Conference Calls — How to Make Them Work

Joel Goldstein - Monday, November 14, 2016
Conference calls are a popular communication tool in the ever-expanding, international business world. Instead of traditional in-person meetings, conference calls allow business to easily and efficiently connect with clients, contractor, employees and others while those parties are in different locations. With these advantages, conference calls present new challenges, such as how to keep the conversation going smoothly; how to keep all parties engaged and involved; and more.

Here are some tips for your next conference call, so you can accomplish as much as you would in an in-person meeting — and perhaps even more!

How many people on the call?

Limit the amount of participants on the conference call to only those who absolutely must be there. The ideal number of parties on a successful conference call is about 4-5 participants. This ensures that everyone has a chance to have their say, without the call being bogged down by too many voices and opinions — which may distract from the conference's agenda.

Who’s the Leader?
Make sure before the conference call to assign a conference host. The host will make sure that the conversation stays on track and that nobody is left out.

Practice Makes Perfect

If you're the host, make sure to practice before the conference and run through the features available for your call. Practicing will allow you to lead the conference confidently while utilizing the advanced technological options.

Record and Review

Record important calls and refer when briefing parties who were not at the conference call. You can also review the recording and take notes on how to improve your next call by learning what made the call flow and what made it halt.

What to do about Background Noise

Every person on the conference call brings with them all the background noise in their environment. Whereas on a one-to-one call, that is fine, when you have several people on the line, the background noise can disrupt the audio quality. When you start the conference call, ask that everyone mute their phones and unmute whenever they would like to comment or question. This ensures that the background noise is reduced to an absolute minimum.

Cell Phone Policy
For participants who aren’t calling from a cell phone, request they turn their cell phones off for the duration of the call. This will ensure that you have maximum attention from participants, like in an in-person meeting, and that there are no loud buzzing ringtones interrupting your conference call.

An Audio-Visual Call

In conversations where participants don't see each other, adding a visual element facilitates improved comprehension. Before a conference call you can share a basic PowerPoint or Keynote presentation which outlines the call's agenda, so that everyone can follow along and remain focused. 

How to Begin

Start your conversation with everyone introducing themselves. On calls with many participants, the participants should preface their comments with their names so that it is easier to keep track.

When Tangents are Mentioned

It's easy to sidetrack and get off target. If an unrelated yet important issue comes up during the conversation, make a note to yourself and get back to it after the call’s  agenda is accomplished and its initial goals are met. 

How to Wrap Up

You’ve just conducted a successful conference call! Don't walk away just yet. Instead, take advantage of the opportunity and wrap up your conference with a summary of the important points discussed during the call. Make sure to mention the conclusions you've reached as well, so that participants leave the call with a clear recap and the knowledge of their next steps. 

As you start implementing these tips, take notice of the dynamics of your conference calls and how you can improve them with your own unique ideas.

Here’s to many successful conference calls!

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