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Hello, hello: 6 tips to running a painless conference call

Meetings are a serious pain in the … rear end.

You know it.

You see a meeting invitation roll into your email inbox and think, ‘oh God, what fresh hell is this?’

Don’t worry. It isn’t much different for a remote workers. We have to squeeze those conference calls into our steady schedule of sitting on the couch, eating bon bons and watching Days of Our Lives.

I kid, I kid! You know we’re busting hump to meet our deadlines. And, since we’re under more intense scrutiny than our peers, who get to be watched over by our managers.

Meetings and managers are the biggest distractions to anyone trying to accomplish their goals and meet their deadlines, says Jason Fried of BaseCamp, a champion of telecommuting.

Meetings, he says, are only a place to talk about what you’re going to do.

Wouldn’t it be more productive if we just did it? Yep, sure would be.

conference call

But even we’ll admit, that some meetings are a necessary evil. Some projects need planning and collaboration, and often that can only happen in real time.

But not always face to face.

Conference calls allows remote workers to come together with their colleagues, project managers and supervisors to set out the tasks that need to be done.

Managing a conference call

The best meeting — or conference call — is a short meeting.

The shorter, the better.

No muss, no fuss, no jibber-jabber.

Here are some tips to managing a conference call that keeps everyone happy.

1. Have an agenda

An agenda, mapping out each point you want to address, allows you to stay focused and keep your conference call participants attentive. Make sure you distribute the agenda before the call. Your participants will know what to expect and they will be prepared with input.

2. Have a conversation, not an address

Employees, including telecommuters, feel valued when their input is heard and appreciated. An active discussion allows for everyone to share their ideas and collaborate on the project. But remember to keep it on point; you don’t want the meeting to get out of control and fall off track.

3. Make decisions and concrete plans

No one likes to leave a meeting or conference call feeling like nothing was accomplished. People want to have action plans. Be sure you make decisions when necessary and follow up the conference call with an email detailing everyone’s tasks.

4. Ask questions

My greatest fear is to ask for input and hear stone-cold silence. Ensure participation by having questions prepared.

5. Be mindful of the time

Remember that your remote workers might be in a different time zone than you. If it’s noon for you but 3 p.m. for your telecommuters, they might need to hustle out the door to pick up the kids at school. Meanwhile, you’re grumbling about that tuna fish on rye sandwich that’s been sitting in the fridge all day. Schedule your conference call appropriately.

6. Use the right technology

A conference call service provider doesn’t need to have a lot of bells and whistles or fancy-dancy features. You just need the right ones, like:

✓ Secure call
✓ Roll call
✓ Mute/listen only
✓ Dial out
✓ Record call
✓ Conference without chairperson makes sure you have these features, along with a 100 per cent guarantee, a no-reservation system and a Meeting Manager to schedule your calls and invite participants.

Conference calls are a vital part of conducting business in the modern era, especially when you have employees who work outside the four walls of your office building.

A quick conference call replaces the drudgery of meetings.

And you don’t have to bear the sight of people rolling their eyes into their coffee cups.

They’re still doing it. You just can’t see them when they’re at home on their computer and a headset.

But I kid.

Your turn

How do you make use of conference calls to stay manage projects or stay engaged with your remote workers?

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