Today, when you decide to host a conference call, whether it’s with vendors, clients or even employees, no one questions why the meeting isn’t being held in person. In fact, studies show 33.4 percent of people who attend meetings think they’re usually unproductive wastes of time. So, a well-planned conference call solves a lot of the hassles of in-person meetings, including finding a venue and travel costs. To make sure your conference call goes as smoothly and efficiently as possible, here are some tips:
- Give attendees plenty of notice. Set the date and time well in advance, choosing a time convenient for all relevant time zones. Send an invitation by email or text message and make sure everyone responds. Then send a reminder the day before.
- Set an end time. This helps attendees plan the rest of their day. Starting at the beginning or end of the work day is often preferable to the middle of the day, unless you are scheduling a working lunch/conference call. Start and end on time, and always ask the attendees if they would like another follow-up call.
- Create and share an agenda. Start by determining your goals—what do you want to accomplish on the call? Are you looking for a final decision on a proposed project or trying to close a sale? Write the goals at the top of the agenda so everyone knows what your expectations are. Send the agenda to attendees early enough and ask for feedback.
- Share documents or visuals before the call so everyone is familiar with the materials. It’s a good idea to re-send these when you remind attendees the day before the call.
- Decide on the platform. Do you need to hold a video conference so you can see attendees, share visuals or read the expressions on people’s faces—or is a teleconference enough? Be sure test your system ahead of time and don’t try out a new system on a call with clients. You don’t want the technology to conk out in the middle of an important discussion.
- Be a good host. Be the first one on the call; clients or vendors shouldn’t have to wait for you. Start with introductions and say a little about each attendee for those who have never met. As the host, you must also keep the call on track and ensure everyone has a chance to speak. Periodically, try to encourage non-talkers to speak up and voice their opinions.
- Keep the call short. Less than 30 minutes is the preferred length. If the call is going over, make a point to schedule another call so people can get back to their busy days. When calls go on too long, participants’ tend to pay less attention.
- Accept that sometimes you can’t prepare. Last-minute conference calls are part of every entrepreneur’s life, and as the host it’s still your job to try and organize the call as best you can. Stick to the immediate issue that needs attending to—then suggest scheduling another call to discuss related matters.
- At the end of the call, quickly review any action items so everyone is clear about the next steps. Then send a quick follow-up note repeating the same information and thanking everyone for participating. Busy business people will appreciate your organizational skills and look forward to the next call knowing it won’t waste their time.