Call me… Maybe? Surviving Your Next Conference Call

We’ve all been there:

It’s 1.30pm on the dot and there is only one person on the call…me.  With painful elevator music filtering through my receiver, three minutes (which seem like hours) tick by and I start to wonder if I dialed the wrong conference code... or worse, got the wrong time zone and missed the call altogether.  As I frantically check the dial-in details, followed by scrambling to today’s date on my calendar, there is the comforting sound of a “DING”, and the next caller arrives. Not wanting to start discussing the all-important meeting details until everyone has joined the call - I mull over the weather not realizing that while I’m in a minus 10 vortex, my conference pal is soaking up the sun on the west coast. Awkwardness (and envy) prevails.

The following minutes are a flurry of “dings”, interrupted ‘hellos’ and eager beavers trying to discuss the agenda before the host has even arrived. And just a moment later, we officially begin.

It sure is a sign that technology is on our side when we're able to connect six people from coast to coast -including one fellow via Skype in South Africa for a simple conversation. The thing is, while we are in awe of these modern advances there’s a reason human contact is still so important; from dropped calls to long pauses, uncertainty as to who is speaking and never really knowing who is still on the call, the conference call still has a little ways to go to be blunder free.

We recently stumbled across this amazing viral video of a conference call acted out in real life- which made us realize just how peculiar the whole process really is -  and yet, we have become so immune to it that we carry on with these meetings as though they are normal behavior:

Team SEQ has researched the top 5 tips on how to make hosting and participating in a conference call a pleasant, constructive and altogether enjoyable experience for everyone involved.  Follow our tips below to ensure a new dawn of conference calling delight:

1. Prepare: Familiarize yourself with the conference dial in details and be ready to dial in at least one minute before the call. The saying “Better late than never” has never been more false. Firstly, arriving early gives you a little extra time to sift through the agenda, and yes, you may have to start the small talk but think of it as a way to learn more about your colleague or vendor and build relationships. Not to mention, being late is fast becoming a problem that is seen as disrespectful. Don’t be THAT person.

2. Create an agenda and stick to it: Agendas are quite possibly the best tools since the corkscrew. Create a well-structured agenda and circulate it before the call. This gives participants the opportunity to have information readily available for the call, therefore, valuing everyone’s time and getting the job done! Bingo.

As the meeting flourishes, it’s inevitable that the discussion may get side-tracked or you may hop around the agenda but where possible stay focused on the points in hand. If the digression is relevant, the points should be on the agenda somewhere and if not, you can always return to these if you get time at the end of the call.

3. Communicate Confidently: When it’s your turn to speak, announce your name, be confident and get your point across. There’s usually a little, if not a lot, of unintentional interruption so when it’s your turn to talk be assertive. You are on the call for a reason and you should be heard! (But also allow time for others to respond and speak too!)

4. Pay Attention: Switch off social media, close your email, put the dog out, finish your lunch and most of all: be present! Commit for the entirety of the call and listen to conversations that might not involve you because you can still offer advice, ideas and ask lots of questions. Take notes too…you’ll retain the information that much better.

5. End the call on time: For anything that is still left uncovered, be sure to follow up via email or scheduled for a future call. End the call with next steps, thorough meeting notes and a date and time for the next well-structured, productive and perfectly delivered conference call!

…Now get dialing!