Today, clients and co-workers can be spread throughout different offices across the country or around the world. I have clients who work remotely in other cities as well, which also adds to the challenge of staying connected without seeing each other face-to-face on a regular basis.
How do you keep in contact with teams and clients that spread across multiple regions? Beyond email, text, chat and other tools, the weekly conference call is a great opportunity to get everyone on the phone and discuss priority items, upcoming campaigns, new ideas and more.
But how can you make sure that these conference calls are effective for everyone involved? There can be many outside distractions, which are at an all-time high in today’s age of multitasking. The challenge is keeping people engaged and making your regular conference calls efficient and productive.
Here are six tips for better conference calls.
1. Be consistent
Have your call at the same day and time each week (or every other week, if that is the agreed upon schedule) and stress the importance of the call to your client and team. Make sure that people make that time slot a priority, and that it is on everyone’s calendars. In addition, be consistent with the technology that you use - try to use the same phone bridge/dial-in number for every call and make that number easy to find in your meeting invitation.
2. Send an agenda the day before the call
Create an agenda one day before the call, and send it to all attendees so that they can see what will be covered. This is also a good time to ask people in advance if they can give updates on a particular item so that they have time to prepare.
3. Rehearse with your team prior to the phone call
I ask my teams to do a quick “pre-call” 15 minutes before our regular client calls to quickly go through the key items and discuss who will talk about what topics. This quick walk-through makes the regular call go more smoothly and reduces any surprises that may come up.
4. Be focused and eliminate distractions
Make sure that you outline some ground rules about people being focused and engaged during the call. Tell your co-workers that you are busy with a conference call during the designated time slot and that you cannot reply until the call is over. If needed, turn off your email so that you are not distracted by incoming messages. Also, try to get everyone a “speaking role” on the call so that they can give updates and participate in the discussion.
5. Check the technology ahead of time
Make sure that any screen-sharing, video or other tech tools that you plan to use are working properly before the call starts. Have the IT team ready to help, just in case any issues come up. Take these extra steps to eliminate surprises. It is also good to have a “plan B” as a backup if the technology does not work well.
6. Take notes during the call and send out a post-call update
This is especially important if action items were assigned to various people during the discussion. If taking notes is too distracting for you while trying to run the call, ask if different people on the team can take a turn taking notes and summarizing and sending them out to all attendees.
While regular conference calls may be seen by some as a “low tech” way to collaborate, being able to get everyone on the phone on a regular basis is a great way to share information and keep the extended team connected. With the right amount of preparation, organization, guidelines and consistency, you can have regular calls that help everyone be more informed and productive. And you might be able to share a story or a couple of laughs along the way as well.
How do you make sure that your conference calls run well and stay productive? Let me know your tips and ideas @drewmiale.