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3 steps to better conference calls

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in Centerpiece,Office Communication,Workplace Communication

conference callIntroverts love conference calls. They can stay silent and digest the proceedings at their own pace while others take center stage.

But for many executives, group calls are sloppy, wasteful and hard to follow. Conversations tend to become fragmented as too many people talk at once and key decisions get postponed. Facilitators may spend more time keeping everyone in order than advancing substantive discussion.

Because off-site participants cannot see the rest of the group, misunderstandings can occur. These participants lack access to important nonverbal cues—winks, smiles, frowns—that help convey someone’s true thoughts and feelings.

Even the most expensive video systems don’t replace face-to-face communication. You can detect subtleties like shrugs and anxious knee-shakes in person that you’d otherwise miss on video.

To maximize conference calls:

  1. Treat the agenda seriously. Begin by reviewing it and highlighting who will cover what topic. It may seem like overkill to talk through a printed agenda that everyone has already received, but it reinforces the sequence of what’s ahead.
  2. Avoid a verbal free-for-all where everyone chimes in at once by alerting the group that you’ll “go around the horn” and give each individual a chance to speak. Allot a set time—perhaps one or two minutes per speaker—and call on each person by name.
  3. Make every minute count when you’re leading the call. Organize your ideas by numbering them. Begin by saying, “I’d like to make five points.” That helps listeners track your comments and take good notes using a numbered list.

— Adapted from “Ding! Annoying Has Joined the Meeting,” Elliot Weissbluth, www.linkedin.com.

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