Productive Conference Calls


Conference calls are a necessary evil.   Many times you find yourself working with consultants who are contracted to complete a project that your company doesn’t want to hire dedicated people to build and you need to work with them smoothly to complete the project.    What I’ve noticed about conference calls, and meetings in general, is a lack of basic understanding of how to best use everyone’s time and what to do to get the best experience out of the meeting.

  1. Have an agenda.   I mean, this one is a no brainer.   A written, bulleted point agenda does wonders for letting people know if they even want to participate in the meeting or not.   Time is incredibly valuable and you want to make sure everyone maximizes the time spent.
  2. Invite only people who will contribute.   Do you find when you invite people that they in turn forward it to 5 other “friends”?   Those extra people show up and either play with their phones or play on their laptops the entire meeting without contributing anything.   What they’ve done is cheapen the meeting as well as not being productive at their own jobs.
  3. If you are the one on the phone, or if there are multiple parties on the phone, learn to respect the rule of the conch, meaning : shut up and listen every other sentence.  There is nothing worse than having someone drone on and on without letting someone else interject a question, correction, or some other thought.   You might as well record your soliloquy and email everyone the YouTube link versus a conference call.
  4. Keep conversation at a high level unless you are working on a specific incident or issue.   This one takes context – sometimes you’re working on a specific issue…again, see #1.   Why would you keep things at a high level?  Well, you’re not going to solve world peace in 30 minutes.    Parceling out todos, giving an update on an issue and maybe 1 or 2 other material things is all you should hope to accomplish.
  5. Choose a conference method that has good audio (even better, video).   So much time is wasted figuring out logistics.
  6. Are you screen sharing?   If so, ZOOM IT so that people on the other end can see what you’re sharing.   They’re not looking at a 5K retina Steve Jobs miracle screen most likely.

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