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Better Conference Calls

Want to improve your conference calls?

By
Lisa B. Marshall,
May 1, 2009

Page 1 of 2

What do a flushing toilet, a crowing rooster, and a crying baby have in common?

Marshall Law for Better Conference Calls

A flushing toilet, a crowing rooster, and a crying baby? Did you figure it out? Yep, I once heard all those sounds on the same conference call—I felt like I had won a conference call trifecta. 

I’m guessing that you probably have your own horror stories. Based on the number of requests I’ve had for this topic (way more than any other topic) it seems there’s a real need for some quick and dirty tips for improving conference calls.

I think the problem is that, unfortunately, most organizations don’t even follow a tight process for meeting management, let alone conference calls. And a conference call requires even more structure and more planning to be successful.

So my first tip is that you absolutely must follow the guidelines that I outlined last week for effective in-person meetings. In fact, when it comes to conference call meetings, these aren’t just guidelines anymore; they become “Marshall law” (get it? martial/marshall law?)  

The Challenges of Conference Calls

Not only that, you’ll need to develop additional skills and techniques because in a conference call you don’t have the visual clues that you depend on when you’re face-to-face. For example, we rely heavily on eye contact to figure out whose turn it is to talk. That’s why it’s difficult to have an interactive discussion on a conference call without a good facilitator.

We all know that another big reason we struggle with conference calls is because of the distractions. We think we’re capable of multi-tasking. We think we’re able to listen to the call and read and respond to email. And, of course, we know that doesn’t work.

So, keeping that in mind, let’s go through some of the additional things you can do to ensure an effective and productive conference call.

Plan Better, More Effective Conference Calls

Again, all of the tips from last week apply, but with a little extra work. For example, in order for a conference call to start on-time, the leader needs to be early. The agenda needs additional items, like the call-in information and directions for how and when to mute.

You’ll need additional ground rules too. For example, how will entrances and exits be handled? Will entrances be verbal while exits are via chat? What about guidelines for what to do when someone accidentally puts the group on hold? Will everyone immediately hang-up and reconnect?

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