Conference call 101

If one of the things you need to know about conference calls is why you need one, then you probably don’t.

However, if you’ve already cottoned-on to the convenience, ease, efficiency and productivity benefits of audio conferencing – perhaps because you’ve taken part in a few in the last couple of months – then now’s the time to find out how to conference call for yourself.

As the organiser, your responsibilities are slightly different from those of a participant. But don’t worry: as this brief guide on how to audio conference will prove, they’re still nothing challenging.

How to host an effective conference call

As you probably know, conference calls are a simple concept. If you can get things discussed, agreed and done on a phone call to one person, imagine how much more you can achieve on a call to several people. And if you can use your time in productive conversation on a conference call, rather than wasting time travelling to and from a meeting to have the same conversation face-to-face, why wouldn’t you?

All you have to do is make sure you know how to conference call effectively. Which means organising and managing your conference calls as efficiently as you would a face-to-face meeting. Plus, you don’t have to be limited just to talking. Use our video conference call service and you can show documents and share your screen to support even more effective communication.

How to set up a conference call

Like any meeting, assuming you’ve got things to discuss, the first thing to do is make sure you’ll have the right people there to discuss them with. So you need to send out invitations. This is easily done, using a calendar invitation just as your would for a physical meeting. You provide the date and time, location and in the body of the invitation you need to provide the dial-in number and PIN for the guest to use. Then send off the invitation to everyone you need to be there and… that’s the logistical admin done.

That’s not the whole story of ensuring a productive call, though. As with a face-to-face meeting, the way to make sure your call is productive is through preparation and planning.

How to plan a conference call

So in advance of the meeting – ideally as an attachment to the invitation – share the agenda with all participants. If it’s not ready when you send out invitations, at least make sure you share it far enough in advance to give everyone who’s taking part the time they need to prepare themselves with whatever information or answers they need, or questions they might have. Your agenda will also be your essential framework for keeping your call on track when it takes place.

Of course that’s just the same as in a face-to-face meeting – but sometimes the novelty or different circumstances of an audio conference lead participants to be less focussed and more chatty – and before you know it, you’ve heard all about the weather or their dog’s latest escapade, but nothing about next month’s financial forecast.

So now you’ve planned and set-up your conference call, you’ve found a quiet environment from where you can make the call without background noise or other disturbances, and it’s time to start. Now: here’s how to audio conference effectively.

Don’t be late

Firstly, be on time. This is especially important for the organiser, but you should hope your attendees will do the same. It’s not just efficient; it’s polite too. Secondly, take charge and keep things business-like, by asking each participant to introduce themselves before you begin to work through the agenda. Also, ask everyone to use the PowWowNow mute function (press #6) when they are not actually speaking.

How to finish your call

Now the rest of your call can follow the format of a face-to-face meeting: work through the agenda, allow discussion but keep it succinct, summarise at the end, and outline next steps and actions individually for each participant. Don’t forget to use our record function (press #8) to record and store the entire meeting.

Finally, tell everyone how any follow-up will be communicated (most likely by email) and address each person individually to say goodbye. Then hang up. Ideally on the same or next day, send a follow-up email to all involved that summarizes the call. And if you’re worried you haven’t remembered everything, simply play back your recording via your PowWowNow Account.

And that’s it: everything you need to know about organising and conducting a successful audio conference. Want to give it a go? We’re ready when you are.

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