Conference calls are one of the most efficient and cost effective strategies for reaching a business decision. When used properly, they can save thousands of dollars and several days that would otherwise be spent on travel when dealing with long-distance clients or coworkers.
Yet, when used improperly, they can be one of the biggest wastes of time in the corporate world.
Just think about the collective time executives have to spend away from their desks when they could otherwise be working. And when a 15-minute phone call turns into an hour-long debate that gets absolutely nowhere, everyone’s day becomes backed up. So how do you get the most out of your conference calls? By considering the following:
1. Be prepared ahead of time
Whether you’re hosting the meeting in a physical location or virtually with a conference call, starting a meeting without an agenda is a risky move. Having a bulleted list of necessary topics will allow for greater ease in jumping back and forth between key points and will mitigate the amount of awkward dead air space that can ruin a conversation. Know what you want to say ahead of time, say it and move on.
2. Reserve less time
One of the reasons that meetings tend to go longer than they should is that they are often booked for much longer than the meeting should take. As Parkinson’s Law dictates, work will expand so as to fill the time available for its completion.
When people see that they have an entire hour, they will plan their agenda accordingly to accommodate for every minute. Instead, figure out how much time you really need for the meeting and schedule an appropriate duration.
3. Make sure to listen
It is easy to get excited on a conference call. And when you get excited, you will want to chime in to express your opinion. But just like in real life, remember that it is important to listen and go along with the flow of the conversation.
Take notes, and when the time comes don’t be afraid to express that you have more than one point to make. Otherwise, by interrupting you risk opening the floodgates for others to do the same—and if there is no moderator, the call is usually downhill from there.
4. Assume everyone is on the line
A common mistake that can absolutely ruin a conversation—and your reputation—is to make a comment over a conference phone thinking that you are in private with your fellow coworkers.
Even if you are 100 percent certain of who else is in the room, be mindful of the fact that others might be listening in silently. And never forget that conference calls can be recorded and played back later for others to hear. One way to ensure you always know who’s on the line is to use an online call manager platform so you can see who’s talking.
5. Speak slowly, and clearly
We all have to occasionally deal with the fast talker. This person will speak a mile per minute and will jump recklessly from topic to topic, leaving those on the other end who might be taking notes or strategizing in real-time at a complete loss. Therefore, it helps to speak slowly, as if you are giving a speech to a large crowd or in a room with an echo. Don’t be afraid to pause occasionally, either.