Five Ways to Be a Better Conference Call Participant

March 09, 2009

March-3-conference-call-par If you are frequently on conference calls, it’s important to know a little conference call etiquette. And, if you’re the one hosting the meetings, forward this information on to your participants or make it a part of your meeting invitation. These tips will make for a smoother meeting and give participants the common courtesey they'd receive during an in person meeting.


  1. Be on time - Holding up any meeting is inconsiderate. If you’ve been asked to participate in a conference your opinion is important. So make sure you arrive on time.


  2. Identify yourself - State your name each time you begin speaking. Not all callers will be able to identify you by the sound of your voice.  Quickly saying your name can eliminate a lot of confusion.


  3. Nix the speaker - When it’s your turn to speak on a conference call, make sure you pick up the handset or use a headset. Speaker phones can be responsible for feedback and static. Background noise disrupts the meeting for everyone and may prevent other participants from hearing the information they need. It also makes it hard for you to hear with other people are speaking and you end up talking over them.


  4. Make friends with the mute button - When you are not speaking, use the mute button on your phone. If you don’t have a mute button, your conference call provider may have a touch tone command that you can use to mute your line.


  5. Stay away from the hold button – If you leave the conference call to answer another line, you may end up playing hold music or messages into the conference, preventing the meeting from continuing until you return. It’s best to devote your full attention to the call at hand. If you need to handle an emergency, disconnect from the audio conference.

These tips are basic conference call etiquette that everyone should know. So, feel free to pass on this information or add a few tips of your own in the comments below.

Seven Ways to Improve Your Conference Call Presentations

February 13, 2009

Feb-13-improve-presentationMany of us are great speakers and motivators in person because we can make eye contact with our audience and see the effect we are having in their reactions. It can be much more difficult to feel confident about presentations made by teleconference because you cannot sense the reactions of your audience as easily. Here are a few tips to help you put together a successful conference call.

1. Be Prepared

Have a clear idea of how you want your conference call to proceed and take time to complete a written agenda. There's no substitute for good preparation!

2. Start strong

Begin your conference call with an enthusiastic greeting. The impression you make in the first five seconds of a conference determines how receptive and attentive your audience will be.

3. Stay focused

Keep on track with your agenda. Try to format your discussion topics into clear, concise points which are easy to follow. It's a good idea to write the topics you want to highlight in large letters on a piece of paper and place it where you can see it during the entire call.

4. Watch the clock

Keep an eye on the length of your conference call and be considerate of others' time. If you scheduled the meeting for an hour, your presentation should run a maximum of 45 minutes leaving time for questions at the end of your conference.

5. Ask for input

Periodically ask participants for their opinion on the subject at hand. Choose someone by name instead of asking for "comments from the gallery". This helps you gauge how well your message is getting across, and other participants will pay more attention if they know they might be called on for input!

6. Wrap it up

Be clear when your presentation is ending. Recap the highlights of the meeting and clearly restate any goals or expectations you have for your audience. Make sure you formally end the meeting.

7. Ask for help

Remember that your conference call provider is your partner; your success is their success. Consider having an operator monitor your call for unwanted background noise and to ensure that a presentation can proceed without interruptions. You should also investigate the various features that will help you make the most of your meeting. For instance, you can have your meeting recorded, interpreted or transcribed so you can reach a wider audience.

Next time, we’ll talk about some tips for conference call participants. It will be great information to include in your meeting invitation so that your attendees know what to expect. 

 

How to Encourage Discussion on Your Conference Call

November 19, 2008

Nov18encouragediscussion_3We have all been on a conference call where the leader asks “Are there any questions?”  The sounds of lonely tumble weeds rolling across the prairie are all you can hear after that.  Eventually, the leader will acquiesce and assume there is no feedback, then end the call.  This is not ideal.  The point of a conference call is collaboration and team work.  So, we’ve developed a few pointers on how you can get the conversation started on your next conference call!

Prepare before the meeting

  • In your meeting invitation, give people a heads up about the conversation.  If you let people know what to expect, they can be more prepared.
  • Be specific.  If you are asking for ideas on a new product launch, have each person bring 3 ideas on how to promote the product launch with existing customers.
  • Give a little bit of background.  If you are meeting to discuss possible changes to an existing process, outline the existing process.  This will answer a lot of questions and give people time to get questions answered before the call if they have them.

During the meeting

  • Give a brief introduction to the conference call.  This is the time to layout goals for the meeting. What do you want to get accomplished? Letting people know what you expect will help them stay on task.
  • If you have people on the call who have never worked for each other, introduce them.  If you were in a face to face meeting, you would do the same.  Either tell a bit about each person or have them give a brief description about what they do.  This will get people accustomed to speaking on the calls.
  • When it’s time to get the feedback, call on specific people.  Yes, this is a bit like grade school. But after a few meetings people will know that everyone gets a chance to speak and they will be prepared to comment.

