Want to Make Conference Calls Less Annoying? Here are 3 Ways
How was your last conference call experience? You probably sat there, on mute, working on that deadline required the next day and hoping that your name is not called out, angry that the call is distracting you from your daily schedule. Audio quality is patchy; the voices are unclear and distant. Are you really increasing productivity?
In a world where you have to work with virtual employees and remote workers from your Singapore office, conference calling is a necessary evil for communicating. However what can you do, as the leader, to create and nurture a better call conference call environment?
Make and Manage Expectations
Do not assume that the conversation between you and your colleagues will flow naturally. Go a step further and do not assume that participants know the agenda or even expect a traditional back and forth, give and take conversation. A successful conference call should be done in a structured environment to increase productivity. When you accept the possible limitation of the communication medium and reset your expectations, you are guaranteed an effective call.
Have a Clear Agenda
Set an agenda and reiterate it at the very beginning of the call. Although it may sound like you are micro-managing the participants, the alternative is likely to result in a huge waste of time due to awkward silences and unprepared participants. On the other hand, the call is not an open call for everyone to bring in his or her issues with every body else assembled. Having a set agenda helps focus your conversation, getting to that meaningful session between anything goes and deep concentration where creativity is nurtured and problem solving occurs.
However, how do you decide if a particular topic is worthy of becoming your call’s agenda? You need to decide if the call is for broadcasting a message or if you expect some dialogue or conversation. If you are looking for to the former, then just explain what you want to discuss. If the latter, consider having everyone prepare by offering them expectations from the engagement and then ensure that people that need to talk get the time to talk. Additionally, have a moderated process that ensures some sort of a conversation.
Communicate your agenda before the conference call. The earlier the better. Springing ideas on your participants may be counter-productive. Sometimes, put out your agenda for a call weeks or months ahead, by the time the time for the call comes around, you will have a 10-minute chat. The purpose of the call becomes obvious when people learn earlier of its agenda and may even help reduce your conference calling time. In other words, you conference call becomes a deadline everyone wants to meet and report on the progress so far.
Involve All Participants
Partway through a conversation, invite one person, by name, to offer an opinion on the topic of discussion so far. This is also known as going around the horn. This is not intended to put individuals on the spot. You have the option of providing ample warning that everyone will eventually be called upon to participate in the meeting.
Going around the horn is one of the best techniques to have everyone play an active role in contributing ideas to the meeting. You can also end the call the same way by asking everyone on the call for a last minute missed point that should be covered before closure of the meeting.
Remember, if someone does not have a reason to participate or they are participating just because their name was on the list, it is disrespectful. If you are not going to engage the individual, why have you added them to the list? To avoid such a situation, ensure that participants have the option of dropping out of the meeting. If you really want to add value to your conference calling conversations, have a one-on-one chat with participants to know their view point that you would like to share with the rest of the group. This means calling out each participant and asking him or her to explain their thinking to the other participants.
All jokes aside about corporate tedium aside, Blue Jeans conference calls are an effective means of communication that allows you collaborate with people beyond Singapore. The main benefit of conference calling is that it will save you the costs associated with transporting your employees from one branch of your business to where you are. This also means no meal expenses or hotel costs. Conference calling is a great asset when you require critical decisions made fast or even when you have an immediate matter that requires attention.
As you choose your conference call service provider, consider how often you foresee yourself making a conference call. Some firms provide pay-as-you rates that you only pay for usage rather than a fixed amount for calls. This is particularly advantageous for small businesses that only require the seasonal call from Singapore.