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Tips for Productive Conference Calls

Tips for meeting greeting, late arrivals to a conference call

By Patti Wood MA, CSP

From her book and workshop “Great Meetings in a SNAP - Effective Meetings and Conference Calls.”

Here is a funny video of a conference call. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYu_bGbZiiQ

Ever notice how some people on a conference call don’t seem to respect other participants or honor and enjoy the meeting itself? Do you wish meeting attendees arrived on the call on time and were fully present? I work with small businesses and large corporations to make their meetings effective and enjoyable. Here are a few tips from my workshop.

  1. Make sure the first thing you say, whether it is your name or your greeting, is warm, sincere and gives energy to the group. It’s easy to give a robotic greeting on a call, but research indicates that is likely to create a matching of that boring automatic voice in the members of the call and you will end up in a boring meeting. Give the energy and participation you want to have in the meeting.
  2. Spend a few minutes on “Small Talk” at the beginning of the call. It actually saves you time. Surprising, research says that the rapport gained in less than two minutes of effective small talk lets everyone get an emotional read of the members on the conference call.
  3. Create a policy that you feel comfortable with about people coming onto a call late. Make it clear and stick with it. I recommend taking one moment when someone comes in late on a small group conference call to say to them. “Welcome Jim, we are talking about _________ and we are looking for ideas on ____ ___ I will be asking for your input shortly.” That respects their entry into the group and makes it clear you know they are there (and perhaps that you know they are late) and gets them up to speed and participating quickly.
  4. State the purpose of the call. In one sentence say what you expect from the meeting. “Today we will….” If you wish you can follow that with the three main agenda items and outcomes you expect. People want to know why they are being pulled away from their work to be on a call. Make sure that meeting purpose requires their participation. Not “Today I will give you the updates” but instead, “Today YOU will learn the project x updates and EACH OF YOU will share with the team what has worked well and what needs input and changes from the team.” participation. If you are having a conference call make sure you really need it. If you are just sharing information or reading slides just send it in an email. Meetings should only be set if you need feedback, ideas and questions.
  5. Conduct a “mid-call check in and ask
    1. “What are you thinking about right now related to this?”
    2. “Let’s go around to everyone and check in to find out what else you need to move forward with this.
  6. Conduct an “end of call” check in and ask
    1. “How do you feel about where we are?
    2. “What do you need from the team to go forward?”
    3. “What would be helpful to change or adapt moving forward?”
    4. “Let’s go around and check in.”
    5. “Let’s go around and I want to hear from each person what their next action item is on this.”
    6. “What else do you need from me?”