Conference calls can be tough to manage, much like herding cats.

Time is money.  We all know this. And yet, what happens when we enter the virtual world of meetings? Chaos!

How many times have you been playing Bejeweled while on a conference call? Or even more frustrating, you are running the call, you take 5 minutes to explain the situation only to have a colleague say “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t catch that. What was the question?”

Why is it that we have such a difficult time showing common respect in a virtual environment?

The lack of visual cues creates a more challenging environment to manage. So, how do I, as a leader who has scheduled a conference call, manage the call to ensure a quality outcome that respects all participants and continues to move toward achieving company objectives?  By following a few simple tips, you can change your frustrating calls into highly productive meetings.

Preparation is a must do for any effective meeting, especially conference calls.  Always have a clear objective and a written
agenda for the meeting that is shared with all attendees a minimum of 1 hour before the meeting (preferably 24 hours).

2. MANAGE the call
Say what you will do in the meeting and then do what you say.  If it is a 15 minute call, end the call at the 15 minute mark. If you have 3 agenda items, cover those items only and put any tangent topic in a parking lot to be scheduled for another time to discuss.

3. ESTABLISH a 5 minute rule
This is an easy yet effective rule to establish.  Make it clear to anyone invited to your conference calls: “if you are more than 5 minutes late to the call, please don’t join”.  Research shows that within one week of establishing this rule, you can reduce your call length by 33%.

4. ENDING the call
At the close of every meeting, verbally summarize the outcome and the next steps with owners and the associated deadlines.  Be sure to follow it up with a written summary within an hour of the call.

Follow these four easy steps to obtain greater productivity in your conference calls. You will notice higher attendance and increased participation because you invested the time to make the call valuable.  Try it for a week and let us know how it works!