Meetings are an essential forum for exchanging information and making plans. The ability to run an efficient and productive meeting is a marker of good leadership (please see my post Meeting Maestro January 26). From time to time, at least one meeting participant must conference in by telephone, FaceTime, or Skype. In some meetings, none of the participants will be in the same room and they may not be in the same time zone. Last week I chaired a meeting of six and three dialed in. Can we take a minute to make sure we are managing our conference call meetings to bring about optimal results?
The ability to dial in to a meeting is so convenient and absolutely necessary when team members reside in far-flung locales. The primary downsides of distance are the lack of visual cues and diminished subtleties of voices impacted by telecommunications equipment. FaceTime and Skype bring real-time images, but the out-of-sequence movements are less than ideal. There is no remedy for the missing personal vibe. Communications experts recommend that we accept these limitation and maximize the advantages. The secret to running a successful conference call meeting is to KISS Keep It Simple and Serious–all business and limited small talk.
Step 1 is to schedule the call, send the dial in and access codes to participants and attach the meeting agenda. Step 2 is to send a reminder notice 24 hours ahead of the call time and to remind participants to have available the agenda and any additional hand-outs you’ve attached.
Step 3 is to be punctual. The convener should have the call live 5-7 minutes ahead of time and those who dial in should call in by phone or set up their computer 3-5 minutes ahead of the scheduled time.
As callers sign on, signaled by the chime, the convener will greet callers and ask each to identify themselves and thank them for joining the call. As new callers arrive, review who is already on the call. Make introductions of name, title, role and reason for being invited to the call as needed, so that everyone is fully apprised of who has what purpose and who might answer which questions.
As noted above, jokes and banter tend to fall flat in telephone or video meetings. Just matter-of-factly get down to business. Convey information; ask questions; settle on next steps and the timetable. Everyone will appreciate that you’ve done so.
Because verbal skills are all that is available in conference calls (and to a lesser extent, verbal prevails in video calls as well), communications experts stress that the convener must speak clearly, loudly enough to be heard and with authority. Think newscaster. It’s also recommended that those who speak should be able to hold the floor a little longer than perhaps would be done in a face-to-face meeting. Also, wait two seconds after the last person has finished speaking before you start to speak. Simultaneous speaking goes over even less well in a conference call.
Step 4 is that the convener must control the pace of the meeting, whether all or some of the participants have dialed in. Pay attention and focus on what the callers say. Step 5 is to take notes and repeat important points as you go along. At the call’s conclusion, thank participants once again for their participation. Step 6 is to recap key decisions, actions and timetables and adjourn the meeting. Send around the meeting notes within five days
Thanks for reading,