Companies have used conference calls to conduct meetings for years. However, conference calls have become even more popular during the pandemic. In April, Zoom grew its user base to 300 million members, largely due to the growing need to conduct virtual business meetings.
Organizing an Effective Conference Call Before It Begins
While more companies are discovering the benefits of conference calls in response to new social distancing requirements, some of them are also dealing with a difficult learning curve. Conference calls go a lot more smoothly if participants prepare effectively ahead of time. Conference call organizers that don’t prepare encounter far more frustrations.
Here are some conference call preparation guidelines that will keep the meeting on track.
Ensure the participants have the right conference call tools at their disposal
Conference calls can’t operate effectively without the right technology. At a bare minimum, every participant needs the same communication platform. If you are conducting a video call through Skype or another VoIP application, then participants need to be informed at the beginning so that they can download it.
You should compare different conference call tools beforehand. Neil Patel has a post that reviews different conference call tools for business. You might want to review it for more information.
Set strict timetables for your call
Time is a finite and precious resource in the business world. Nobody wants to participate in a call that consumes a greater chunk of their day than is necessary.
You need to be mindful of the time constraints of all of your participants. This is especially important if customers will be participating, because they can hold it against you if they think you aren’t being considerate of their time.
The first step towards organizing a conference call is determining how long it should last. This is important for organizing the call to keep everybody on track.
Set Proper Etiquette Rules
Participants will need to be advised of etiquette rules to stay on track and be tactful. They should realize the importance of keeping their statements on point and brief. Dominik Zane, the CEO of a small tech startup said that people should avoid mundane comments about things like the weather.
Create an agenda divided up with subtopics
Conference calls aren’t the format for freestyle discussions. Due to the nature of communicating through virtual technology, discussions can go off track easily if they aren’t tightly structured.
You need to outline a core agenda for the call and refrain from deviating from it. This agenda might need to touch on multiple topics. The conference call organizer will be responsible for transitioning from one topic to another, while keeping participants engaged and contributing.
Appoint the best call facilitator
Somebody needs to be responsible for heading the conference call. This person is usually the stakeholder that is most familiar with the topic at hand and the individuals that will be participating.
The conference call facilitator must be aware of their responsibilities. They will need to start off by introducing the other participants, outlining the agenda, calling on participants and keeping everybody on track.
Appoint a notetaker to the call
You might have organized the best discussion possible. Unfortunately, it won’t provide much benefit if nobody remembers the important points of the conference call two days later.
You need to delegate notetaking responsibilities to one of your participants. They need to be able to identify the most important parts of the discussion and record them for later review. The person responsible for taking notes should not be the conference call leader, because they will be too busy with other responsibilities to capture discussion points properly.
Have the right format for soliciting comments
Conference calls are pointless if only the call leader and one other participant are carrying the entire discussion. It is necessary to encourage participation. However, it is important to solicit comments the right way.
The call leader should avoid asking for a commentary from the entire group. More vocal participants will talk over everybody else, while more timid participants might not speak up at all.
Instead, it is better to call on specific people to share their insights. Participation from various members should be prioritized based on their level of importance for any given topic. Some participants might have responsibilities that overlap with multiple topics, so they might need more speaking time. The conference call organizer needs to determine this.
Organize your conference call carefully
Your conference call will be a lot more successful if you prepare ahead of time. The most important measures are to come up with an agenda, appoint a leader and structure the discussion carefully.