Avoid Unproductive Conference Calls

Haven’t we all experienced conference calls like this one? It’s sad, but true, we all have. It is also true that some of us just aren’t sure how to do a conference call and make it productive. Sometimes conference calls can be more of a hindrance than they are a benefit. However, all is not lost. With the use of a few best practices and Microsoft Lync, you can dramatically increase the productivity of your conference calls.
As Elliot S. Weissbluth, CEO & Founder at High Tower, writes in his article, Ding! “Annoying Has Joined the Meeting.”, there are ways to significantly improve conference calls. Here are a few of the tips Mr. Weissbluth recommends:

  1. Manage expectations. Don’t assume that conversation will flow naturally. In fact, don’t assume that everyone knows the agenda or expects a “conversation” in the traditional sense, with back and forth, give and take. A conference call requires more structure to be productive. Once you accept the limitations of the medium and reset expectations, you will have a more effective call.
  2. Set a clear agenda and reiterate it at the beginning of the call. It may sound like managing the minutiae, but the alternative is awkward silences, unprepared participants and a giant waste of time. On the flip side, the call is not an “open mic” for anyone to pile on their issues while everyone is assembled. An agenda will focus the conversation, hitting that sweet spot between deep concentration and “anything goes” where creativity and problem solving happen.
  3. Go around the horn. This is my personal favorite and a tactic I use on almost every call. Take a minute partway through the conversation and invite each person—by name—to offer his or her thoughts so far. The intention is not to put anyone on the spot. In fact, you can give ample warning that everyone will be called on to participate. Going “around the horn” gives everyone the opportunity to contribute. End the call with the same tactic: “Mike, anything we missed or should cover before we close out this issue? Bob?” Everyone gets the ball for a minute, and can toss it to the next participant.
  4. Finally, use your face time wisely. Yes, conference calls suck. But they are a necessary evil. If you can’t avoid them, you owe it to your team to make your more useful, valuable and infrequent in-person meetings as purposeful as possible. Complex issues, strategic planning, sensitive conversations and even good ol’ fashioned free-ranging conversations over a good meal and perhaps infused with the fruit of the vine are all better when done in person.

In addition to employing the tips from Elliot Weissbluth, implementing a solid, feature rich communications platform such as Microsoft Lync, will help make a difference in your conference calls.
With Lync, you can disable the most annoying participant announcements. Everyone can see the participant list and even see who is currently speaking so there is no need to ask who is on the call or no need to announce who’s speaking. Screen sharing eliminates the need to make sure everyone is viewing the same thing. Video sharing encourages active participation in the conference call.
Aside from all of that, the quality of Lync conference calls is beyond compare. The audio is crisp and clear, almost as if you are in the same room with everyone.
With the growing trend of global business and remote employees, conference calling is becoming more of a vital part of organizations. Try applying the suggestions in this article and you’ll see a marked improvement in conference calls conducted within your organization.

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