minutes of chit-chat while callers arrive.
  4. Only when necessary. Hold conference calls only when they are needed. Many calls are unnecessary and could be avoided with either a one-on-one call or an e-mail exchange. Group calls should only be made when either in-depth dialogue or brainstorming is required.
  5. Mute it. Embarrassing revelations and distracting noise can be avoided if conference call participants press their mute buttons. Conference calls have heard flushing toilets, personal conversations, crying babies, and popcorn munching in addition to tapping on keyboards.
  6. Set the rules. Announcing guidelines at the start can help the meeting progress smoothly and stay on topic. For instance, state what will be covered and when callers can ask questions.
  7. Prepare your screen. Fully prepare any graphics to be shown. Make sure your “share screen” tools work and display the correct information. Make sure visuals are easily readable through the conference call technology you use. Conference call hosts would be well advised to close any unnecessary documents or windows from their computer screens. Hosts have been embarrassed when they inadvertently displayed personal or proprietary documents to the group.
  8. Work through glitches. The best solution to minor glitches and interruptions is to ignore them and keep moving forward. Keep talking while tech support works to fix problems. Ignore beeps from meeting arrivals and departures.
  9. Cut off ramblers. Participants going off on tangents or delving into too much detail can bog down meetings. Respectfully reigning in the rambler can bring the discussion back to the agenda. The key is to control the discussion respectfully with words like “Good point. We can address that later but for now let’s resolve the question before us.”
  10. Use a landline or online conferencing service like Skype. Sticking to a landline is the safe choice for hosts. If a host is on a mobile phone and the call is dropped, everyone gets bumped off the call.

Bottom Line: Teleconferences are a valuable tool for many PR agencies and corporate departments.  However, technical snafus and mortifying accidental revelations are not uncommon. Following these tips can ensure your teleconferences will be well-organized and productive.

This post was originally published on the CyberAlert blog.