After the meeting

  • Send out a quick email after your conference call thanking everyone for their input.  This will make them feel appreciated and encourage discussion in the future.
  • In your email, include a quick summary of what was said on the conference call. You can also record your meeting or use a tool like Meeting Sense to keep up with all of the interaction!
  • Most importantly, make sure everyone leaves the audio conference with a list of action items.  You want your calls to be more than just talk.  Your collaboration on conference calls should lead to action in the business plan!

Your conference calls should always be productive and allow for discussion.  These are just a few ways that we have found you can get your audience to open up.  If you have other ideas or would like to discuss these suggestions, please comment below!

How do I improve sales? Communicate with your clients!

October 30, 2008

Oct30communicateforbett_2 Any communication expert worth their salt will tell you the secret of sales success is to know your audience.  You should know what they like, what they don’t like, their struggles, their passions and their success stories. But, how’s an SMB to get and keep up with all of this information?  Well, you can’t do it alone and today, you don’t have to!  Today’s technology makes it easy for you to stay in touch with your customers.

New technology, like Intellicast, offers an automated solution for small and medium business owners.    With this business service, you can send automated messages to your clients via phone and they can respond through an automated system or choose to speak to a live person.  So, how can an SMB company like you use this product?  Here are a few ideas:

  • Inform customer that their order is ready for pick up
  • Notify customers that their order has shipped
  • Remind a patient of an upcoming appointment
  • Welcome new customers with a quick, personal message
  • Conduct customer surveys to gather valuable information

The bullet points above are all different reason for contacting your customers.  By finding pertinent reasons to communicate with your customers, you become “sticky”.  The more pertinent customer touch points you can find, the more likely you are to increase retention of a customer.  As you all know, the longer a customer sticks around the more money they will spend, if they are happy.  Ultimately, by communicating with your customers, in an easy to use fashion, you are securing your bottom line.  How does this work?  How can simply talking to customers make you money?  Here are a few desired results from using technology to create customer touch points in order to increase retention and sales:

  • Tell the customer what you know and you become the subject matter expert!  This makes your company trustworthy.
  • Asking for your customers’ opinion makes them feel important and involved in the sales cycle which will generally shorten the cycle and bring in revenue faster!
  • Welcoming new customers makes them feel special!  It sounds emotional, and it is.  The goal of any marketing or advertising is to make the reader/viewer feel an emotion and act on it. Making customers feel special will help you sell more.
  • Keeping customers informed makes them feel like you are a partner and not just someone taking their money!

If you are currently using a communication vehicle with your customers and would like to share your success, comment below. Or, if you have questions on how you can go about communicating with your clients more often please let us know!

Conference Calls – Why Bother?

October 07, 2008

Oct7confcallswhybother_2You are on conference calls almost every day.  Giving status updates, meeting with potential clients and collaborating with team members can now be done over the phone or web.  But you notice that some times your team isn’t really listening and your potential client requests an in-person meeting after the teleconference.  So, why bother with conference calls at all?

There are tons of advantages to using conference calls and you can use teleconferencing to effectively keep in touch regardless of your industry.  But first, let’s go over a few advantages of conference calls.

Time saver
Instead of having your team drive to one central office, they can simply jump on the phone.  Asking questions and calling on specific people will keep everyone much more focused.

Money saver
Almost all of us are on a tighter budget these days and conference calls help you save money that you would normally spend traveling.

Technology guru
In today’s world of mobile internet and email that talks to you, there are tons of tools to help you communicate.  Using updated conference call technology shows that you are “with the times” and knowledgeable about the tools at your disposal.

Team building
When you have an interactive conference call instead of a one-way communication that dictates company strategy, employees feel more like a team.  People love for their ideas to be heard.  By encouraging brainstorming and open communication you are fostering an environment where your team can flourish.

So, now that you know how conference calls can benefit you, let’s go over some actual applications.  If you are just beginning a leadership role it is important to understand the “how-to” of conference calls.  Here are a few examples.

Sales

  • Product training
    Have an expert from your operations team on a conference call to explain a product or service that your team is selling.  A refresher is always a good way to keep a profitable product “top of mind” for your sales people.  It’s a good idea to have a few questions about the product ready to ask.
  • Motivation Meetings
    Is it near the end of the quarter? Do your numbers need a little push?  A daily motivational meeting is a great way to pump up your sales people, especially if you are managing remote teams.  Read a quick quote or recognize last week’s top performers.
  • Strategy Swaps
    All sales people handle their territories a little differently.  So, have 4 or 5 members of your team come to the conference call prepared to share their #1 tip for getting new business.  Your newer reps will benefit from the veterans’ experience and your veterans might learn a thing or two.

Operations Meetings

  • Project Updates
    Set up periodic conference calls so that your project team can discuss potential obstacles and available resources affecting their time line.  A project manager is a great person to lead this type of call and will benefit greatly from the entire team hearing how the other members are progressing.
  • Safety Guidelines
    New safety rules should always be communicated to employees clearly.  Before new guidelines are implemented, have your operations managers on a conference call.  Make sure they understand the changes so they can clearly communicate them to employees.  This is also a great time to decide how the new rules will be communicated to the rest of the company.
  • Disaster Recovery
    All teams should be prepared for the worst.  In preparation for a disaster, have conference call phone numbers and codes ready at a moment’s notice.  Give this information to designated disaster recovery personnel and do a quarterly drill to make sure everyone clearly understands their role.

