Skillopedia - 4 tips to host an effective conference call ( Telephone skills & Soft skills video)
How to Chair a Conference Call
Chairing a conference call gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to manage and direct others. To lead a call successfully, you'll need to know how to organize the call, prepare yourself for your role, conduct the call, and follow up with attendees afterward. With practice, you'll find that many of the steps involved in conference calls are similar to steps you'd undertake with face-to-face meetings.
Organizing the Call
Pick a convenient conferencing software.These days, you have a variety of webinar programs to choose from. Select something user-friendly that most distance attendees have installed. Make sure you've chosen software with a video component if the call includes slides. If installed software isn't a realistic option, go with a service that everyone can freely access online.
- To accommodate attendees without software requirements, make sure the call takes place in a room with a speaker phone. This dial-in option will also be a handy backup if the webinar software fails.
Poll your attendees for a convenient time.Pick three to five potential dates and times of day. Send an email to all participants to gauge their availability for each possibility. Tell anyone who can't make any of the times to let you know as soon as possible.
- You can also use online scheduling surveys like Doodle. These tools allow attendees to choose dates and times with the click of a mouse. If you choose this option, don't forget to include the link in the email.
- If all attendees are in the same time zone, avoid planning calls during lunch breaks, immediately at the beginning of the work day, and or after normal business hours.
Write an agenda.Include topics that need to be discussed. Cover any questions or concerns you anticipate from other members. Focus on the positive issues first. Then, address challenges and offer solutions or ideas to overcome any obstacles.
- If you plan to assign any tasks to certain attendees, discuss it with them before you send out the agenda. The last thing you want to do is catch someone by surprise or give a manager or client incorrect information.
Email preliminary info to all attendees.Include everything they'll require to log into the call, such as the call-in number and password. Attach a draft of the agenda to the email. Ask that everyone read over it and notify you if they want to add something or revise existing content.
Appoint a note-taker.Choose the most responsible and attentive physical attendee for this task. Make sure they include the names of everyone present. Have them summarize major points discussed, using the agenda as an outline.
- If they have a digital audio recorder or record function on their phone, ask them to use it if no sensitive material will be discussed.
- Don't skip this step if you're using the record function on the webinar software. Technology can fail when you least expect it. If that happens, you'll have written minutes as a backup.
Send a reminder email.Do this on the day of the call if it's after lunch or the day before a call scheduled in the morning. Use this opportunity to send any reports or documents that will be needed on the call. It's your responsibility to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that everyone has completed their responsibilities before the call.
- If someone else created these materials, give them credit (or prevent blame from falling on you) by forwarding their message containing the documents.
Getting Yourself Ready to Chair
Draft your notes or talking points.Flesh out items already on the agenda to keep yourself from losing focus. Don't draft a prepared statement. Stick to a bulleted list of key points, short imperatives, and incomplete sentences. This will prevent you from sounding mechanical.Some examples include:
- Current state of hiring needs:Accounting now fully staffed. Still need new manager in Marketing and new administrative assistant in Advertising. Budget limit = 0,000 total for both openings.
- Benefits changes:Head office phasing out 401k. Instituting new 403b plan for new hires. Health, dental, vision insurance unchanged for now but still under review.
Make a list of attendees.Include where they're from and general personal information about them. Use this info as you introduce everyone to each other. You can also use this information to chat while you’re waiting on additional attendees to join.
- Make a copy of this list for your note-taker. Instead of taking the time to write out everyone's name, the note-taker can simply check off each person's name as they arrive or log in.
Review any information you’ll be presenting.Don't wait until the last minute. Start reviewing the information the day after you finish your notes and/or presentation. Try committing the major points to memory so that you can discuss them without pausing to look at your paper or screen. Every second you save can be used for other presenters or for questions.
Survey the room a day or two before the call.Make sure all equipment is present and working properly. Look for strategically positioned speakers if you're using a large room in anticipation of many attendees. If anything is missing or malfunctioning, notify the relevant department as soon as possible.
Set up the call.Log on to the conference call 10 minutes early, if possible. Some tools won’t let you log on until the time scheduled. Others won’t let anyone communicate until a leader with a special password logs in. Test the bridge one last time to make sure it's running smoothly.
- If you don't know how to use the equipment, learn a few days ahead of time. Get help from your company's IT department, if necessary. Not knowing how to operate the software or hardware can make you look unprofessional.
Conducting the Call
Allow five extra minutes for latecomers.Have some notes handy to initiate small talk at the beginning of the call. Introduce all attendees by their names, titles, and roles they play. If anyone arrives or joins the call after the five-minute delay, don't interrupt a discussion in progress. Wait until after a speaker has finished or a topic has ended to allow latecomers to introduce themselves.
Review meeting etiquette.Ask attendees dialing in to mute their phones to avoid background noise. Request that they avoid using the hold button to prevent broadcasting their company's hold music. Tell everyone physically present to silence their cell phones and keep them away from the meeting phone to prevent interference. Make sure all attendees speak audibly and clearly so that everyone can hear them.
Stick to the agenda.Keep an eye on the clock to accommodate the needs of attendees and presenters. Cover the most important issues first in case you run out of time. If anyone asks a question you can't answer or weren't expecting, tell them you'll get back to them as soon as possible.
Schedule a follow-up call, if necessary.Don't wait until the end of the call to do this. Do it right before you get to questions and answers (Q&A) on the agenda. Ask everyone the most convenient date and time for the next call. If most attendees are undecided, send out a scheduling survey after the call.
Allow at least 15 minutes for Q&A.In a conference call, you might have trouble getting everyone to participate. To prevent this from happening, don't askifanyone has any questions. Rather, ask specific people relevant to the topic of discussion a question.
- For example, you could ask, “Bob, have you gotten all of the information you need to create the topic text?”
Close the call.Start to wrap up about five minutes before the scheduled ending time. If Q&A is still in progress, tell everyone you have time for one more question. Thank everyone for their time and wish them a good day or week(end).
Taking Action after the Call
Create a recap.Start doing this immediately after the call. Ask your note-taker for a copy of the minutes. Make sure you include a list of everyone's responsibilities. The minutes will document the conversation in writing in case there are any discrepancies later.
- Ask a colleague to proofread the recap before you send it out. A second pair of eyes can catch mistakes you might have overlooked, no matter how many times you've proofread the material.
Send the recap to all attendees.Do this as soon as you've made any edits your proofreader has recommended. Invite all recipients to make comments or ask questions that might have slipped their minds during the call. If you promised to send out a scheduling survey for a follow-up call, include that link with the recap.
Follow through on promises and deadlines.Take action as discussed during the call. If you promised to answer any questions at a later date, follow up within no more than a week. Meet any deadlines you set. Make sure any promised work is delivered to the proper recipients within a reasonable amount of time.
Additional Conference Call Documents
QuestionHow to manage multiple speakers at one time?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerAssign each speaker a different time slot on the agenda. Depending on how long the call will be, cap their speaking time at 10 to 15 minutes each. Let them know when they have five minutes remaining.Thanks!
- Unless you'll be using video conferencing software, avoid telling jokes. Humor often relies on your body language, which attendees won't see if you're using an audio-only option.
Sources and Citations
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Video: How to Chair a Conference Call
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