Conference calls are meant to be convenient, informative, and engaging. If you can get a group of participants on the line together, you can share valuable information without having to organize a face-to-face meeting. You can connect with clients and coworkers all over the world without leaving your office. In theory, conference calls are fantastic. In reality, they're often quite the opposite.
Unfortunately, often conference calls are regarded as nuisance interruptions, rather than helpful interludes. People call in, register, and promptly zone out. Communication attempts evolve into roadblocks as staff members play frantic catch-up games and debate about call content. Thankfully, there are things you can do to fix common problems and improve the quality of your calls.
Problem: Bad timing. Too often, conference calls are scheduled on a whim, without the involvement of all participants. The end results can be messy, as contributors struggle to call in from busy offices, homes, airport lounges, and different time zones.
Solution: Democratic timing. Do as much research as you can about the people involved in your call. If 70 percent of them are based in Europe, you'll probably want to consider planning your meeting according to the most convenient time zone. A ban on conference participation while driving could also be prudent: on-the-road contributors are less able to focus and may put themselves in danger.
Problem: Inadequate planning. If you begin a conference call without a fully structured outline in hand, you risk forgetting vital information. If fellow speakers aren't told about the call, are given poor information, or can't make it at all, you may find yourself in a tough spot.
Solution: Adequate preparation. Effective information delivery requires planning in advance. Communicate with your main speakers before setting up a conference call and outline an agenda with them. If you and your team sign on with a sense of purpose, your fellow conference participants will remain much more focused.
Other issues include clarity: parties on the conference call can't hear speakers' voices properly and consequently miss important information. It can be best to avoid speakerphones, because they tend to exaggerate echo, making it tough for individuals to hear.
It can be tempting to use conference calls to share new information with a huge number of people. Before you decide to do that, however, consider the importance of your news. If you want to reveal a merger, unveil a new project, or inform staff about benefits changes, you could choose to pre-record a message instead, allowing team members the opportunity to listen to the statement individually. In conclusion, it's important to take participants' circumstances into account before setting up a conference call.
(Photo courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net)
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