How to Run a Phone Conference

phone_conference_1With the new innovations more people are working from home, or working from the road.  All of this work is done through the internet and through the phone.  And a lot of times people don’t know how to run a phone conference.  Trust me; I’ve set in on a lot of those meetings.  So, I decided to write some steps that will help with organizing a phone conference in a more structured way.

Send out the agenda before the meeting

The key to an effective meeting is an agenda – this applies to any kind of meeting, not just a conference call. Make sure you send out the details of the call in number in advance, and make sure it stands out, so the participants will not miss it.  If you using Outlook send out meeting using the tools that are built in, it will help you track and be aware of who is attending your meeting, and it will do all the work for the participants for them by filling in their calendar slot with your meeting.

If the conference call is a regular status update, ensure you also send out the meeting notes from the previous call.  In that case the first item on the agenda should be checking in with people up for the actions they’ve agreed to be responsible for in the previous meeting.

Introductions and details

At the beginning of the call introduce any newcomers to the rest of the group and invite them to spend a couple of minutes describing themselves and their role on the call.

Next, ensure everyone has a copy of the agenda. I suggest recording the conversation, so later one you can hire a Transcription Services Company to transcribe the entire conversation. This serves two benefits: firstly, everyone will be more careful and accountable for what they say, and secondly, a single set of meeting notes will be distributed after the transcription of the meeting is complete.

Finally, lay out the rules for interaction on the call. Because it’s audio-only, the usual cues we use to indicate that we wish to take a turn at speaking are not present.  Since you recording the call ask people to say they name before they speak so it is easier for the transcriptionist, and your notes are clearer. Clearly it’s unrealistic to expect people to stick to the interaction rules for the duration of the call, but laying them out at the outset will help ensure things run quickly and smoothly.

Keep it short

Studies have shown that people start to suffer a number of unpleasant side-effects after holding a telephone receiver to their ear for longer than about an hour. In any event, forty minutes is about the limit of most people’s concentration span.

If you find the call is starting to drag on beyond an hour, it’s a good idea to wrap things up and continue at another time. If you find this is a regular occurrence, it may be an indicator that you need to revisit the agenda, or possibly split the group up into separate, more focused groups. A particular time-waster is having engineers and business people on the same conference call. A better way to handle this is to have three shorter meetings – one with just the engineers, one with the business people, and one with single representatives from each group to present the results and take any feedback to the next department meeting. Remember practice makes perfect, so get on the phone and schedule some meetings.

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