Have you ever felt powerless to keep conference calls free of disruptions?
All meetings have their challenges, and conference calls seem to have double. One meeting crime after another occurs. So how can you keep your calls on the straight and narrow?
The good news is that you probably already have most of the tools you need. Meeting management is people management, whether remote or face-to-face.
What follows is a typical lineup of conference call offenders - and the crimes they commit to rob conference calls of achieving greater productivity. See if any of these are crashing your meetings. The next time they do? Follow the suggestions to fight back and take back control. Yes, you can do this, you can be the conference call crime fighter you were meant to be!
Tardiness might seem like a minor infraction, but it can be a big distraction. Just as with your face-to-face meetings, it’s best to start the meeting promptly on time without backtracking to fill anyone in. This accomplishes two things -- sticking to the scheduled time and discouraging participants from coming late next time. For repeat offenders, consider having a conversation with them directly. If the behavior still persists, consider whether the participant is truly critical to the meeting.
The monopolizer steals everyone’s time. What’s their motive? Are they trying to prove they know something? You might need to gently cut off participants seeking to show off knowledge, especially when they’re doing so in a competitive way.
Perhaps they’re repeating themselves because they haven’t received confirmation their concerns were heard. Try acknowledging their inputs and validating their concerns. Laurie K. Benson notes in The Power of ECommunication that some individuals labeled as “troublemakers” might just really care about the issue at hand. She suggests that meeting separately with these individuals could be your best option in this situation, too:
“This will give them an opportunity to share their concerns and ideas with you, and they will feel that they have been listened to (this is usually what they are craving). They might indeed have some really good ideas or help you enhance your ideas or resolve issues. Additionally, this meeting with them will give you an opportunity to get their buy-in early in the process.”
If you work with the monopolizer you may just find, they become strong supporters instead of competitors.
Some people see a conference call as a great opportunity to sneak away. To deal with people dozing off or otherwise zoned out and not participating, use a technique that will also conveniently improve your call as a whole –asking questions. The Wall Street Journal notes in their post “Surviving a Conference Call” one of the best things a moderator can do is come prepared to ask many questions. When you haven’t heard from someone in a while, check in: “Elizabeth, I think you might have some insight into this…” or “Matt, has your group seen the same trend?” This not only keeps everyone alert, but also helps redirect the monopolizers.
Breaking and entering might be tougher to deal with on conference calls because it’s easier to get drowned out. Remember that interrupters may just be intelligent people way ahead of everyone. Try announcing in advance that it will take you a while to finish what you’re saying. CBS News, in their post “5 Ways to Shut Up a Chronic Interrupte,” quotes that suggestion from workplace consultant Laura Rose: “There are a lot of different pieces to this explanation, so please bear with me. I want to tell you the entire story…” The moderator can also help everyone with comments like “We’re in Deb’s time now, Sandra, but we’ll hear from you next.”
We’re sure you can think of many other conference call crimes. Whatever the case, remember your blue hat! (See our Ultimate Library of Meeting Guides for more on the 6 hats.) You must take and keep control of the meeting while drawing others out and keeping distractions down. This might be tough – policing others isn’t anyone’s favorite job – but remember it has to be done for the greater good of the community.
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