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Why Your Conference Calls are Not Working

Estimated reading time: 7 mins

When was the last time you had issues during a conference call? I am guessing that it was not long ago. I remember the last call I had – one participant had an unbearably noisy line that made it impossible to hear anything. These issues can be very frustrating.

In this blog post, we will look at some of the common issues that can happen during a conference call and focus on some tips that you can follow to prevent or at least manage them. We will also take a peak at how you can better organise a meeting over a conference call.

Issue No. 1: People Not Showing Up for the Conference Call

Coordinating with everyone around his or her schedules is a time taking task. The date and time for the conference call is usually set after much back and forth between all participants. It can be extremely frustrating to have people not show up for the conference call after all this scheduling.

Solution: It is important for you to double-check the international time zones to make sure that you do not miss the call. It is also important, if you are organising the conference call, which you send out reminders one day and one hour before the call.

Issue No. 2: Call Experiencing Static, Noise or Echo

It can be annoying to experience bad audio over any call and it gets even more agonising if it is a conference call. A bad connection can lead to participants not fully engaged because they find it difficult to hear most of the conversation. Important ideas and suggestions are missed out because comments are not heard properly.

Solution: You should check if anyone is using a speakerphone, as it is one of the biggest culprits behind conference call echoes. If using a speakerphone is imperative, try to turn the volume down as it might help with the interference. If the problem persists then the only thing you can do is pick up the handset instead of continuing the call on speakerphone. Using only one phone line per room is a tried way for you to avoid static. Having multiple parties in the same room connecting to the same conference call can also lead to echo. Landlines are better than cell phones for conference calls so you can try this.

Issue No. 3: Disturbances in the Background

Having a good telecommunication equipment means that it will be very sensitive to pick up all sounds, including rustling of papers, typing on the laptops and other sounds in the surrounding. It can be very disturbing if there is renovation going on in your office or your office is on the main road and is prone to the traffic sounds.

Solution: It is important to choose a quiet place to participate in a conference call. You should also ask other participants to choose the place wisely. Keep your line mute whenever you are just listening and not speaking into the call. Just be sure that there is no music playing on hold whenever you mute your phone otherwise that will lead to another, much sever kind of disturbance. Luckily, most of the leading conference call services these days come with a self-mute option.

Issue No. 4: Music Playing Directly Into the Conference

This is a real pain. Have you ever been a victim of those loud screeches during conference calls? This usually happens when someone puts his/her phone on hold and there is music-on-hold playing directly into the conference call. This results into a loud screech, which is extremely disturbing and can last a while.

Solution: In case this happens and you are the organiser, you should mute all lines connected to the conference and then unmute each line one by one until you hear the music or the shrill again. Then you can specifically ask the participant to check his/her side of the phone or reconnect. Make sure you have it as an SOP to inform everyone to keep his or her phone mute and check for if any music is playing in the email that you send before the conference call.

Organising a Conference Call like a Pro

So far, I have discussed some of the major issues that you suffer during a conference call that can make the entire experience go bad. However, there can be other reasons why your conferences are not working. While conference calls can be an efficient and productive way to hold meetings without the need to travel, it is important to conduct these in a professional manner to make them useful. Below are my 8 tips to organise your next conference call like a pro:

  1. Be Prepared. Before any phone meeting is conducted, you need to be prepared for it. This is a crucial step if you want to accomplish all items on your agenda and if you want to keep the participants engaged. Prepare all topics to be discussed well before the call by creating an outline of the call for yourself and the attendees. Preparing all material for the call well beforehand will help you minimise time from being wasted on useless topics.
  2. Promote Participation. We all know that people like to share ideas and thoughts in a meeting where they feel comfortable. Therefore, if you are hosting the conference call, it is important for you to ask your participants questions. You need to let the attendees know that you value their opinions and that you want to let them participate in the call. Failing to involve the participants will make them tune out and get lost in their own thoughts. All leading conference call service providers offer features to involve your attendees, including polling, Q&A and surveying capabilities. Most of these features are conducted using the dial pad, meaning that you and the participants will have to be aware of the codes that they can use to participate.
  3. Punctuality is Necessary. Just as we do not want others missing the conference call, we should not leave the participants waiting for us. As the organiser, you should dial into the call a few minutes in advance. Waiting to log in at the very last minute puts you in the risk of getting late in the event of any technology issue. It might be that you have the wrong dial-in number to access the phone meeting, so be there well before time.
  4. Mind Your Location. Like mentioned earlier, it is even more important as the organiser to ensure that you are in a good location to hold the meeting. Holding the conference call in a loud area will make it difficult to hear the conversations over the phone. You should also try to seclude yourself from others as being around many people might distract you. Keep your phone close enough to easily pick your voice above other sounds but not too close enough to pick every little sound like you breathing. Be wary of any electronic devices as they might cause interference.
  5. Focus on the Agenda. Remember that time is money. Your participants have taken out time to be part of this conference call. They are not there to listen to conversations that are not important to them or are not pertinent to their job. Creating an agenda and sticking to it is essential to a meeting success. Avoid discussing the latest football game or the fancy new eatery that you tried. Do your best to stay within the committed timeframe as extending the meeting might result in you losing attentiveness and participation.
  6. Make Use of Visual Aids. Having visual aids in a video call can help encourage discussions and entice participation among attendees. These can be extremely helpful if you are presenting new strategies and ideas to a large group or offering workshops and trainings. You do need to be careful as they should not be used in every conference call and neither should they be too long. You will also need to make sure that you have a good and stable internet connection.
  7. Make Notes. Long conference calls can wear you out. It is important to make notes during the call to come back to any questions asked and also ensure that you do not miss on any important topic relevant to the meeting. Make sure you keep writing utensils next to you during the conference call to ensure that you do not miss any point. You might also want to encourage the participants to keep a notepad and pen with them to take down any important notes.
  8. Record the Call. If you are using one of those fancy conference call services then chances are that you have the feature to record the meeting. This is perhaps the most important feature to have with you because it allows all participants to review the meeting at a later stage and revisit areas they did not catch the first time. Recording the conference call also allows individuals who missed the meeting to listen to the recording and be filled in with all the topics discussed.

Do you have any tips on how we can make our next conference call a success? Share it with us in the comments section. I’m sure you will also enjoy reading this blog post on 8 Essential Tips You Need To Know For Running Business Meetings With Impact.

 
This post is part of 20 in the series Make Meetings Work

About the author /


Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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