Conference Call

The Tortures of Conference Calls. Who Needs ‘Em?

Written by Tiffany Hallett

We’ve all been there.

You: How’s the weather?

Them: It’s sunny.

You: Wow, you’re lucky. It’s raining here . . . silence . . . Bob, is that you? Is Bob on the line yet?

Oh, the tortures of conference calls—sometimes you’d rather be last in line at the DMV or even at the dentist! Don’t you agree?

But the truth is that they don’t have to be painful.

To help your future you, get schooled on seven simple tips to make your dial-in experience more efficient and, frankly, less awkward.

1. Establish a team lead.

Having a larger team can sometimes feel like herding cats. Help yourself eliminate back and forth discussions among multiple people by establishing a lead for each company or team joining the call.

The team lead will act as your main point of contact and make the communication process less confusing. Team leads also help eliminate unneeded emails—a win for everyone involved! 

2. Determine the best day and time.

Communicate with the lead only and provide a list of choices for upcoming days and time blocks that work best for your team. You will also want to establish how long the call(s) will need to be, especially for recurring status calls that will require a consistent time commitment.

You can simply list opportunities in an email and ask each team lead to highlight all potential times that work for their team. Or, you can create an online survey using scheduling software. There are multiple free versions available that can help simplify the process. We like Doodle Poll or Calendr.

3. Confirm the type of conference call.

Are you dialing in? Screen sharing? Video conferencing?

Some people like to glam up for the cam. Give teleworkers a chance to step up their pajama game ahead of time. Ease the awkwardness by making sure each participant knows what to expect from the meeting and how they will be presented to others.

If you are screen sharing, determine who will be driving the call. For first time calls, it’s a good idea to do a test run with your team lead(s). This will eliminate the user-error fun we’ve all encountered a time or two.

4. Who gets the golden ticket?

For the first few calls, you may not have a handle on all the team members who need to be invited. Rather than excluding someone, ask the team lead to forward the meeting invite.

You can do so in the body of the invitation as a reminder. It’s as simple as placing a line such as “Did we miss someone? Please forward meeting invite to proper team members. Thanks!”

5. Always have an agenda and stick to it.

That’s it. Seriously. Have an agenda (and stick to it.)

Don’t feel like you need to create an agenda all on your own. To help pull the conversation together, check in with your team and ask other team lead(s) to do the same. Collecting individual thoughts beforehand will help to eliminate any surprise conversations and can help others to prepare important information ahead of time. If your team prepares answers to agenda questions ahead of time, it’s much easier to discuss and advance the plot of the project during the call.

Establish one, two or as many goals/outcomes you’d like to accomplish on the call. If you can’t think of at least one, what is the point of the call?

6. Don’t be late to your own party.

You set the meeting, which means you are the leader for all dialing-in. Be on the call early, and even earlier if you plan to screen share. We’re talking 5 minutes here, people. Just do it.

While everyone is dialing in, set the rules. Explain that you will all be on mute until the last person joins. This will help eliminate the awkward small chat, unless you’re into that kind of thing.

7. Who is taking notes and following up?

You are. That is what makes a good team lead.

If you need to drive the call and don’t have a free hand to take notes, assign another member on your team or confirm with other participating team lead(s). No matter how the cookie crumbles, close the conversation with an email that details what was discussed and who is responsible for next steps.

This list could go on and on with more tips to make you a conference call guru, but that would defeat the purpose of sticking to the agenda. We trust that your entrepreneur spirit will steer your conference calls in the right direction.

Drop the phone.