There’s no doubt about it—technology has changed our lives. For example, it’s given us the opportunity be on a work conference call while also swimming in a pool in Las Vegas!
It’s true. People actually do this. According to Harvard Business Review, people on conference calls have admitted to simultaneously being at Disney World, a truck stop bathroom, a hiking trip, a friend’s closet during a party, and the list goes on.
These are some of the more extreme scenarios, but more commonly, people on conference calls can easily be caught texting, emailing, scrolling the internet, or making and eating food. You’ve done it before, and if you haven’t, you still probably know how easy it is to do.
Technology has done wonderful things for our working lives, making them more flexible and easy to communicate with others. But we can’t let our devices get the best of us and give us an excuse to be lazy or lack attention.
Conference calls can be confusing, unproductive, and boring. But they don’t have to be.
Make Them Work
While we may consider ourselves masters of technology, this isn’t aways reflective during our conference call sessions. If you’ve seen the video “A Conference Call In Real Life,” you know how all-too-real it is. The mockery video went viral for a reason—it’s hilariously relatable.
In order to make a conference call successful, you have to work out the small basic kinks. An article by Fast Company outlines some of the ways you can be a better conference caller. For one, make sure you test the software before the time of the meeting. Know how to access the call and any of the software features you’re using, such as if you’re presenting slides or showing a video.
One of the most basic things you need to do is find the right setting for your call. No, the pool at your Vegas hotel is not the place to go.
You want to pick a location that has strong, reliable WiFi. Without internet connection, you may not only be disconnected from the call, but you’re also distracting others and holding them back from continuing on if you or someone else has to repeat something that was missed while you were disconnected.
Your location should also be somewhere quiet. When someone on the other end is speaking, you want to hear them clearly without the background noise of other people, the wind, or their keyboard clicks. You owe everyone else the same respect, so minimize sound distractions as much as possible.
Another way to be respectful on a call is by muting yourself every time you’re not speaking. Inevitable noises may come up in the background of where you are or maybe you have something come up that you have to do immediately, just make sure to mute your audio so your sounds aren’t distracting everyone else. However, always be prepared to unmute yourself in the event that you’re asked a question or you have something to contribute to the conversation.
Make Them Productive
Meetings are a huge part of workplace culture and structure. They provide opportunities for everyone to come together, collaborate, get on the same page, and move forward with consistency.
They’re quite common, but unfortunately, not always as effective as we like to think. In fact, according to another article by Fast Company, “managers spend anywhere from 35% to 50% of their time in meetings, and yet executives consider over half of those meetings to be failures.”
It’s safe to say that meetings aren’t going anywhere. Just because they fail often doesn’t mean they don’t hold a purpose. The problem is rooted in the fact that we’re doing our meetings wrong. And if meetings are failing, conference calls sure aren’t doing any better.
Before conference calls, everyone should be aware of why they’re invited on the call and what the scheduled call is supposed to address. Have an agenda in place, and solidify the goal of the meeting. If there are any materials or documents you need, they should be set to go before the call even starts.
During the meeting itself, make a point to stick to the agenda. Hit all the points on it, and make sure everyone is clear on the topics at hand. Have a check-in every 20 minutes or so. Do people need clarification? Do you need clarification?
As we now know, people do all kinds of crazy things while on conference calls. To keep everyone’s attention levels up, consider hosting a video conference instead of a faceless call. That way, everyone is on camera and won’t be up to anything they shouldn’t be while on a call. Sounds creepy, but it’s effective to keep the focus.
At the close of the meeting, confirm that everyone is aware of the next steps. Repeat the steps everyone should be taking, how they will complete their tasks, and what the timeline is. Don’t leave room for confusion.
Make Them Engaging
The reason people do other things while still technically on a conference call is because either 1) The call is boring or 2) The call is boring. Keeping everyone engaged in the conference isn’t as hard as we make it out to be. You don’t have to show videos of acrobats or play silly games to keep everyone present.
You invited each person to the meeting for a reason, so everyone should have a role. Throughout the meeting, each person should have a chance to go over their part and say what they have to contribute to the conversation. If someone is so irrelevant to the conversation that they’re capable of going hiking at the same time, don’t invite them. They’re not needed on the call.
When everyone comes together on the call, introduce yourself so people know that you’re there. Don’t be afraid to start some small talk before the business of the call begins. This is a great way to break the ice and get the conversation flowing from the beginning.
During the meetings, everyone should have a “job.” Roles can consist of a notetaker, facilitator, timekeeper, or whatever is most relevant to your meeting.
Using video is another great way to keep everyone engaged. It makes the meeting more personal as well as helps our brains to understand who’s presenting what. Visual stimulation is key. Use this to your advantage with graphs, charts, screen-sharing, and other digital features.
It’s so easy to have a conference call meeting fail, sometimes before it even begins. If you take the necessary steps before, during, and after the meeting to make sure the call runs smoothly and effectively while keeping everyone engaged, your meetings can really serve a huge purpose for your company and team’s success.
For more information about improving your workplace culture and performance, take a look at iGenCo’s products and how they can help you!