How to have a productive conference call
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How to have a productive conference call

12th November 2019
By Tom Ladle

If you’re reading this blog you’ve probably had your fair share of unproductive conference calls (who hasn’t?) A recent survey found that employees waste nearly 13 days every year in meetings they consider unproductive[1]. Whether this be calls that were agonizingly long, reared completely off course or just didn’t get going due to technical issues, there are plenty of reasons a call can go pear shaped. Well fear no more, we’re here to offer a helping hand to make sure, going forward, you only have productive conference calls.

The proof is in the planning

‘Plan your work and work your plan’ – Napoleon Hill. That’s right, the first step to having a productive call is to plan it beforehand. We’re not saying plan extensively for months on end (this would be excessive) but it wouldn’t hurt to send around an agenda before. This let’s everyone know what you expect to achieve from the call. This can be included in your meeting invite if you want everything in one place. If people understand what the call is going to be about before it takes place, it should prevent any dilly dallying and ensure you get straight to the point.

Polite and punctual

One way to completely derail a meeting is by arriving late. This isn’t as much of a problem in a real-life meeting, as the latecomer can come slinking into the room without causing much disruption. However, on a call you will often get an audio cue letting everyone know the person has joined the meeting. This can be distracting and interrupt the flow of the meeting. An easy way to avoid this situation is to just dial in on time. This avoids any time wasted waiting for people. If the reason for being late is out of your control, then don’t bring the call to a halt by asking for a rundown on everything that’s been said. Remember your conference call etiquette and wait till after the call to get brought up to speed.

Promote participation

Many calls turn stagnant from lack of participation – no one wants to listen to an hour-long monologue. Conference calls and meetings in general work much better if they’re a collaborative effort. Make sure that you’re asking for people’s input, if you’re not then it is very easy for other people on the call to zone out and become a snooze fest (no one wants that).  You’re more likely to get something out of a lively discussion than you are from talking at people, on the whim that they’re going to register everything you’re saying.

Short and sweet

Unfortunately, people are often limited by their attention spans. No matter the person, there is a limit to how long they can stay focused on one thing before daydreaming and drifting to thoughts of what they’re going to make for dinner that night. Obviously, some calls will have to be longer than others depending on the depth of what is being discussed but do bear in mind the length of your call. If it’s a particularly meaty topic then maybe stagger the calls over a couple of weeks. Try to keep the discussion topic succinct and easily digestible. This will save time in the long run as everyone comes out the meeting remembering exactly what was discussed and the required actions.

Record and analyse

Most conference call products (like ours) will enable you to record your call *high five*. These recording can easily be shared with other people on the call, allowing them to get back to what was discussed in the future, handy aye! It will also help you improve any future calls as you can assess what went well and what didn’t. For example, you can work out the optimal length by seeing exactly when everyone started to drift off or the meeting became sidetracked with irrelevant topics.

Go forth and prosper!

In the realm of conference calling. These tips will set you on the right path and help you banish unproductive calls. See you soon, PowWowNow.

[1] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/how-long-spend-meetings-year-thirteen-days-uk-workers-average-a8542861.html