If you’ve been following my “Career Boot Camp” blog series this month, you’ll know that last week I covered how to lead effective in-person meetings. Let’s build on that knowledge by focusing on leading conference calls.
When the recession hit, many companies cut costs by greatly reducing the number of in-person meetings. This forced employees into using conference calls as an alternative means of communication. Unfortunately, most people have never received training on how to lead conference calls and tend to take a lackadaisical approach. To ensure colleagues and management aren’t disengaged and multi-tasking on other things during your conference call, follow these five tips…
Practice using the conferencing/webinar software: Your meeting shouldn’t be the first time using the conference/webinar software. Set up a practice call and learn how to use all the features, including how to mute and unmute all callers. There’s almost nothing worse than being on a conference call when the host doesn’t know how to use the technology.
Prepare for the worst: Technology isn’t perfect, so have back-up plans. Send the agenda, dial-in and webinar information, and presentation ahead of time. That way, in case something goes wrong with the webinar software, you can easily have participants switch over to the presentation you sent electronically.
Prep the room: If you are hosting a group of people in a conference room with others calling in remotely, ensure there’s an adequate speaker telephone with multiple speakers throughout the room. Test the speaker telephone prior to the meeting day as well as other media that will be used, such as computer projectors.
Play host: Dial into and start the conference call line at least 5-10 minutes prior to the actual meeting start time. Welcome each person as they dial in and confirm their name so you know who is in attendance. Ensure all participants have received the information you emailed and have it open on their computer (or are linked in electronically, if you are using webinar software).
Ensure everyone is on board for a successful call: Before beginning the conference call agenda topics, cover important items to ensure another meeting member doesn’t derail your success, such as:
Ask dial-in attendees to put their telephones on mute while they are listening to avoid background noise. Tell them to unmute their telephone if they have a question or comments.
Let dial-in attendees know NOT to put their telephone line on hold – doing so may cause everyone to hear hold music and will interrupt the meeting.
Ask attendees who are not dialing in on a cell phone to place their cell phones on mute and keep them away from the telephone, as this can cause a loud buzzing noise.
Ask attendees to speak loudly and clearly and preface all comments or questions with their name, so everyone will know who is speaking.
If attendance is highly important, let everyone know that if someone happens to join the meeting after you’ve already started, you will pause to confirm the name of the person to keep the attendee list accurate.
If the webinar software fails and you must resort to using the presentation you sent via email, remind presenters to state the slide number they are on so those calling in remotely can easily follow along.
Build on the knowledge you learned about how to lead effective in-person meetings by applying these additional five tips when leading conference calls. Both will ensure you have attendees who are engaged and actively participating…and who are happy to attend your next meeting.