If you haven’t seen it yet, there’s a great parody video on what a conference call is like in real life. Unfortunately, the video is funny because it’s true. Conference calls can become a black hole of unproductivity, but with mobile workforces, they are a reality for businesses everywhere.
So, how can you get the most from your conference calls without them taking all day? Here are a few tips:
Circulate an Agenda in Advance: Not only will setting an agenda give you a roadmap for keeping the call on topic and productive, but circulating it in advance will give participants time to prepare. State the call’s objective, participants, agenda outline and time allotted. That will minimize the need for introductions and let everyone know what needs to be completed in a specific time frame.
Keep it Manageable: The more participants in a call that feel the need to be heard, the longer and less productive your call will likely be. Ensure that all participants need to be present and be clear that notes will be circulated post-call to recap takeaways for everyone who isn’t mission-critical to be participate.
Have a Designated “Bad Cop”: Have the leader of a call or other head participant be designated to be the person to keep the call on task. Remind everyone of the time limit at the beginning of the call. As time goes on, feel free to use segues like, “We only have about 15 minutes left” to mark the time. Also, if someone gets off topic, offer to address the issue in a separate discussion. Pick someone for this task who can be “bad” in a “good” way- i.e., someone who is affable in their productive dialogue.
Recap: Before ending the call, give a high level recap of things discussed, action items and deliverables and who is responsible for each, all with firm dates. As soon as practicable, follow-up after the call with notes incorporated into the original agenda. Don’t forget to distribute not only to the attendees, but to anyone else needed on the team or project.
Meet in Person: While conference calls can be convenient, you risk productivity if participants are distracted in their offices or on the road. For important meetings, schedule a time to meet in person, perhaps in a location central to all participants. Regus’s meeting rooms are a perfect option for a meeting like this, as they can be rented by the hour.
Leverage Technology: If one or more participants aren’t able to meet in person, think about using technology like video conferencing (video conference suites are also available through Regus). Having a video connection minimizes participants’ ability to slack off and lose focus during the call.
These tips should help you to make your conference calls shorter as well as more productive, giving you and your employees more valuable time for work or play.