Conference calls can be a very valuable business tool, because these allow people from different locations to meet without the time and expense of travel. However, conference calls can also be terribly misused, and become a waste of time for participants. If you’re planning or attending a conference call, be mindful of these ways you can ensure you’re handling the calls in a polite manner.
• Distribute an agenda – start and stop on time. Any kind of meeting can be a time waster if it runs too long. Before hosting a conference call, create an agenda, and set a time limit for the conversation surrounding each agenda item. This ensures you get through all the items on the agenda without running overtime. If issues remain unresolved, schedule a separate meeting with the needed parties for another time.
• Arrange call in non-lunch hour times. When people are eating they are more likely be distracted.
• Treat the same as a face-to-face meeting. Participate with the assumption your line is never muted. You wouldn’t answer a call or send a text if you were face-to-face with someone. The same applies on a conference call.
• One person speaks at a time.
• Don’t shuffle papers. This can be very annoying to the other people on the call. If you have notes, make sure you slide them quietly.
• Do not use hold button, especially if you have music playing when people are on hold.
• Speak loudly, clearly and identify yourself when you speak. One pitfall of conference calls is that it can be hard to identify who is speaking. Be sure to let people know who you are before you begin making your point.
• Don’t schedule regular meetings that don’t need to be regular. Nothing brings a yawn to the mouth and a roll to the eyes like a scheduled conference call that is too frequent. “Update” calls that keep people on the phone for hours without disseminating truly useful information are non-productive.
Like any other business tool, conference calls can increase productivity, if used properly. At the same time, these can be the most dreaded part of an employee’s day when the time causes employees to be away from the work that must get done without any resulting benefit. Use conference calls to make your group more efficient, but beware of the time wasting trap.