Fortunately, running a business conference call meeting that is productive, engaging and (dare we say it) fun doesn’t have to be an impossible ask.
Here are our favorite tips for you to run the best business conference call meetings of your life.
1. Invest in good quality tech
This is probably the best single thing you can do to improve your business conference calls.
Meeting and making decisions without the enormous volume of information that you glean from body language and from being in the same room as someone is hard enough.
But if the tech is bad, then this gets a whole lot harder.
This is why the absolute best thing you can do for your business conference calls is investing in some high-quality technology.
Polycom, for example, has a huge range of conference room solutions, which are fantastic if you have two big teams meeting. Alternatively, supplying everyone with a desk phone which will keep everyone sounding good and coming through loud and clear.
What’s more, if business conference calls are a big part of your business, then investing in some decent headsets will make for more efficient meetings, as people can type gesture, and look things up quickly and easily.
But your tech investment shouldn’t stop with the phone a big part of the business conference all quality comes down to what network you’re running over. Whether you’re a one-man shop in Pembroke Pines or a TNC in New York City, your network is going to have a big impact on making yourself and your team understood.
2. Designate a business conference leader
Even the best ship in the world gets listless without a rudder.
Likewise, even the best team meeting drifts if there isn’t a strong hand on the tiller.
Usually, the leaders of a conference call will be whoever arranged it in the first place. But sometimes, especially if it’s a regular status update type call, this can be just anyone who knows about the project.
As a call leader, you don’t have to do that much. But here are few tricks you might want to use to keep everything on track.
Be a little early to the meeting
You should arrive a little early and make sure that your phone and the conference “space” is working (e.g. people can dial in correctly).
It might seem like elementary school, but taking attendance is a fast and easy exercise if someone runs it.
This also means that as soon as the core people are there you can start. For example, if you have a team of developers and a team of the designers and the designers are running a little late, you can always get started with the developers first.
Outline the agenda (preferably sent ahead of time)
You want to outline what you’re going to talk about throughout the call so everyone knows how much they have to cover.
This will give everyone a rough idea of how to weight the various factors as well.
Act as a moderator
Since you’re the one leading the call, it’s up to you to act as a moderator and say the things that everyone is thinking but doesn’t want to say.
This involves keeping everyone on track with the agenda, and stopping giant tangents before they start (e.g. “that’s really helpful, how about we pick it back up offline”).
It also means asking people to speak up, stop snacking, mute their microphones, and generally maintain a professional decorum.
Follow up calls with a quick summary and next steps email
Finally, it’s up to you to finish the meeting with a follow-up email, covering off the agenda points, what was discussed, and any next steps that need to be pursued for various teams.
By formalizing the conclusion (and building the expectation over time) it means that every meeting runs faster and more efficiently since you’re not repeating what happened last time for the first 15 minutes.
3. Install an “always on mute unless speaking” rule
There’s nothing worse than being on a business conference call and hearing something go to town on their sandwich.
Or hearing their chip bag rustling.
Or hear someone crunching their celery stick.
And definitely not slurping their coffee.
Even just heavy breathing can be pretty unpleasant.
Save you and your team the embarrassment of having to say “Carol, could you repeat that? I couldn’t hear you over Jim’s celery crunching” by having an “always on mute” rule.
All you have to do is, at the start of a conference call, say:
“Ok, thanks everyone for joining us, if we could all mute our microphones while we’re not talking that would be great. Thanks, everyone!”
See? So simple.
4. Keep your business conference calls small
In our modern, brilliant world of apps, meeting schedulers, and e-invites, it can be all too easy to get lost in making sure everyone who can add even an ounce of value is taken care of and included.
The problem, of course, is that this causes the guest lists for meetings to balloon and means it’s harder to get anything done.
And, like any meeting problem, this is magnified as soon as you get into the world of conference calls. With so many people listening in and asking questions, your carefully curated agenda tends to go right out the window in the first five minutes.
Not to mention the fact that the more people you invite, the less likely it is that your meeting is going to start even remotely on time.
That’s why if you want to have a productive business conference call, you need to keep your invite list as small and tight as possible.
5. Pause frequently for interruptions
Interruptions are hard to manage on a conference call.
One of the most common (and most annoying) conferences call faux pas is people not pausing often enough.
In person, it’s east to know when to interrupt and ask questions and when not to. You can read the other person.
But over the phone, especially in a group, it’s a lot harder.
The problem is that when you’re on the phone, you lose all the subtle language that’s conveyed with body language, and it can be hard to know when and how to naturally integrate questions.
To get around this problem, one tip is to pause more often and for longer than you normally would. This gives people the opportunity to interject in a controlled way, allows issues to be addressed as the come up, and keeps the conference call moving along at a good clip.
6. Head in early and test the tech
We’ve all been on the business conference call from hell where the tech just will not cooperate.
However, annoying it is for you when this happens, it’s even more annoying (and embarrassing!) for the person who’s supposed to be leading the meeting.
Even if you’ve used the technology a thousand times before, if it’s going to be your meeting, make SURE you test the actual tech you’re using.
There’s nothing worse than the technology in Conference Room 3 being not quite identical to the tech in Conference Room 5 that you’re used to.
Even if you’re not leading but simply attending, for important meetings it can be good to try and jump onto a conference call a little bit early to make sure that you can hear others and they can hear you back.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to repeat
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask someone to repeat something if you missed what they said.
It might be awkward, but it’s a lot better than not actually know what’s going on and pretending that you do.
This is doubly true if you’re the one leading the meeting, since if someone cut out, there was some static, or some doesn’t have quite the right setup for a good quality connection, odds are other people missed what they said as well.
And while you might feel uncomfortable asking, again and again, it’s actually easier in the long run if you’re honest about what you hear and what you missed.
After all, you don’t want to put yourself in the position of having to pretend to know what you’re talking about when you have no earthly idea (any more than normal anyway!)
In the new business environment of remote teams, freelancers, contractors, and even totally remote companies, communicating clearly and articulately in a conference call is more important than ever.
And while it’s true, sometimes you do get more from being in the room with someone, oftentimes that’s just not possible.
Getting the most from your teams and hosting and attend productive conference calls is all about keeping the meetings tight, focused, on task. With a little management and these seven tips, you will be hosting great conference calls before you know it.
Got a widespread team that you’re struggling to stay keep on top of? We hear you. Get in touch today to find out how we can help you get the most from your team with our wide range of conference call solutions.