When it comes to getting the most out of your working day, the conference call is a key tool to help you operate efficiently and effectively.
The benefits are numerous and there is much to be said for picking up the phone and speaking with a group of people all over the world who you need to do business with in just a few seconds.
Without having to travel to meetings, you're not only saving a significant amount of time, but also making yourself more available to others (and they are also more available to you!).
However, in order to get the most out of conference calling when it comes to filling your diary, you need to know how to arrange teleconferences that are easily accessible and productive for all participants.
So, what can you do to help yourself?
Use tools to make sure everyone is available
The first task you need to work on is finding out when everyone is free. This can be done the old-fashioned way if you like, by emailing back and forth with your guests to decide what time and date is best suited for you all.
However, this approach certainly has its drawbacks when it comes to keeping track of when different people are available and your inbox will quickly fill up with suggestions and counter-suggestions.
Instead, there are a number of tools out there to help you in a much more efficient manner. Doodle is one such example, with users given a choice of slots they can then either approve or decline, giving everyone a few options that you can then pick the common denominator from to choose when the teleconference will be held.
If this program isn't to your liking though, there are plenty of alternatives out there. Meet-O-Matic, WhenIsGood and GatherGrid are just a couple of examples that you might want to try out.
Sometimes, it might be the case that you can't arrange a time that fits everyone's schedules. How you approach this is at your discretion and you may be able to tweak the slot slightly to accommodate everyone. If not, then you can always use our free conference call recording facility to ensure those who are not present can still catch up on what has been discussed.
Setting an agenda
Once everyone is clear about when they are needed to dial in, you should get to work on what topics you plan to cover during the teleconference.
This is essential to ensure all participants are adequately prepared for the call, while it also helps to limit the chance of the conversation straying from the necessary subjects.
The latter point is essential to ensure you achieve your aims of the call without running out of time, as it can be frustrating going through the effort of getting your guests together only for you to not get to discuss what you need to with them.
Acting as the host
Once your agenda is complete, you should distribute it to all participants so they have adequate chance to ask any questions and get their own notes together.
You should also use this opportunity to send out the instructions of how your guests can connect to the conference bridge. When using Buzz, this will consist of the number they need to dial and the pin that has been generated for the call.
It is also a good idea to include an 'emergency' number for participants to contact you on if, for whatever reason, they are unable to successfully join the teleconference. This should obviously be a separate number to the one you are using to dial in yourself!
Depending on the nature of the call, you might also want to explain any rules or conditions that will be in place when the teleconference takes place. For example, some hosts, particularly those who are chairing Q & A or expert interview sessions, choose to use a mute option that enables them to silence other lines, so the main speaker isn't interrupted or distracted by unwanted questions or background noise caused by other participants.
Finally, sending a reminder the call is about to take place an hour or so before you're due to host the meeting is something you might want to consider. While everyone should have it in their diaries, you should never presume and sometimes, a helpful nudge is welcome to make sure everyone who should be joining you does just that.