Guidelines To Successful Conference Calls

The following hints and tips are based upon our many years of running audio conferences. We hope you find them useful.

1. Send out an agenda and stick to it

Meetings by phone are no different to traditional meetings – they are far more effective if participants are aware of the agenda in advance.

2. Arrive early and encourage punctuality in your delegates

As the chairperson, we would suggest that you join the call a few minutes earlier than the appointed time so that if any of the delegates arrive early they will not hear the ‘on-hold’ music and will receive confirmation they have dialled in successfully.

Impress on your delegates that the teleconference will begin on time and they are expected to arrive on time. Otherwise, you will find yourself continually being interrupted by late joiners and having to back track.

3. Actively ‘Chair’ the meeting

Many face to face meetings are more like informal gatherings with no agenda and no effective chairperson – consequentially little is achieved.

When meeting via teleconference, it is even more important that the meeting is chaired effectively as there are no visual cues meaning participants cannot rely on body language to gauge when it is appropriate to speak. The key discipline is that only one person speaks at a time when invited to do so via the Speaker (chairperson).

4. Resist using cheap speaker phones

One of the easiest ways to spoil a good audio conference is to have participants dial in from cheap speaker phones.

Most people reading this will have experienced difficulty hearing people who have called them on a one to one basis using their speaker phone. The result is almost always a struggle to hear a bunch of people through echoes and audio clipping.

The vast majority of speaker phones are simply not designed to deliver clear audio and the majority of rooms are not designed for acoustics. The net result is awful audio. The effects of bad speaker phones are compounded on an audio conference when more than one line is involved.

Unless you are equipped with a speaker phone specifically designed for audio conferencing, you are much better off dialling in from a regular handset. If several people in the same office wish to participate in the call, have them dial in from separate lines.

5. Make a note of the names of people as they join and keep a list

This way you will know when everyone who is expected has arrived and when you can begin. If you lose track. Many conference call systems can be configured to record the names of participants as they join allowing you to get a roll-call of who is dialled in.

6. Lock the conference call for added security

If the issues you are discussing are sensitive or confidential, you may wish to lock the conference once everyone has arrived to stop others joining. Consult your conference call provider’s user manual for instructions on how to do this using your particular system. Using Buzz Conferencing you simply press the 3 button on your telephone’s keypad.

7. Let everyone have their say

It is very tempting to talk over people or allow others to do so, make it clear that everyone will have their turn to speak.

8. Keep notes and circulate minutes

It’s best practice to keep notes during the call and circulate a file note of what has been said after the call to all delegates for their records. Some conference call services, including Buzz Conferencing, offer a transcription service meaning they can provide you with typed notes of the conference call to save you time.

If you prefer to keep your own minutes then it’s a good idea to record the conference call so that you can always go back and review any parts you miss.

9. Ask delegates in noisy environments to mute their microphones.

To ensure that everyone can hear each other properly, it is important to keep the noise down to a minimum. Most teleconferencing systems include a function which allows users to mute their handsets at the conference bridge. With the Buzz Conferencing service simply dial “#6” from your telephone keypad.

You will find that if one or more of your delegates is on a mobile phone in an airport or other noisy environment such as a computer room, it makes it difficult for everyone to hear.

Simply ask them to mute their microphone by pressing the mute button on their telephone handset or by activating the conference bridge’s ‘line mute’ function.

10. Summarise and invite comment before closing

As with any meeting, it’s a good idea to summarise what has been said during the meeting and go around the ‘room’ asking everyone in turn if they have any final comments before you close the call.

This way you can’t be accused of not letting everyone have their say!