Conference calls are part of everyone’s world, but if I had to guess I’d say association executives probably pick up the phone more than others. Sometimes conference calls are just unavoidable, and that can get frustrating because despite everyone’s best efforts, phones are still technology and technology glitches and fails sometimes.
Examples of technology glitches include, of course, dropped calls, bad reception, poor conference call center, dead batteries, etc.
But there are some problems that come up with conference calls that are avoidable. Here are 5 ways to make your conference calls the most productive they’ve ever been.
Problem: Participants on the move don’t have related documents in front of them
This seems like a simple solution; send out the materials ahead of time, right? That would be fine if most of the participants aren’t getting hundreds of E-mails a day, but if you have an E-mail address chances are you ARE getting that many.
Solution: Send out the materials at the right time! Probably a day or two before the meeting is good so it doesn’t get buried and participants have time to review the minutes from the last call and other relevant documents before the call. Also, if you have time, try to personally reach out to the attendees if there isn’t too many. It’s the easiest way to avoid spam-folder snafus.
Problem: Distracted participants
This is a problem that could come up in any meeting, but probably more so on conference calls where nobody can actually see you checking your Facebook page.
Solution: Keep everyone involved in the conversation by giving everyone an opportunity to lead the discussion, present, or walk the attendees through a document. Then they’ll HAVE to pay attention to know when their turn is coming up! Once they’re involved, it’s a conversation and it’ll hopefully stay that way!
Problem: Background noise. ‘Nuff said.
Solution: Kindly remind your participants about the mute button, and then once the meeting is over ask if there’s a better time to hold the next call. Sometimes it could just be general office chatter, but if you have a work-from-home mom on the call who is a key player and her kids get home at three, that could be a good time to avoid in the future.
Problem: One person dominates the call
Again, this is a problem that could come up in any meeting, but without the nonverbal cues of a face-to-face meeting the call dominator could run amok.
Solution: Break in. Whether you’re a host or a participant, find a polite way to interrupt and steer the conversation back to other attendees. It might be awkward, but it’s what needs to happen.
Problem: Less information retention
Because conference calls can happen anywhere: in the airport, in the car, in the back yard, there’s no way to know if your meeting attendees are paying attention, much less taking notes.
Solution: Ask a person to take detailed minutes and send them out as a recap close to the end of the meeting, and before the next one. It’ll help jog memories!
If you can meet in person, do that. In fact, video chat might even be a better solution! But conference calls can still work to get a lot of small staff association business done!