So, how do you improve conference calls?

Many people have passed around this hilarious video from a company talent show of an all-too-real spoof of a conference call, including the "bloop bloops" of people arriving (late), a dog barking in the background, and someone typing too aggressively. (I saw it on Twitter, and via Jim McGee who saw it from Jessica Lipnack.)

Everyone laughs at this because it seems all to real.  But how do you make these things better? 

Conference calls are harder to manage than in-person meetings because you miss all the body language cues people use.  But the rules for a meeting have to be the same.  First off: do you need to have a meeting?  Really?  One of the biggest reasons this video is so funny is all the people coming in late - most likely because they've just been at other meetings or on other teleconferences.  Stop the madness. 

If the meeting is needed, then you must prepare and the people coming must be prepared.  Provide everyone with an agenda in advance.  The ideal agenda has people assigned to each topic and guesstimates on the duration of the topic.  If there is anything you expect people to read before the meeting, provide links to that material several days in advance.  And tell people what to do with it (read it, critique it, be prepared to discuss, etc.).

Set the rules for the meeting - this is best done as a business.  Decide how you want to run meetings of all types, including conference calls.  Then run them consistently - and look for ways to improve.  For example, a source of great humor in this video is the constant interruptions of the late-comers or people who get dropped from the call or background noise.  My short response to this is simple: Don't let them interrupt the meeting.  It's the job of professionals you've invited to attend or let the organizer they cannot.

Run the meeting professionally.  Make sure people can hear when you speak.  Be careful about tangents - one of my pet annoyances. 

And the best suggestion of all: end the meeting early.

There are plenty more suggestions on how to run effective meetings - search on that term and pick your favorite suggestions.

3 Comment(s)

Jack Vinson Author Profile Page said:

Luis Suarez wrote about this (without providing the suggestions) two days before I did. I'm not sure how I missed it. http://www.elsua.net/2010/08/24/the-conference-call-fun-at-work-or-fun-in-work/

Bruce McGraw wrote a nice set of tips for conference calls in response to the video: http://fearnoproject.com/2010/08/27/conference-calls-%E2%80%93-i-think-i-heard-this-one-before/

Donna said:

I couldn't agree more on ending a meeting early.
After all,meetings should be done for important reasons and planned accordingly.

Very interesting and informative read. Thanks for posting!

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