People in all types of roles are called upon to conduct conference and video calls at one time or another. Often, you must ask yourself: How can I manage people I don’t see? At times, conference calls can be frustrating and feel like a waste of time (like the video below).
I manage the Certified Professional Yacht Brokers (CPYB) program which certifies Yacht Brokers across the country. Since CPYB’s board members are located across North America, hosting quarterly conference calls are a money saving endeavor in place of annually held “face to face” meetings. I’ve learned that effectively conducting conference and video calls is essential for team collaboration and decision making. However, there could be a few unforeseeable and uncontrollable issues that take place during these calls. Below are some tips to increase the effectiveness of your conference calls.
Before the Call
- Prepare and share the meeting agenda in advance of the call that outline the purpose of the meeting, when the meeting will take place, and how attendees will access the meeting. Include the goals for the call and any specific discussion points. Informing people before the call helps them prepare for the discussion and gives them a chance to think about how they might contribute to the conversation.
- If you are using any service other than a telephone to conduct the meeting, be sure to inform your group to hold a test run so technical difficulties can be identified or avoided. Organizers should be prepared with a back-up should something go wrong. Make sure everyone understands how to mute their voice and background noise.
- Recruit a designated note taker. No one likes taking meeting minutes, but it is a necessary evil (especially for the people that couldn’t join the call).
Starting the Call
- If you are the moderator of the call, join the call at least five minutes before the scheduled meeting time. Light conversation while waiting helps people feel more comfortable. Officially start the call only when the key people are there so you don’t have to repeat any information.
- Always introduce yourself when you start the call to ensure everyone can identify you as the moderator. Prior to the start of official business, take a role call to be ensure all key players are present and accounted for. If appropriate, take time for everyone to make introductions (name, company, position), especially if they are new to the group. This is also a good time to review administrative items (muting phone, how to ask questions directly or through chat function, able to view shared screen, etc.).
Conducting the Call
- Begin with a summary of the agenda and purpose of the meeting.
- To avoid people talking over each other, address questions directly by name if you want someone to respond. As facilitator, keep track of who is speaking and ask those who are quiet for contributions. Conference calls should allow a variety of messages to be sent such as: “We need the ideas of everyone in this organization. ”Before switching topics take a breather, asking if there are any additional questions or thoughts regarding the topic. Keep your eye on your goal and the conversation on point. If the topic becomes heated or lengthy, suggest planning another call to discuss the topic more thoroughly after additional preparation and investigation can be completed. Provide regular time checks so your agenda stays on track. Start and end as closely to the proposed times as possible.
Ending the Call
- Provide a meeting recap at the end of the call.
- Confirm that everyone understands next steps, responsibilities, action items, and deadlines, including when the next scheduled call will be held.
- Follow up with an email containing major points and/or minutes from the call.
Instituting these tips will improve the value of all your upcoming conference and video calls.