It’s an all-too-common scene in offices and conference rooms. You’ve been moving mountains for your client, displaying all the estimable skills you and your team were hired for. You’re juggling schedules, projects, timelines, billing hours, personalities, egos and expectations. You have time for nothing, and now you have a conference call with the client. Well, good, at least that’s something you don’t have to prepare too much for or think about, just deliver updates on your progress, see if there are any questions or additions, and keep on moving. That’s efficient and effective, right?
Probably not, for all but the briefest encounters. There’s a whole lot going on in a conference call that doesn’t meet the eye. Over the airways, much can get lost in translation as non-verbal communication cues are absent. No one objected to your idea … did that mean consensus or reticence? Do participants feel engaged and energized or disenfranchised? That’s often difficult to know if those feelings aren’t purposely projected.
Yet, conference calls remain one of the most used and effective means by which we communicate with our clients, partners and teams. And while the dynamics of interaction are different from face-to-face meetings, etiquette and preparation for conference calls are just as important. Much of it is a matter of just being aware of those dynamics and employing good time and people management skills.
Here are some ideas on how you really can run meetings by phone that are efficient and effective.
- Join the call a few minutes before the start of the meeting to focus your thoughts and demonstrate your commitment to the meeting. Follow the axiom, “If you’re on time, you’re late!”
- Make sure everyone knows who’s on the call. If there’s a new member of your team in the meeting or someone the client might not be familiar with, introduce them at the beginning so that no one is surprised when they eventually speak up.
- Have an agenda. Whether it’s a formal copy shared with the client or a quick list for your own eyes, it will help steer the conversation and ensure that everything important is covered.
- Prioritize your agenda. Put the most important items at the top to guarantee you’ll get through them without running out of time.
- Stay on topic, but be flexible. Follow your agenda to make sure you get through all your key points, but don’t be so rigid you miss allowing creative or inspiring ideas to develop from the group.
- Make sure attendees put their calls on mute when not talking. No one enjoys listening to someone else’s crunchy potato chips.
- Ask for questions or comments periodically. That opening can encourage input from individuals or the group and ensure everyone has the opportunity to participate.
Remember, this is your client’s time and money. Use these tips to make each conference call productive and successful.
By Jayne Davis and Sam Burns, SDI
April 17, 2015