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November 19, 2008

How to Encourage Discussion on Your Conference Call

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!


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