The most widely used tool for mobile, distributed and virtual teams is still the plain old telephone conference call. However it is also the most badly used! So whether you are talking over Skype, mixing it with screen sharing and messaging, using your corporate PABX or just calling in to an external service if you follow these 12 simple rules you will get much better calls.
Conference Calls: Twelve Golden Rules
1. Pick a reliable service. Its better to pay a bit for a good call than to pay nothing for a call which does not work properly and wastes everyone’s valuable time.
2. Send out two emails. Send the first one when the call is set-up and the second one close to the scheduled call time. State the purpose of call, who is chairing it and the call-in details.
3. Text a reminder. On the day of the call – for those who did not read your email or who are on the move.
4. Arrive Early. Don’t arrive fashionably late – it wastes other peoples time and money. If you are the chairman you must be the first person on the call.
5. Keep it short. Never more than an hour. Thirty minutes or less is best – don’t overrun no matter how important it is. Reschedule. Otherwise no-one will turn up at your next call!
6. Use your best phone. Only dial in on mobile phone if you have no other options.
7. Keep the noise down. Don’t dial in from somewhere with background noise. Always put you phone on mute when you are not speaking to avoid transmitting background noise.
8. Watch the small talk. Its OK to use the first few minutes for people to socialise the meeting through some small talk but this needs to be controlled as people may be ringing in on expensive mobile calls. Meeting latecomers should simply state their names on arrival and the chairperson should resist the temptation to bring them up to speed by summarising the meeting for them.
9. To the point. Keep all your contributions very short and focussed and don’t ramble.
10. Don’t interrupt. Pause. Make very sure the other person has finished speaking before you start to avoid “talk-over”.
11. Manage the call. If you are the chairperson don’t let one person dominate or destroy the call for everyone else. Don’t do it yourself either!
12. Sum-up. The chairperson should summarise the key points and send out (or delegate) a very short email summary within 24 hours.