We live in a world where advanced technology is increasingly bringing together brilliant minds from disparate locations. Without a doubt, that is a great thing. But too often business leaders lean a bit too heavily on technology without taking the steps to make sure it’s used properly.
A perfect example of this is the conference call. We’ve all been on a bad conference call before: the conversation is confusing; participants talk over one another; and nothing really gets accomplished. That’s not the fault of the phone or online system hosting the call—it’s the fault of the human being leading the meeting.
Steer clear of these all-too-common conference calling pitfalls
Every conference call needs a leader. As the organizer of a conference call, you have a responsibility to familiarize yourself with the technology and take steps to use it to its full advantage. You have to ensure all participants are active and engaged in a fruitful discussion that ends in decisive action.
So just how do you do that? To start, you make a conscious effort to avoid these four pitfalls that result in conference call chaos:
1. A train without a track.
In any business meeting, it’s incredibly difficult to steer a group of people from point A to point B without an agenda. That’s especially true of conference calls, where there is no visual information to connect everyone together. That means you have to be even more stringent in your organization and planning.
Make sure you have a clear agenda of talking points that you distribute to participants at least a two hours before the conference call. You may also want to pass along any documents you will be referencing in the meeting.
2. A voice without a name.
Much of the confusion in a bad conference call comes from not being able to tell who’s speaking and/or people speaking over one another. As the call leader, you have to take action to prevent these problems.
At the beginning of the call, have all the participants introduce themselves so everyone can associate names with voices. As you go through the call, address questions to participants by name. This will make it clear who the question is intended for and help keep people from talking over one another.
3. A performance without a rehearsal.
Most problems or hiccups when using business communication technology result from a lack of preparation. That’s why it’s imperative to test your system before every conference call. This ensures you know exactly what to do and everything is running smoothly before the meeting’s scheduled start.
If you are the conference call leader, don’t rely on someone else (like a co-worker or IT person) to test the system and initiate the call. What if he or she can’t make it that day? Familiarize yourself with the system and get any training you need ahead of time.
4. A journey without an end.
A final common misstep with conference calls comes at the conclusion. Far too many leaders don’t know how to properly close out a call. As a result, it just sputters to an end with a series of awkward goodbyes and hang-ups. Don’t let this happen. You have to own the ending.
First, wrap things up by attributing any action items from the call to the participants. Ask for final comments or questions from the group. After that, give a clear and concrete “goodbye”—thanking everyone for their time and wishing them a great day. Cut the call off there, ending it cleanly. Don’t start talking to someone else in the room until you have officially disconnected.
Optimize your communication with leadership and preparation
You may have the best phone system money can buy for your business. But if you’re not properly guiding your communication efforts when using it, you’re not getting the most out of your investment. Even in this golden age of advanced technology, effective business communication is still—and will always be—driven by human beings.
That’s why it’s essential to have a clearly identified leader who will play an active role in guiding the conference call from start to finish. Technology may be able to facilitate communication like never before, but it’s in your hands to best use these tools to effectively communicate with employees, clients, customers and partners.
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