Most companies have held more virtual conference calls in the last few weeks than ever before. The rise of work-from-home environments has been more significant than ever at the start of 2020, and the number of remote employees is set to increase. At least 50% of the UK should be working remotely by the end of this year.
Conference calling is one of the best ways for teams to keep everyone in the loop about new projects and opportunities. With the wide selection of tools now available on the market for quick and easy audio or video meetings, anyone can jump into a conference within a matter of minutes. However, not every employee knows how to make the most of the conference call.
Here’s your guide to making the most out of every conversation.
Always have an agenda in place
One of the key issues that reduces the efficiency and productivity of meetings is a lack of direction. Business leaders invite their team members into a call and try to figure out what needs to be discussed later. Unfortunately, this wastes crucial time.
Providing staff with an agenda before the meeting, including a list of things that you’re going to cover and any information they need to provide, keeps a meeting running smoothly. Some of the details to include in your agenda are:
- What the topics of conversation will be
- What employees are expected to contribute
- When the conference will start and end
- What the goal of the meeting will be
- Which video conferencing system you will use
Addressing all of this critical information before the conference call will mean that team members know what to take notes on, and what they should be getting out of the conversation. Planning your agenda will also help you to figure out who actually needs to be in your meeting. If the topics you’re discussing aren’t relevant to a certain group of employees, they don’t need to be there.
Experiment with your tools
Making the most of a conference call means understanding how to make conference calls, what conference call services you’re going to use, and how both your hardware and software works. Conversations between team members are often derailed when employees need to spend fifteen minutes adjusting their audio or figuring out how to position their camera before the discussion begins.
Once you have an agenda for your meeting, take the time to get to know your video conferencing equipment, and the software you’re going to be working with. Ask yourself:
- Is your camera set up so that other participants can see you clearly?
- What kind of audio system do you have in place? How good is your voice quality?
- Do you know how to set up a conference call, invite people to the meeting, and use other tools like screen sharing to progress the meeting?
- What aspects of your video conference system might you need to use? Do you know where the mute button is, and how to record a call?
If you’re nervous, you could consider launching a quick conference call with someone in your team to test that everything is working properly before you begin your full meeting.
Choose the right space
When you’re launching a conference call from within your office, there’s a good chance that you’ll already have a meeting room set up with all the video conferencing tools that you might need. However, having a remote conference call is a slightly different experience.
It’s up to you to make sure that you’re in a space that’s going to support a successful meeting. This means choosing a room with good lighting, so that your video stream looks great. You’ll also need to ensure that you have a strong internet connection so you’re not dropping bandwidth in your conference video call.
If possible, get rid of any background clutter in your home office that might distract your team members, and ensure that your office can remain quiet while you’re talking. Asking family members to stay quiet, or your partner to take the dog for a walk could be helpful if you’re having an important meeting.
Set yourself up for success
Setting yourself up for success in a conference call goes beyond using the right video equipment and headsets. You also need to ensure that you’re dressed correctly, and that you have the information you need to get your message across. For instance, collect all of the documents and data that you’re going to need for your meeting. You might even create a presentation that you can share with your employees and coworkers using screen sharing technology.
Remember, just because you’re joining your conference call from home doesn’t mean that you should let professionalism slide either. Your team members will expect to see you dressed professionally, and ready to deliver a great meeting, or contribute to the discussion at hand.
Another thing to keep in mind is that while it’s important to know when to pipe down and use the mute button (such as when someone else is presenting), don’t be totally silent. Even if you’re not hosting the meeting, ensure that you deliver some input from time to time.
Follow up on the conference call
Finally, when the conference call comes to an end, ensure that everyone goes away knowing what they need to do next. This could mean that you instant message everyone on your team that attended the meeting on a tool. You can provide a bullet list of key points for them to take away, and link to a task on a project management board like Trello.
It might also be worth reaching out individually to different members of staff that are responsible for taking the next steps in achieving your goals. These people might need some one-on-one guidance before they jump into their task, which means arranging additional meetings.
If your conference call was particularly important, you may even choose to record the content so you can share it with your team later. Just make sure you’re following the security and privacy policies laid out by your company.
Mastering the conference call
In today’s rapidly evolving workplace, the conference call is one of the most powerful tools that any business has. It’s a chance for companies to share information and get team members on the same page, no matter where they might be.
However, just like any other meeting session, your remote calls need to be well-planned and organised to deliver excellent results. Take the time to plan your session, learn how to use your tools, find the right space, and set yourself up properly before the call begins. What’s more, don’t forget to follow up to ensure that you got your message across.
About the Author:
Sam O’Brien is the Senior Website Optimisation & User Experience Manager for EMEA at RingCentral, a global UCaaS systems provider. Sam has a passion for innovation and loves exploring ways to collaborate more with dispersed teams. He has written for websites such as Hubspot and PollEverywhere.