When it comes to conference calls, we’ve all had our fair share of poor experiences. Unorganized hosts, distracting attendees, or generally poor productivity can make a conference call feel hours long. And, let’s be honest—no one wants to sit on a conference call any longer than they have to.
Having good conference calls means taking a step back and looking at your current process to see what’s going wrong. Are you experiencing distractions? Not using an agenda? Not setting goals? In this short guide, we’ll cover the five hard rules of good conference calls, from using an agenda to setting goals and everything in between.
Let’s get started.
1. Use An Agenda
Rule number one is simple, but it’s also overlooked more often than not. You should always have an agenda for each of your calls. Why? Because you wouldn’t try to navigate an unknown area without a map, so you shouldn’t enter a conference call without an agenda. Your agenda is the roadmap that’s going to get you to the end of the call quickly, efficiently, and without sacrificing any productivity.
Agendas are easy to create and don’t require special software or processes. In fact, if you wanted, you could just write a simple agenda in a Google or Word Doc. It’s that easy. Of course, you can also use a more professional template for that polished look, but it’s not necessary. What matters is that you have included the time, place, and attendees on the agenda, as well as any goals you hope to reach during the call.
You can send your agenda to your fellow attendees, as well. This will help them prepare and better understand what you hope to accomplish during the call.
2. Don’t Be Late
It seems entirely redundant to have to say, “Be on time for meetings”, but you’d be amazed at how many people are never on time for meetings or conference calls. Being late is not only distracting, but it’s also disrespectful to the other callers. If you’re the host, you’re sending the message that you don’t value your callers’ time. If you’re just an attendee, you’re sending that same message to both your fellow callers and the call organizer. That’s just not a good look.
Being on time means being strict and realistic with yourself. Set a timer or calendar reminder if you have to. Many conference services will send an email with the date and time of the call, as well as a link to participate, as an invitation. This makes joining (and remembering) the call that much simpler.
Use a platform for video conferencing or conference calling that lets you send direct invites and reminders as the call host. That way, everyone will always have the means to be there on time. The rest is up to them!
3. Use The Mute Button
It’s time to address one of the most powerful tools in a conference call: the mute button. This ancient relic of untold power is something all of us have neglected at some point, but it can literally mean the difference between a productive call and a not-so-productive call. Ok, so maybe it’s not that powerful, but it’s still something everyone should familiarize themselves with.
If you know you’re going to be in a noisy environment during the call, get familiar with the mute button. In fact, the best way to go about it is to always be muted unless it’s your turn to talk. That way, the call is quiet and distraction-free. You never know when a kiddo or pet can barge in, or when your neighbor will decide it’s time to mow the lawn at 9 am.
After a conference call, send a follow-up email to make sure everyone understood what was said. This follow-up can also act as a sort of post-call survey that can tell you exactly what went wrong this time. Include a few questions about the quality of the call, organization of the materials, and how productive everyone thought the call was at the bottom of your follow-up email.
It’s important to summarize the key points of the meeting, and some online conferencing services actually allow you to record and store all of your calls in the cloud.
5. Set Goals
Most call hosts don’t set any goals for their meetings, and this is bad practice. Setting goals not only gives your calls more purpose, but also acts as a waypoint for everyone in the call. Having a goal to reach helps keep everyone on track and headed in the same direction. Set a goal, do your best to reach it, and discuss with everyone afterward whether or not they felt you met that goal.
Conference calls don’t have to be the dread of everyone in the office. By setting goals, being more organized, and limiting distractions, you’ll have far more productive calls that won’t take nearly as long. Meetings that fall under the one hour mark are usually the most productive, so try to aim for that as your timestamp. And remember to always use an agenda!