Conference calling has become a popular, eco-friendly, cost effective alternative for bringing people together. Now business people all over the world can connect with remote partners, employees, clients, and industry alliances without ever leaving the office. Travel costs are reduced to zero. With little or no cost, using web conferencing for remote meetings, team meetings, presentations, and training classes benefits the traveler away on business trips and those who work from home. The world is a smaller place then it use to be.
I've travelled two hours for a 30 minute face-to-face meeting and two hours back and had a whole bunch of catching up to do upon my return. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what a time waster that was. With conference calling you've still accomplished your meeting goals and eliminated all travel time and expense.
Previously we've touched on mobile mistakes to avoid in a professional environment. In order to achieve a focused conference call, here are five things to avoid.
Presenter losing control of the call
Conference calls are very productive when they're planned and prepared. Make sure you have a list of all the participants in the meeting so you can address them by name. Begin a casual conversation and warm things up while waiting for others to join in. Welcome everyone. Always introduce yourself before you begin to speak and review the agenda. Any other speakers and presenters on the call should do the same when their allotted time comes.
Don't allow someone on your conference call to throw you off track or speak more often than you do. One of my pet peeves on a conference call is that there always seems to be one person who begins to take over the call or throws the meeting off track. They ask a boat load of questions, speak too often, and know everything. It drives me crazy. I much prefer to hear from the presenter(s) more often than any participant.
Speaking too loud, too often, or not enough
Let people finish what they were saying. Don't talk over someone who is in the middle of speaking. Interruptions like this cause confusion over whose turn it is to speak. Try out your speaking tone, pitch, and volume. The use of speakerphones for conference calling can pick up background noises and sometimes cut off parts of your conversation.
Nothing is more annoying than trying to listen to someone when you can only hear every third word they say or the dreaded echo. If you have background noises move somewhere quieter. If you have a bad connection, hang up and call back.
That's pretty basic. Start on time. Encourage punctuality. People coming in late can be distracting and disrupt the flow of the meeting. Have everyone call five minutes before the start time. When the participants are following along with an agenda and know the topics ahead of time, they can plan accordingly. We want to encourage people to participate but also respect the time of others.
No set agenda
When conducting a successful conference call, it's important to have a planned agenda and the undivided attention of every participant. When I attend a meeting I want to know exactly what the topics are going to be and the best time for that is right at the beginning of your meeting with a review of the agenda. When I'm listening to a speaker I feel more connected when I know what the general and specific purpose of the meeting is. It helps me lean into their topics and feel more engaged -- most people do.
State the reason for the call and what the objectives are. If you can send out the agenda along with the invitation to the meeting it helps people prepare for it. Summarize the main points of the meeting at the end of your call and go over any outcomes and actions that are expected. Thank everyone for their participation and state that the meeting is formally over.
Unfamiliar with technology or equipment
The best way to fully prepare is to practice a dry run first. If you're the presenter and you have a web presentation, set that up in advance. It's ok if you're not pro at this. You will be after a few calls. Give yourself plenty of time prior to the meeting to get comfortable.
If you've agreed to participate on the call, it's your responsibility to test out the equipment and get yourself set up. Don't wait for someone to come and save you. They're not coming. Do it yourself. If you need help, ask for it. Know your technology and equipment before the meeting begins. This is best accomplished by doing a bit of research and some training exercises.
Companies like InterCall offer free training classes for their web conferencing services, which can be a huge help to professionals not necessarily keen on the latest technological trends. Other options include online web tutorials and webinars that can sharpen your video conferencing chops.
Overall, meetings and conferences have become less time consuming, less rigid, and more cost effective. Being well prepared with a planned agenda and purpose for the meeting will ensure that you stay focused and meet your objectives. Thanks to the innovative method of audio conferencing we can now have professional meetings conducted anywhere at any time.
Carrie Wynne is a writer and a professional sales consultant.
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