How To Prepare For a Conference Call
To maximise virtual meetings and make them ultra-efficient, it’s important to be prepared. If you’ve attended a conference call before but never hosted one yourself, here are some useful tips to make sure it’s effective and goes as smoothly as possible.
The finer points
Make sure everyone has the correct time, date, dial-in number and PIN. It would be handy to send out a reminder nearer the time and even include the details in shared calendars if your company uses these. Also, have this information at hand for anyone who loses or forgets it.
Location, location, location
When you’re taking part in a conference call nobody wants to hear noisy traffic behind you or kids screaming – so making sure you’re in a quiet environment is a must. If you can’t find a suitable spot, then make use of the mute button so other delegates aren’t distracted by background noise.
Don’t let the technology let you down
Just as you would with a face-to-face meeting, make sure everything works before you begin. Test the phone and the quality of the speakers, if you are using internet facilities, ensure the connection is good and load up any websites beforehand so you can just click on them when required. If a Powerpoint presentation is going to be used, send a link out so delegates can access it.
Stick with the agenda
While some presenters prefer not to distribute handouts before a call, it’s much easier to follow a meeting if there is a clear agenda outlined. Define the main points and remember to allow time for discussion. This will also help you to keep the meeting on track and allow delegates to think of questions or talking points beforehand.
Prepare your presentation and have some short back up notes to hand with your main points outlined. Stay calm and don’t be tempted to fly through all your material in a bid to get to the end – people will only become confused and in the absence of visual clues this is doubly important. Remember to speak slowly, clearly and vary your intonation to stress key points.
You can’t control everything yourself. Delegating positions to happy helpers will mean that everything will run smoothly. Before the call, find a note-taker to help capture action items and key issues as well as decisions made for each topic or section to be discussed. It’s also a good idea to use a secure call recording facility (Buzz has a free one!), so anything missed on the call can be referred back to and even shared with your phone conference participants.
A timekeeper will ensure that things are kept on schedule and don’t overrun unnecessarily. They should be strict and encourage people to stick to the agenda, particularly with international conference calls where time differences may mean people are working outside of regular office hours.