How to Hold Conference Calls That Don’t Suck
When you hear the phrase conference call, you’re probably not struck with a sudden urge to participate in one. Conference calls and business meetings are often the dread of working-class business professionals, and for good reason. Most organizers aren’t great at hosting engaging calls, and after about 30 minutes, you start daydreaming about watching football later or going to sleep at your desk. Whether it’s a phone call or video meeting, hosting a call that doesn’t entirely suck can make a huge difference in how it’s received by other team members or your clients. Here’s how to hold conference calls that don’t suck.
Part of why your calls suck is that they are full of distractions. Whether it’s a faulty connection that’s creating static on the line or constantly dropping the call, or Jim from accounting talking about how much he drank on Friday, distractions serve only one purpose: to derail the call and reduce its efficiency.
So, how do you minimize distractions in a conference call? First and foremost, you need to invite the right people. Only invite those employees or clients that need to hear the information or can add valuable input to the call. If you’re inviting people simply because they’re part of a department or may have a vested interest in the call’s content, you’re setting yourself up for failure. The more people there are, the greater the potential for distractions.
Invite people who need to be there, but no one else. If someone else wants to hear what was discussed (and they are authorized to do so), and email summary will suffice. Don’t invite people to meetings simply because of their standing within the organization or a specific department.
Use an Agenda
A meeting agenda will help you in narrowing down the guest list and creating a more efficient space to work in. You’ll also be able to plan the date and time of the call, as well as the topics of discussion. The great thing about an agenda is that it can be shared with the other callers and adjusted before the meeting. It’s a good idea to send an agenda to everyone who will be attending ahead of time; that way, you’ll have plenty of breathing room for when adjustments need to be made.
An agenda doesn’t have to be made from a fancy template. It can be a simple email, flow chart, or Word document. As long as you’re providing the necessary details about the meeting on the agenda, it doesn’t matter what it looks like. If you’d like to use a template, there are thousands of meeting templates available online for you to choose from. Here are some Word templates if you’re interested.
Add a Little Humor
Humor is best served in moderation, especially in a professional setting; however, spicing up your meetings with a little human can add an ultra-necessary human feel to the meetings. A long meeting can quickly become very boring, so including a splash of humor can help lighten the mood and get everyone back on track.
Of course, you’ll want to keep any humor you include work-appropriate. Your dirtiest joke is probably not a good fit for the conference call, but a little humor can go a long way in improving everyone’s mood and even returning their focus. Laughter is the best medicine, as they say, and it’s a good remedy for boring conference calls as well.
This tip shouldn’t have to be discussed, but sadly, it must. Not everyone understands basic conference call etiquette, and this can cause some serious disruption and agitation. When someone is constantly talking over everyone or interrupting other callers, people start to get frustrated with the lack of progress and the downright rude behavior of the disruptive caller.
Be polite when you’re on a conference call. Don’t talk over someone who’s trying to talk, and certainly don’t interrupt the person talking for any reason. Wait your turn to speak out of respect for the person talking and out of respect for everyone else’s time.
Enforce Strict Time Limits
The longer your conference call takes, the more it will suck. How many people want to sit on a conference call for more than an hour? The answer is zero. Conference calls aren’t the most fun activities in the world, so keeping strict time limits on topics and the overall length of the call is important to its success. Most people tend to grow bored and tried after about 45 minutes to an hour, so keep your information short and concise and set time limits for each topic.
As long as you follow these great tips, your conference calls won’t have to suck. Time limits, an agenda, reducing disruptions, and being polite can go a long way in improving your conference calls and making them less boring for the attendees.