The MIT Sloan School of Management estimated that in traditional corporate models employees spend about six hours a week in meetings. A widely cited National Statistics Council estimate backs up, it states that employees spend as much as 37 percent of their time in meetings.
That’s a whole lot of time not spent performing essential job functions!
Conference calls are an excellent way to bridging the gap between people separated by time and distance, but they are only as effective as those taking part. Figuring how to make those calls more focused, expedient and productive, however, is the trick.
Ensure That It’s Necessary
If the conference call can be replaced with a group email, then don’t hold a conference call. This sounds obvious, but companies still push for unnecessary conference calls. This is most probably because businesses haven’t created guidelines for messaging hierarchy. What this means is that businesses haven’t taken the time to define what type of communication is appropriate through different mediums. You can read more about this in our article, Solving the No 1 Problem of Remote Teams.
Set the Pace
Productive conference calls require a well set agenda that clearly defines what will be talked about, and how long the conference call will take. Set the pace with an annotated agenda that allocates time for each segment while allowing for some flexibility to prevent cutting off useful dialogue. An agenda that sets a firm start and stop time while enabling attendees to prepare themselves can set the tone for a very successful meeting.
Only Include Necessary Participants
The number of issues you’ll run into during a conference call, multiplies with every person you invite. Waiting for people to join a call is just the beginning of the problems that you’ll be facing when you have an overloaded conference call. You’ll probably run into the person who decided to take the conference call in a loud room, and is not using the mute button. Eliminate these distractions by only inviting people who are truly necessary.
Send Important Material Beforehand
The invitation email should include an agenda, and important material that will be discussed during the meeting. Meetings generally tend to be flooded with long winded explanations (i.e. project objectives) which could have just as easily been just sent out in a document before the meeting. By sending this material out before hand, you can get straight to the important topics without wasting time.
Encourage participation by calling on attendees and asking questions about the materials. It can be as simple as asking whether one agrees or disagrees a sales plan or policy issue. Keep this in mind: What is not asked during a meeting, will be asked many times via email by multiple people. Getting people to participate in the meeting not only helps with making conference calls more productive, but will also help with productivity when it’s over.
Conference calls are excellent communication tools that can close the time and distance gap. The key is making sure they’re well planned and executed to enhance efficiency while ensuring critical points are addressed.
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- Conference Call Etiquette That Everyone Should Follow
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- How to Master Client Meetings with Speek