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!

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!