Conference calls can go one of two ways: into hyper-productivity mode, where all of the call’s goals are reached and everyone participates, or into derailment mode. I don’t think the latter needs an explanation, as each of us has experienced such a call at one point or another. Susan’s going on about her neighbor’s new husband, Dan is talking about the newest HR policy he doesn’t like, and you’re stuck struggling to rein everyone in to get back on track.
So, how do you keep Dan and Susan on subject and the call productive? In this short guide, we’ll cover some conference calling basics that will help you host the best calls possible. From choosing the right platform for your calls to using an agenda and minimizing interruptions, we’re discussing the entire spectrum of problems and solutions for the best conference calls.
The Platform Matters
When you’re hosting an online conference call, the platform you’re hosting on absolutely matters. Some platforms are much more accessible than others, offer better tools to help control the call, and are simply better than the competition.
Conference calling services from www.conferencecalling.com, for example, are among the best in the industry. Vast Conference offers many features in its platform, including call recording, video calling, and more! The platform you host your call on can have a serious impact on the success of the call. If your callers are struggling to connect, you won’t be very productive.
Online services are great because they don’t cost extra for long-distance calls, and you can host up to a few hundred people at once, instead of only a few like you would with a landline or mobile phone.
Agendas, Schedules, and Invites
Scheduling a call isn’t an easy task when everyone is on a different schedule. The great thing about web-based conference calling services is that many of them can sync with calendar apps like Google Calendar, so your invites go directly to everyone’s Gmail account.
Perhaps the most important component of any conference call is the agenda. Every meeting should have an agenda to look to for guidance. The agenda should include the time and date of the meeting, the location (or link to the online conference room), guest list, and the talking points of the meeting.
You should set a goal for every call, which will give everyone something to work towards and keep the call on track when it starts to derail.
Keeping The Call On Track
Speaking of which, how do you keep a call from derailing constantly? Aside from setting goals and expectations for your callers, you’ll need to do a few other things. Interruptions from background noise and other distractions can disrupt the call and throw everyone off track. That’s what makes the mute button such a wonderful tool!
With online conferencing tools, you can easily mute any callers who are being disruptive, or simply remove them altogether; giving you greater control over the call than you would have with a phone call.
In order to minimize disruptions, you’ll need to set the example as the host. Find a nice quiet area to host the call, free from background noise and other distractions. Be sure to let everyone know when the call starts that they should be muting themselves if they’re not talking. Keeping everyone meeting leaves the focus solely on the speaker, and minimizes the level of background noise in the call.
It’s also a good idea to silence your phone and other notifications during the call. If you’re joining a call from your computer, your mobile or office phone could still ring during the call, disrupting everyone in the process. Put notifications on silent or do not disturb.
Invite the Right People
Inviting the right people to the call is half the battle. Some people are just born to be disruptive or have a reputation for always having too much background noise. And some people simply don’t need to participate in the call at all because the talking points aren’t relevant to them.
Trim your guest list as much as possible before hosting the call. Does Jim really need to attend, or would a follow-up email be sufficient to bring him up to date? He always seems to have a neighbor who’s mowing the lawn, after all…always during a call.
Stick to the Agenda
Your meeting agenda is your roadmap for when things get off course. If you find the meeting is starting to shift away from the subject matter, remind everyone to look at the details on the agenda and get back to the subject at hand.
Keep Meetings Short
Be honest with yourself; do you want to spend 2-3 hours in a conference call? If your immediate answer was “no”, you’re like much of the professional population. No one truly enjoys meetings and conference calls, but they are a necessity. What’s important is that you recognize this, and work to keep meetings more concise.
In fact, the best meetings take under an hour to complete. You’ll find maximum efficiency and productivity if your meetings/calls fall somewhere between 45 minutes and one hour. This is because after about 60 minutes, people tend to grow bored, uncomfortable, and eager to get back to what they were doing. Keep things short and sweet for the best results!
The Bottom Line
Hosting conference calls is easy when you know how to use an agenda, have a great call platform to work with and understand that shorter meetings are more effective. Don’t be afraid to be firm with disruptive callers, and encourage everyone to familiarize themselves with that mute button!