By Sarah LaFon
Borrowman Baker, LLC, BV Staffing + Consulting
“Hi, who just joined?” . . . “I’m sorry, I was on mute.” . . . “Didn’t catch that. Can you repeat?” . . . (Sound of someone typing, possibly with a hammer.) . . . “Hey guys, I have to jump to another call …”
Sound familiar? Conference calls are a fact of life for most successful BV practices, but it can be a struggle to pull them off smoothly with minimal waste of time. With one of every two meetings being ineffectual or fruitless, it’s important to figure out ways to make those necessary (and sometimes annoying) conference calls more productive. Here’s a few tips to help you navigate the call with maximum benefit:
- Make calls only when you need to. Determine if this particular issue could be handled with a one-on-one call or an email exchange. Group calls can be distracting and take away from the work day; they should only be made when in-depth dialogue is required.
- Invite only the people that are absolutely needed. Don’t include anybody that can’t contribute significantly to the topic at hand. If you don’t need their advice or input, you can keep them informed afterward with an email summary. Most employees are so busy that they will be grateful not to be included on a call which has no meaningful impact on their job.
- Have an agenda and stick to it. Circulate the agenda ahead of time and do your best to keep the meeting focused. The structure will help conference members prepare in advance to contribute effectively to the conversation.
- Keep to a short time frame. Short and sweet is best. If you can keep the call to 30 minutes or less, you have a better chance of getting full participation from each member. Once someone starts to ramble, the audience will get distracted and quickly lose focus.
- Delegate roles and have a clear leader. It should be clear that one person is the “leader” of the call and will attend to the agenda and time frame of the meeting. Ensure that other callers know which topics they are leading and how long they are expected to take charge.
- Summarize the meeting and send out notes/minutes afterward. This can be done by the initiator of the meeting, or another project manager. Summarize the decisions and high points at the end of the phone call, and ensure that someone has taken notes to send to all participants.
With just a little streamlining, you can ensure that your conference calls are producing maximum benefit for your firm.