Rules for Effective Conference Calls
Put Someone in Charge
All meetings need a leader, and meetings on the phone are no exception. One person should manage the call, though this need not be the boss. This “control” person controls who has the floor, and otherwise tries to keep chaos from coming in.
Keep statements short and ask for frequent feedback
It is easy for minds to roam when many people participate in a call. To keep them engaged, keep your statements short. To keep them participating, ask them for frequent feedback. Keep the questions direct too. Instead of asking “Do anyone have anything to add?” ask “Martha, do you have any ideas to add to the design?”
Don’t use slides if you can avoid it
Plain and simple, looking at slides with tons of wording is really, really boring. Going through slides can really kill a discussion and you can’t keep people from looking ahead at the future slides.
Send out an agenda ahead of time and stick to it
No matter what the meeting is make sure it has an agenda so everyone knows the purpose of the meeting, approximately how long it will be and what they are expected to prepare before the call. This will help reduce the stress and help the call run more smoothly.
Let the participants know if you are recording the call
Some companies record calls for a variety of reasons (to retain summaries, for training purposes, etc.) – if you are on the call with people from other companies, make sure you let them know you are recording the call…and make sure they are okay with this.
Set limits on call duration
This is even more important than setting time limits for face-to-face meetings, since the amount of energy lost in a call exceeds that of meetings. The lack of feedback is a huge energy zapper. Limit calls to reasonable lengths so folks know what to expect.
Share the floor.
Unless you are presenting something, as the leader you should ensure you don’t hog the floor. Give everyone an equal opportunity to share their perspective. If there are many people on the call or new people, have everyone identify themselves when they begin to speak.
Remember What Mommy Taught You
Even though you’re dying to say something, you have to wait your turn and avoid the temptation to start talking. There are two reasons for this: first, it’s a simple matter of politeness and decorum in a meeting. Second, some conference bridges or speaker phones will only allow one person to talk – if you jump in to start talking while someone else has the floor, you may unknowingly cut him or her off in mid-sentence.