These are just a few ideas of how conference calls can be used.  If you are using your conference call in a unique way, share it with us in the comments section.  Or, if you are in another industry and need some ideas on how conference calls can benefit you, leave a question in the comments and we’ll get back to you right away!

Do you love being the boss?

September 23, 2008

Sept23likebeingtheboss_2 Being the boss is not always what it’s cracked up to be.  You have all of the responsibility, accountability and some times risk on your shoulders. Additionally, you have people, projects and profits depending on you.  No pressure, huh?  But there are ways that you can ease this burden and at the same time become a boss everyone loves. 

Delegation is a good thing.  If you have a very entrepreneurial spirit, this may be hard for you to believe.  But when you delegate to those people upon who your success depends, it makes them better team members, and shows you trust them and value their opinion.  But here on the ConferenceCall.com blog, we like to put things into practical terms. So, let’s take a look at HOW you might start to delegate things in order to be more successful as a boss and a company.

A sales department always makes for a nice take away example since all companies have to sell something – either a product or service.  Let’s say you have 4 regional managers.  These managers are responsible for producing $300k in revenue every quarter. At their disposal, these managers each have 3 sales people. So, do you hand hold each new sales rep and explain how you did things “back when you were on the phones”?  No.  Here is a likely schedule that may work.

Owner meets with regional sales managers on a monthly basis.  Don’t take these managers out of the field in order to meet. Have them do a web conference with you so you can see their “poker” faces.  Clearly set out expectations and deadlines.  Empower them with bringing back a certain amount of closed revenue by the next monthly meeting, and then make yourself available for then to reach out to you as they work independently to achieve those goals. Sales people love contests…see who can bring back the most!  You’ll be able to see by the looks on their faces (via webcam) which managers are most excited.

Regional sales managers meet with local reps on a weekly basis.  If you’re motivation was contagious, the managers will pass it on to their reps.  The first meeting of the month should be done via web conference or a live meeting – to really get sales reps pumped up.  After that, the meeting should be done via conference call. You don’t want to pull your great sales reps out of the field too often.

Regional teams (sales managers and sales reps) all conduct one meeting a month together via video conferencing.  This will give the sales managers a real hands-on experience and allow the sales reps a chance to shine. 

By using communication tools at your disposal and instilling a sense of responsibility in your team, you can see great success.  If you’ve experienced success by using these (or other) delegation methods, please share them below.  Or, if you have questions for other SMB owners let’s hear them!

Take a break, Road Warrior!

September 10, 2008

Sept10roadwarriorWhen you travel, do you battle fatigue, jet lag and insomnia?  Are you back in the office and struggling to be productive, meet your milestones and keep your budget in line?  No wonder they call you a road “warrior”! 

Running a successful small or medium size company means that you wear a lot of hats. Some times, that means you are the sales force pushing the adoption of your product or service.  Unfortunately, this means that you may have to travel more than you care to.  But, meeting with people in different regions of the country or world does not mean you have to sacrifice your work/life balance.  By choosing to do conference calls or web conferencing you are choosing a more flexible and cost-effective way to do business.  Conferencing will never completely replace the face-to-face meeting or hand shake but it can make your life a little easier.

Here are a few ideas of when you can use web conferencing instead of traveling:

Sales presentations – instead of going out to a prospective client’s site, do a presentation via web conferencing.  This will help you better qualify the prospect and still allow you to share a website or demonstrate software.

Interviews – most web conferencing options today have a capability to incorporate video via web cam.  Don’t spend the money to fly in a job candidate when you could easily meet them via a web cam and conduct the interview.

Telecommute – many companies are now allowing members of their team to work from home at least part time. With web conferencing, you can still have team meetings and collaboration sessions, keeping the personal communication lines open.

Lead Generation – free webinars are a great way to generate qualified leads if you are a service oriented company.  Leading a web conference or web cast will position you and your company as an industry leader and give you a pool of possible leads.

Focus Groups – conduct a virtual focus group to gauge the satisfaction level of your customers or to test a new product, service or piece of creative material. By hosting a virtual group instead of a live one, you can easily make the group national or global in its range.  Additionally, the money you save in travel costs can be used for great incentives to those giving their time to help your marketing efforts.

Then, of course, there is the great advantage of not traveling.  When you replace travel with web conferencing, you save time, money and hassle. Here’s a short list of things you won’t miss when doing web conferencing instead of travel:

  1. Delayed or cancelled flights
  2. Time zone changes
  3. Going through airport security
  4. Over crowded airplanes
  5. $15 peanuts from the hotel mini bar
  6. Living out of a suit case

If you’re a road warrior, tell us about some of the challenges you face when traveling. Or, if you have questions on how to conduct online meetings versus live meetings, please ask! We’re here to help.