Every year companies lose money in staff time and resources by hosting poorly planned and organized conference calls. Starting late, tangents, and lack of follow-up all distract from successful meetings.
Byron Van Arsdale led a great webinar for Enfocus Solutions. In “No More Lame Conference Calls,” Van Arsdale revealed several tips to taking control of conference calls and virtual meetings, keeping everyone engaged, and ending on time.
The speaker quickly outlined the problem. In 2010, there were over 6.2 million conference calls held each week. TeleSpan Publishing Corp reported that in the same year consumers spent 9.3 billion minutes on free conference calls and 45.3 billion minutes on paid conference calls. Van Arsdale said the business cost in terms of lost productivity, wasted time, and lost sales opportunities when conference calls are inefficient or unproductive is astronomical.
Van Arsdale explained that companies and organizations continue to waste precious resources on “lame” conference calls for one reason: Everyone thinks they lead great conference calls and are not inclined to take responsibility for any calls that do not go well.
To address the challenges in leading conference calls, Van Arsdale offers several points:
Remember you are a unique leader. Most people learn to lead conference calls based on what they learned from other professionals. Yet often their attempts to be like their role models go to far, and they end up not being themselves as they lead calls. Van Arsdale asserts you should develop your own style, based on your own strengths and qualities, so that you appear real and authentic.
Make an agenda and distribute it well in advance of the conference call. Van Arsdale advises to develop and distribute an agenda at least two days before the call. The agenda should outline the specific topics to be discussed, who the presenters will be, and how much time is allocated for each topic. This sets expectations for participants and provides presenters a chance to prepare.
Once in the meeting, the agenda helps you keep the call on schedule, giving you opportunities to discuss topics or table them for later. After the meeting, reviewing the agenda helps you measure how well you stayed on schedule, and how you can make improvements in your agenda timing and content before your next conference call.
Start and stop on time. How your conference call starts sets the tone for the rest of the call. Van Arsdale said that when the leader says phrases like “We are waiting for others to join the call” and “We’ll begin in just a few minutes” it stops the momentum of the call before it even starts. When the call doesn’t start on time because the leader is waiting for participants to arrive, two things happen: The people on the call immediately turn their attention to other tasks, and they infer that there are no consequences for arriving late to the meeting. They’ve learned that everyone will wait for them.
You can avoid sending this message by letting participants know before the call that you will start exactly on time. Then, follow through by starting on time, as promised.
Document and follow up. Make sure you (or someone) take notes throughout the meeting and captures discussions, decisions, and action items. Van Arsdale said that this is a huge problem for many companies because they rely on individual short-term memories and end up wasting time recalling or re-discussing topics. Recap your meetings and distribute follow-up notes to participants. If you’re holding ongoing calls, this same content can be used as a basis for your next meeting’s agenda.
“No More Lame Conference Calls” is one of many webinars presented through Enfocus Solutions, architect of the requirements management and business analysis solution Enfocus Requirements Suite™. Topics covered include new trends and best practices in effective business analysis and performance. New webinars are added every month.