Conference calls have many benefits to businesses and business people. They allow real-time communication and brainstorming between members of a team, regardless of where in the world they are. Their use can allow some team-members to work from home without losing the vital collaboration that a successful team requires. However, it is important to be aware of the potential pitfalls and problems that can arise when using conference calls. Proper preparation allows you to prevent many problems and deal with those that do arise in a calm and efficient manner.
When the discussion goes off track
If one or more members of the meeting are discussing something that is not relevant to the purpose of the call it is important to steer the discussion back to pertinent issues. Calmly suggest that this issue be discussed another time and ask another member to contribute their view on one of the relevant topic areas.
Attendance of participants
Often, conference calls are scheduled with people who are in different time zones, countries, or even continents. Ensure that when you schedule the conference call you advise all participants of both the time, date and local time and date of the call. Make sure to double-check with all parties the day before the call so that you are aware of any delays or time conflicts that members may have and can arrange matters accordingly.
Participants who talk over one another
Without body language cues and eye contact, it can be difficult for participants in a conference call to be aware of an appropriate time to make their contributions. Give an outline of the agenda for discussion at the start of the meeting, and if participants begin to interrupt each other, politely address them by name to clear up who will be speaking. For example: “Bob, let’s hear what Jennifer has to say on production, and then we’ll hear your thoughts on marketing.”
Failure to meet objectives and goals
It is important in a conference call, as with all meetings, to have a clear agenda of what is being discussed and what the intended outcomes of the meeting are. Ensure that you distribute the agenda prior to the conference call as well as outlining it as you open the discussion. Make sure to allow time for participants to ask for clarification but do not allow the meeting to diversify away from your stated objectives. If a participant is not making contributions, bring them into the discussion by asking them for their thoughts.
Article By Matt Smith – Freelance business, conference calling and technology blogger.