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Want to make your conference calls work like a real meeting? Then I’ve got the formula, right here.
If you’re like me, you occasionally attend a conference call. I’ve dialled in some really good ones, and many really bad ones.
Conference calls need planning, facilitation, and rules to make them work:
Before the conference call:
- Just like a ‘normal’ meeting, a conference call works best when it starts with a pre-determined agenda. Here is a post I wrote about that: What Makes a Good Meeting Agenda?
- Agree who will take the minutes of the conference call, and have a stand-in if this person does not attend – here’s how to do this: Minute-Taking, Made Easy
- Send out the conference facility details by email in plenty of time, with all the necessary details such as the conference call PIN
- If possible, provide details of local dial-in numbers if attendees are spread throughout the country or overseas
- Agree a stand-in conference leader, and make sure they have the leader PIN too. This is extremely important
- Send out the meeting ‘protocol’, which should include:
- What to do if the leader does not attend, and how the stand-in leader will assume to initiate the conference call
- What attendees should do if their connection is dropped
- Whether attendees must declare their name when joining the conference
- Whether attendees can dial in late to the call, and at point no attendees should join (you may not want to stipulate this)
- Whether attendees should place themselves on mute if not talking
- The ‘inputs’ to the meeting should be sent out in plenty of time. I.e. documents, reports, etc.
Just before the conference call:
- If you’re using a software solution (such as Skype) then make sure you have downloaded all the necessary software components, browser plugins, etc. Do this in plenty time as you may even need to restart your computer which can feel like it is taking an age when you know there are people waiting for you on the call.
- Make sure you have set up and tested your audio. I splashed out recently and upgraded to a Cabasse Stream BAR for my audio output (which is a perfect solution for my needs) and the microphone on my mac laptop works fine.
- Check that your Internet connection is working and has enough bandwidth. Ban the kids from streaming movies if not!
During the conference call:
- The leader should allow enough time for all attendees to dial in, but set a time limit
- The leader should go through the attendee list to check off who has joined
- The leader should state who is taking the minutes to attendees
- The leader should run through the agenda briefly
- When talking, an attendee should announce themselves – it’s often difficult to know exactly who is talking if attendees are not familiar with each other
- If an attendee talks over another attendee, the leader should mediate. This is not always intentional, as speakers voices can sometimes be too quiet to hear
- The leader should summarize the decisions and actions and confirm when the minutes will be distributed
Here is a very funny video that shows how a real meeting would go if it worked like a conference call: