- Elon Musk, Investor & Entrepreneur
With the widespread, international viral pandemic of COVID-19, conference calls have become incredibly important for businesses, either temporarily or permanently, depending on the organization, company, or business.
These changes have presented new challenges. Families are now at home, and children or pets may come into view for one or many attendees of a conference call over such platforms as Zoom or Google Meet.
Background noise has become a bigger concern, and some have found time management extra challenging. Conference calls are important, still, for those employees who are unfamiliar with video-call services and more comfortable with simple telephone usage.
Here, we have created a list of tips to get the best out of your conference call by successfully managing the time used and minimizing background noise and other distractions.
First, make sure you are starting on time. Starting late is unprofessional, and some attendees may then think the conference call has been canceled and leave to attend to other priorities.
Ending late is likewise disrespectful to others’ time and can even interfere with your own work. Once each important point of your agenda has been addressed, make sure everyone has been heard and then summarize the key points from the meeting.
Attendees will expect your meeting to begin at a specific time and last for the specified time. Often, they will prepare and be present for the call 10 or more minutes early and be well prepared to leave the meeting upon reaching the planned ending time. There are many factors to consider for ensuring an organized, timely conference call.
HAVE A LEADER; IF POSSIBLE, MUTE ATTENDEES
When scheduling a conference call, a leader should be selected in advance. To avoid background noise and the difficulties of attendees speaking over one another, start the meeting with everyone other than the designated leader on mute, if possible.
By beginning the meeting with everyone but the leader muted, you create a calm and controlled environment in which to greet everyone and introduce the reason for the meeting. This will also help you facilitate other parts of the meeting, when you encourage attendees to participate and bring their ideas to the (now proverbial) table.
If your conference call will take place over the telephone rather than an online platform, be sure to send out pre-meeting information such as who your important meeting figures are: Your leader, your recordkeeper, orderly guidelines for attendees’ participation, etc.
AGENDA: THE PLAN OF ACTION
Begin your conference call with a layout of your agenda and taking attendance. You may want to take attendance first and then go over the agenda.
If you are using an online platform for your conference call, such as Skype, Zoom, or Google Meet, allow attendees to activate their microphones as they speak. Call leaders can mute microphones as needed throughout the duration of a meeting for some of these platforms.
Disorganized calls can easily go over the allotted time for which attendees have planned. Attendees who stay may be missing out on other important appointments, meetings, or work that needs to get done, while others will need to leave and likely miss important information from the call.
Be sure to include as part of your agenda an organized plan for allowing attendees to speak and be heard. It is important in a conference call that different perspectives are shared, as conference calls are held for the purpose of addressing concerns in the business, company, or organization.
Prior to beginning the meeting, a notice should be released to attendees encouraging them to find quiet locations in which to conduct the call. Home offices are ideal, although an individual may have a quiet patio or deck that works just as well.
Your agenda should allow a few minutes for everyone in attendance to introduce themselves. This should only take a few minutes, but can be done after you have outlined the agenda of the call and ensured that everyone is on the same page.
Naturally, once you have laid out the agenda, if using an online platform, either unmute attendees or allow them to activate their microphones in turn. Be sure to have an organized plan within the information sent out prior to the call concerning introductions, to avoid overlapping chatter.
APPOINT A RECORDKEEPER
A secretary’s job is to keep minutes of meetings. If you have a designated secretary for your business, they may already know they are there to take minutes and keep track of what happens during your conference call.
Otherwise, appoint someone for this task. This will create a record of the call for future reference and may also help attendees stay on track with the agenda.
Attendees may feel less able to be heard if they begin an online meeting with their microphone muted. They will see that they cannot be heard, and may think this means they should remain silent.
For online conference calls where muting is an option, be sure to actively encourage participation from attendees when addressing each point on your agenda.
Regardless of format for your conference call, it remains important to have an organized plan of participation communicated to those who will be in attendance.
As the meeting goes on, take brief notes on each topic and what attendees have to say. Your appointed recordkeeper should keep the most detailed notes from the meeting, but by taking quick notes of each point, you provide yourself needed information for wrapping up your meeting and retaining the information that has been shared.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THESE TIPS
To summarize, it is highly important to have a detailed plan of action when going into a conference call. Appointing a leader, diminishing background noise and overlapping speech with muted microphones, and having a timely and detailed agenda are all important for ensuring the conference call remains organized and timely.
Beginning and ending the call on time shows professionalism and respect for others’ time as well as your own. For timeliness, keep your personal remarks to a minimum; even while you share your perspective on an idea, always make sure you are on point and do not distract or enter into irrelevant speech concerning the point at hand.
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Thought leaders & celebrities share their tactics for success on the Lisnic podcast by Lisa Teh & Nick Bell