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5 Tips to Stop Wasting Time on Conference Calls

Conference calls and online meetings are increasingly part of everyday business life, used for meeting with others when you can’t all be in the same room, weekly team meetings, sales presentations and much more.  Although clearly useful, conference calls and online meetings can have certain problematic aspects, which reduce the overall effectiveness of your meetings, and may leave you feeling like you’re wasting time.  To combat these issues, here are 5 tips, particularly relevant for call leaders, for making the most out of your remote meetings – and staying productive.

1. Communicate Your Objectives in Advance

Make sure you know what you want to achieve from the call, and who needs to be involved to get these things done.  Write a meeting agenda in advance and send it to all participants when you send out the conference invite, so they know what to expect (and what to prepare, if necessary).

2. Be on Time and Keep It on Time

As a call leader, make sure you are on time, or – better yet – early for the call you’re hosting.   This means you can start discussing the subject at hand as soon as possible, which should translate to an earlier finish time.  Try not to let others jeopardize your start time: don’t delay the start of the conference call until everyone arrives, but rather set a precedent by starting without them, which should discourage repeat offences on future calls.

Stay on track and make sure your call fits into the time you allocated in your meeting invite.  The people you invited to your conference call may have meetings right after, and if your call runs long it will affect others’ schedule for the day.  If you are able to, finish before the projected end time; there’s no point stretching out a call unnecessarily when you could be doing other things.

3. Make Sure You Know Who’s Who

When there are more than three people on a call, you need to know who has actually joined and who is speaking so you can stay on top of the conversation and avoid the oft-repeated “Who just joined?”.  If your conference call provider doesn’t let you see who’s on the call, try using roll call, which prompts everyone to announce themselves when they join the call (or consider switching to a provider who offers this capability…).

4. Share Your Screen to Explain Your Point

Sharing a document or showing others on the call what’s on your screen can be more effective – and faster – than trying to explain your point verbally.  If you have the ability to share your screen, take advantage!  Use it to reduce ambiguity and speed up the time it takes to get through the call agenda.

5. End the Call with a Clear Action Plan

After you have covered the agenda with all the relevant people in a smooth, quick and effective fashion, the next step is to make sure that the next steps are discussed, documented and sent out.  Be sure to end the conference call with a discussion of these action points, and follow up with a record of these in writing.

I hope these tips are useful on your next conference call.  For more posts on communicating effectively, check out:

10 Tips to Avoid Death by PowerPoint

Managing Remote Teams: Top 4 Tips for Success

7 Tips to Prevent Disasters in Communication with Developers

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