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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.
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: