4 Tips for Running More Effective Conference Calls

A new report showed that U.S.- and U.K.-based businesses waste a lot of time and money on conference calls, but one association consultant offers four tips that may mitigate those losses.

Sometimes conference calls feel like a big waste of time.

And now a new report validates those feelings.

According to LoopUp’s Enterprise Conferencing: User Behavior & Impact Report, professionals in the United States and United Kingdom waste an average of 15 minutes per conference call joining the call or dealing with distractions during it. That wasted time translates to $34 billion in losses for U.S. and U.K. businesses.

The report surveyed 1,000 professionals in both countries to understand attitudes toward conferencing and comfort with conferencing technology.

When Rebecca Achurch, CAE, CEO of Achruch Consulting, heard those statistics, her gut reaction was: “I’d be curious to see how those statistics rank up against those in in-person meetings. My guess is that a poorly run meeting is a poorly run meeting is a poorly run meeting, whether in-person or in a conference call.”

Still, she did share a few tips to up the effectiveness of your conference calls.

Stop multitasking. “I genuinely believe that people really need to pay attention in whatever meeting they’re in and give it their full attention,” Achurch said. “Otherwise, they need to check their FOMO at the door.”

Achurch also said that meeting organizers should set the example for attendees. For example, they should turn off their email notifications, put an away message on instant messenger, and so forth. In addition, the organizer should kindly remind meeting participants about the ground rules at the outset, including the request for them to not multitask.

Make the transition to web or video. According to the report, dial-in calls are still the preferred conferencing tool as opposed to web or video conference calls. Achurch thinks that’s because old habits die hard.

But, she argues, web- or video-conferencing technologies can increase effectiveness and engagement among participants because they can share notes or screens and use tools like transcription or recording. Plus, web or video conferencing can make the calls more secure, since organizers can see who is on the call, as opposed to conference calls, where people beep in and beep out anonymously.

Train staff and volunteers. Since new tech can be daunting, Achurch said that it’s imperative for associations to take the time to train staff and volunteers on it. For staff, she recommended incorporating the new tech “when someone joins the organization. Indoctrinate them early, give them opportunities to try it out on other staff members—so you’re giving them a safe place to learn how to do this.”

For volunteers, she suggested tackling the training at an in-person meeting or doing some one-one-one training as necessary. This way, “you’re building trust,” Achurch said. “They’re feeling like they’re in a safe environment. They’re not going to be embarrassed in front of their colleagues for not knowing what to do.”

Be prepared. Conference call organizers should be prepared and set the tone for the rest of the participants. Some ways to do this include dialing in a few minutes early to make sure everything is running appropriately and remaining focused throughout the call. Organizers should also be prepared with a backup plan should something go wrong.

In addition, Achurch recommends organizers take a few minutes to get to know the people on the call to build trust and camaraderie. This also allows organizers to start “understanding differences and nuances in the tone of their voices and setting that baseline, so you can potentially tell when somebody is upset because you’re heard it when they’re not upset,” she said.

(Paul/OJO Images/Getty Images Plus)

Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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