Effective Use of Conference Calls

Conference calls are becoming more and more common in the business world. There is no easier way to bring together members of a team who are in multiple locations around the country, or even around the world. The invention of conference call capabilities has saved companies billions of dollars in travel costs and helped improve efficiency in organizations around the globe.

The premise of the conference call is simple. Participants dial in at a specified time and conduct a meeting very much in the same way as if they were meeting face to face. Actually, part of the problem with conference calls is that too often, conference calls are conducted just like regular meetings, when certain adjustments need to be made to address the medium.

The principles for effective use of conference calls will help make your conference calls more efficient. The principles for the effective use of conference calls are:

Stay on schedule
Whether you are the person scheduling the conference call or merely a participant, it is vital that you stay on schedule. To the person waiting on the other end of the phone, even two or three minutes, which is hardly noticeable in face to face meetings, can seem like forever. If you are the moderator, be sure to dial in to the call at least a few minutes ahead so you can greet the participants as they arrive on the line. This is also a great way to avoid wasting time taking attendance once the call begins.

Starting the conference call on time, limiting the call to its originally scheduled duration, and taking time zone differences into consideration will help make your conference calls more efficient and more effective.

Control the environment
Have you ever been on a conference call, only to hear another participant's child screaming in the background? Perhaps you've been repeatedly interrupted by someone's call waiting tone pulsing persistently throughout the conversation. During a conference call, it is important that everyone on the call do their part to control the environment.

Whether you're working at home wearing shorts and a tee-shirt, or sitting in a mahogany paneled corporate board room, take conference calls as seriously as you would any other business meeting.

Control the conversation
One way that conference calls differ from regular meetings is the way conversation flows. In a meeting where the participants are gathered around a conference table, there is ample opportunity for animated discussion and exchange of ideas. On a conference call, the same type of conversation, which can be energizing in a regular meeting, is overwhelming and chaotic. Every conference call should have a moderator, someone in charge of controlling the conversation.

Conference calls are most effective when the conversation is controlled and focused. Subjects not of interest to all participants should be held off-line rather than taking up everyone else's time.

While conference calls are a cost-effective alternative to face-to-face meetings, it's important to remember that conference calls can't be conducted the same way as most face-to-face meetings. The principles for effective use of conference calls will help ensure your conference calls work to your organization's advantage.