How to make conference calls less lame
I’m not a fan of conference calls. The larger the group of people on a call, the more awkward it becomes. The stopping, the starting, people chiming in and out, people talking over each other. While I value the cost efficiency a conference call can bring in gathering people from around the world together, there’s got to be a way to make the telephonic interaction less lame, or at least, marginally more productive.
1. Select your delegate: if you have more than one person from your organization participating on a group conference call, try to decide ahead of time who’s going to serve as the primary presenter. Certainly have people from different disciplines on the call weigh in as needed, but if you have one person from each group conducting the bulk of the conversation, it might feel less stilted and more normal (maybe, not promising).
2. Kill the speaker: sometimes being on a speaker phone is inevitable, especially if you have several people from your office listening in. But when you’re listening to someone talk through a speaker phone, it sounds like you’re talking to someone in space – far away, distant and slightly garbled. If you can call in from a landline with a head set, the call will at least have a fighting chance at being intelligible.
3. Keep it short: After about 20 to 30 minutes of a group conference call, it’s a sure bet that most people aren’t participating anymore. They’re looking at Facebook on their phone, their G chatting with their cube mates, they’re looking up dinner suggestions on Yelp. If the conversation isn’t applying directly to them, odds are they’ve spaced out. It’s hard to hold people’s attention on a group conference call. Have a specific agenda and what you need to accomplish in place, and make it happen quickly, before you lose your audience.
4. Call on people: just like a teacher in a classroom, one way to make sure people are participating is to ask them a direct question. (Of course, you run the risk of the person on the other end of the phone not having heard the question, because they were too busy playing a round of Candy Crush, which will be super awkward – and sort of funny). But assuming they were paying attention – the more you can engage people on the call, the more you’ll keep their attention for a few more minutes.
5. Face to face still rules: Conference calls are an unfortunate necessity in the business world. Not everyone has the luxury to work in the same office together. But with that said, any time you can plan a meeting face to face, it’s 1000% more effective than doing via any other communication method.
And just in case you need a laugh today (don’t we all?!), I’m sharing a video of Tripp and Tyler acting out what a conference call would look like in real life. Spot on hilarious.
How do you make conference calls more productive for your team? Or at least, how do you make them less lame?