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Top 5 Tips on Running a Conference Call

Everyone has been on a conference call in their work lives. For many people, they have at least one a week. For others, 2-3 a day.

One thing I’ve noticed is that it can be difficult to run a conference call well. There is no training but it is really important.

Here are my tips on how to run a proper conference call.

1) Pre-call – Before the call, make sure that a meeting invite has
been sent (not just an email). Make sure to include the call-in
number and codes. And an agenda with what is to be covered and any pre-reading materials. Make sure this pre-call agenda has a reminder to pop-up 15 minutes before actual call.


2) Who is on the call – It’s important to know who is on the call. If the conference call is small, go quickly around the call and ask who is on the line. If a large call, read off the list of RSVPs and ask
them to say present and then ask if you missed anyone. Nothing is worse than asking people to introduce themselves on a large call and everyone is stepping on each other


3) Diving into Agenda – I love when there is a clear agenda with times (10 minutes for X, then 10 minutes for Y) and the meeting moderator holds them. If a conversation is especially important and going longer, that’s fine. But in general, I’ve been in too many conference calls where people are belaboring a point and it’s time to move on. So make sure you get to all the items on the agenda and aren’t rushed at the end.


4) Bring in Participants – Especially if the meeting is a blend of in-person and offsite on a conference call, it can be easy for folks to be left out. As a moderator, directly ask for feedback from folks offsite. In general, make time to call out and ask for contributions from the shy folks.

5) Wrap-up – Spend last 5 minutes wrapping up results of call and who has next steps. Let’s make sure we didn’t just waste a bunch of time

6) Follow-Up – Within 1 day of the meeting (ideally couple hours), send an email follow-up to the attendees with the summary of what was covered (for folks who missed it), who has next steps, and time for next call (and send that invite out)

What is your conference call tip? Or pet peeve?


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8 Comments

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Profile Photo Dick Davies

Steve, this is a fabulous post.

I’m known for not allowing conference calls, because even though they save time and money, they get poor results! They are efficient, not effective.

If a conference originator took the steps you recommend, a) they would see less need for many of the calls, and b) the calls that did happen would accomplish a lot more!

Thank you!

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Profile Photo Gary Berg-Cross

Steve,

It is good to formalize and structure our knowledge of conference calls to be productive. In addtion to what you have there might be a follow up stage lauchng off of a wrap up that repeats any action items and perhaps a schedule for a next call.

BTW do you think there is an “un-conference” call in the same way there is an un-conference?

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Profile Photo Nichole Henley

I LOVE the idea of calling off the names for a call of “present” or not. I hate it when everyone’s stumbling for “Face” time on the calls! GREAT IDEA! I will def take this for my next call

Reply
Profile Photo Gary Berg-Cross

@Nichole

I agree with your comment on discomfort when people stumble over air/face time as they introduce each other, especially when the group is larger than 10 or so and the meeting time is short. But if you have a teleconference where people don’t know each other and you can’t see who is on the call you may need some process to break the ice as well as tick through a list.
One trick that was used at an unconference was to limit people to their name and 3 things about themselves. This gets everyone into the space with roughly the same, small air time.

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Profile Photo Henry Brown

Would modify #4, to include “Stay on agenda” have been part of calls that generated into telling “war stories” which had very little to do with items on the agenda. Would also limit the agenda to a reasonable number of items to cover in a clearly defined time window

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Profile Photo Ben

In some federal agencies agendas are viewed as optional. And, even when they are used,if one attempts to start a call on time or to hold speakers to their alloted times on the agenda, some people think that’s draconian!

Reply
Profile Photo Scott Kearby

Great stuff … simple, but not often done, especially 3 – Agenda ,5 – Wrap Up, and 6 – Written Summary. Without these, your conference call is likely to be unsuccessful … with them you will significantly increase the impact and achievement of the call.

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