Taking part in a critical conference call that lacks a rule book can be one of the most frustrating situations you can face in today’s business world. People talking over each other, lack of direction and, just as bad, a lot of wasted time – you’ve probably heard it all. Let’s resolve right now to never do that again, okay? Here are some easy-to-use rules for ANY conference call designed to make sure you accomplish your mission while also preserving your sanity!
Know how to use the equipment: “Hello? Is this thing on?” If you are the person responsible for the call or responsible to the person who is, try to make sure people know how to use the conference call system first. Clear directions for the call-in number, correct time zone start and end times and some tips on how to mute your phone in noisy locations should be part of your call notice template. Also, listing some overall rules and expectations can help you set yourself up for success. See below.
Follow the Leader: Somebody has to run this thing! Clearly identify who will run the call and charge that person with making that role clear throughout. People drop off or join late and you can have chaos without a clear leader. That person should be known to all or many of the people on the call and, with that, you have a better flow of information. “I know how Marilyn runs a meeting, so when she says this I know what it means.” People have different communication styles and having a known leader in place helps throughout.
Agenda roadmap: Once you establish a clear leader, establish a clear agenda. The most general material should be covered at the beginning, allowing people to drop off after their topic has been discussed. The meeting notice should have the agenda, if possible, and all should be expected to know that agenda. Once you set this as a regular expectation for conference calls everyone will know the rules and will be much more likely to follow them!
Make sure everyone speaks: Have you ever nodded off during a call or found your name being called when you had no idea what it is they were talking about? Oops. The sure-fire way to avoid “conference call disconnect” is making it your practice to have everyone speak. Your call leader should let it be known she or he expects to hear from everyone and then do it! This also avoids people feeling the need to constantly jump in over someone else’s comments. Everyone gets their chance to talk on each important topic – even those who are usually wallflowers!
With travel budgets trimmed and lightning fast decision making the expectation in every corner of the world, be sure you are using everyone’s time well – even on those often dreaded conference calls.
New favorite business book: American Icon by Bryce Hoffman.It’s a great read about Alan Mulally and his leadership at Ford.
Need a Speaker for an upcoming event? How about Cary?
Here’s a quick example: www.Clear-Comm.net
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Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting, www.clear-comm.net, a Scottsdale, AZ communications consulting firm that helps people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: [email protected].