If you’ve ever been asked to set up a conference call, you know first hand the anxiety that comes with meetings conducted this way. So many things can go wrong, from the phone conferencing system, or web conferencing software not working to attendees not calling in on time. Conference calls are normally necessary when a question is complex, a decision is trying to be reached, or an idea is being pitched, which can all be stressful conversations in person, without the added challenges conference calls can bring. Here are a few tips to take control of the situation, help you plan for the call, and conduct a successful meeting.
1. Plan in Advance
When it comes to setting up a conference call, don’t leave anything to chance. Before you set up the call make sure you understand what is expected. Some technical questions to ask are:
- Will you need to be able to share a slideshow or your computer screen?
- How many people will be on the line and will you need to be able to mute the lines?
- Will the audio call and/or the visual presentation need to be recorded?
- How long will the call take?
You’ll want to schedule the call like you would schedule a meeting, using your calendar software to make sure that everyone involved will be available. Resist the urge to send an email with the details, instead send a meeting request containing the conference call logistics to ensure that it will show up on the calendars of the attendees and not be lost in their email inboxes. Prior to sending the meeting request, confirm the phone number, access codes, and online presentation link so that all of the information is included in the initial meeting invite. Don’t make it difficult to find the log-in information by sending separate emails and meeting requests – communicate clearly in one message. Also, include an agenda or list of questions that will be addressed. Giving your attendees time to gather information they need prior to the call will help you achieve your objectives and have a better discussion on the call. Conference calls can be effective ways to clear up confusion and seek direction, as opposed to several email threads or discussion threads trying to seek a resolution, if people are prepared in advance for the conversation .
If several individuals on your team will be involved in a call to make a presentation to a client, make sure everyone knows in advance who will be taking the lead. As the initiator of the call, you are expected to start the discussion and ensure all necessary items are communicated and decided upon with the meeting time. Again, if several of you will be talking during the call its best to rehearse the presentation to make sure everything flows together and the transition among speakers is a smooth transition. It’s important to keep callers engaged and a smooth presentation is a good step in doing that. When a call seems disorganized and lacks an agenda attendees can start to tune out and focus on the work at their desk instead of engaging in the conversation.
3. Set Up in Advance
About 30 minutes prior to the call, confirm the phone number and access codes of the call and make sure that was the information sent in the meeting request. Check to make sure your conference call was set up for the right date, in the right time zone, and for a.m. or p.m. With some conference bridges, an error in one of those fields will block callers from dialing in. If you’re hosting the meeting in a conference room, make sure the web conferencing and phone conferencing lines are all in working order and turned on 15 minutes before the call begins. If you have to download any software for the call, make sure you’ve done that the day before the call on the machines you’ll be using. You’ll reduce the stress of your fellow participants if everything is flowing smoothly before the call even begins. Prior to the call beginning, make sure you know how to mute/unmute callers and how to record the presentation and/or audio portion. One last trick for success is to dial-in with the call participant information from your cell phone after you’ve activated the call to make sure everything is working correctly. Also, let a teammate that is not on the call know the log-in information so they can direct anyone who has misplaced the information how to join.
All of the time you’ve invested prior to the call will pay off in a successful call, saving you time in the long-run. And your participants will appreciate your respect for their time with your attention to detail in hosting a successful conference call.
By Rachel Rudisill