Imagine your last conference call. Did the conversation ramble from one topic to the next without solving any problems? Did you have the feeling that participants were staring off into space or checking their smart phones instead of offering important insight? If so, your audio conferences are just like everyone else’s—but they don’t have to be. You can improve your conference calls dramatically by implementing these 5 easy techniques.
Step 1: Understand Your Goal
Truly productive meetings start well before the actual call is made. One way to vastly improve the meeting outcome is to get very specific about what you want to accomplish. Consider creating a checklist of the goals and sub-goals for the meeting. Ask yourself what is really needed for each goal to move forward to its next step. Do you need dates, task owners, information, or regular follow-up times scheduled? During the call, you can check these details off as you go. When you reach the end of the conference, you’ll know exactly what you accomplished and whether any items need to be carried over to another meeting.
Step 2: Develop an Agenda that Supports Your Plan
Many conference hosts take a casual attitude toward their agendas, but creating a detailed agenda will help you reach your specific goals. It will help you stay on task, keep the meeting on schedule, and keep participants focused. It serves as the road map for everyone else involved, so it should include as much detail as possible. Plus, if off-topic questions or discussion arise, bringing focus back to the agenda gives you a graceful way to get back on track.
Step 3: Set Time Limits for Each Point
For every stop on your journey, you should know exactly how long you can stay. When planning your schedule, designate specific times for every item, and move forward when that time is up. Those involved in the conferences will eventually learn that they only have so much time to make their points, and they’ll adjust their presentations accordingly.
Step 4: Lead with Purpose
In an audio conference, intentional and purposeful leadership is a must. One person should keep the meeting on schedule, determine when conversation has strayed too far off topic, and lead talk back to the important points. The leader should also ensure the conversational tone stays professional and appropriate, welcome quieter voices to speak up, and try to inspire and encourage participants by reminding them of how the smaller details tie in to the big ideas, like those your company mission statement espouses.
Step 5: Provide a Clear Action and Accountability Plan
The pace and productivity of your meeting will mean nothing if everyone forgets what was discussed as soon as they walk out the door. Asking others for their key take-aways is a great way to remind everyone of the topics discussed and improve engagement. Then, to make sure participants have a clear idea of who is responsible to do what and when, recap any action items and next steps.
Implementing these 5 conferencing tips should help improve the productivity of your audio conferences. Not only that, you’ll likely see an improvement in participants’ attitudes about the calls – after all, everyone wants to feel that their time is being spent on productive and worthwhile efforts. Better attitudes will lead to even greater productivity… and a wonderful cycle is thus created.
What other obstacles do you face when planning audio conferences? We’d love to know your concerns, so leave a comment!