Have you ever hit mute and made Mystery Science Theater-like comments during a conference call? I have. Have you ever sat through a conference call that droned on-and-on? What about a mandatory weekly call that was a total waste of time? Have you been there done that? If you’re responsible for planning a conference call, don’t be “that” guy. You don’t want colleagues, peers, and worst yet—customers poised with their index finger on the mute button ready to share a snarky retort, do you?

A successful conference call is planned; it’s not, or shouldn’t be a spur of the moment activity. It’s not an afterthought. Planning a successful conference call takes forethought.

Conference Call Outline

  1. Ramp it up
  • Establish agenda points of discussion
  • Send an agenda handout prior to the conference call to all participants
  • Make a list of all attendees to use as roll-call
  • Choose a quiet location free of interruptions
  • Check with your phone service provider and decide whether the call will be dial out or in.
  • Decide if the call will be recorded
  • Provide all participants with phone numbers and codes in case of service interruption
  • Test the call prior to meeting time
  1. Set the Stage
  • Roll call all participants and have each give a short intro
  • Use the roll call list to track participation throughout the call
  • Introduce yourself and explain your role, which is to keep the call on track and facilitate the bullet points listed in number 3
  1. Share Expectations
  • Participation by all should be expected
  • Questions are encouraged
  • Interruptions are to be avoided
  • All participants are to remain on topic
  1. Time is money
  • Begin the call promptly
  • Don’t wait on tardy attendees—why penalize those who were on time?
  • Keep the conversation on topic points
  • Don’t overstay your welcome – Set an end time and hold to it
  1. Write the Ending
  • Near the end of the call ask each by name for questions
  • Set an action – Ask each participant what they gleaned from the call and what action they plan to take. Take note
  • Follow up on the action – Contact each person the following week and check progress on their action plan.

Make your Call Count

Meetings in general and conference calls, in particular, can be a time drain. There have been several studies in the last few years about how wasteful meetings are, for example, this from Hubspot. Surveys such as this infographic from Clarizen.com show the majority of employees think meetings are a waste of time. I agree with both, but with one exception. A well-planned meeting that is timely and nessicary can be productive. Unfortunately, it seems the studies and surveys show us this isn’t the case. If you want your conference call to be the exception, make sure it’s needed, make a plan, and then follow it. Do you conduct or participate in conference calls? What has worked, or not worked for you?

Photo by Martin Cathrae / CC BY-SA