In the course of managing a project, you are sure to be called upon to conduct a meeting through conference call at some point. These meetings can be tricky as you are mostly not face-to-face with some or most of the participants, which makes it harder to stay organized and focused. These few tips will help you stay on track and successfully achieve the purpose of the conference call.
- Prepare an Agenda in Advance
It is important to prepare an agenda for a conference call beforehand so the meeting has a pre-set structure all participants can follow. Doing this in advance will give your team and other remote participants time to prepare comments, questions and any necessary presentations so the meeting runs more smoothly. You can then tick items off this agenda as you go so that the meeting goes on in an orderly fashion and no important point is missed out on.
- Organize your team
Be sure to see to it that your team is familiar with the proper etiquette of a conference call. Since it is carried out over the phone, interruptions and environmental noises such as typing or clicking or pens can be much more disturbing than in a normal meeting. Also be sure everyone leaves their cell phones put, arrives on time so there are no interruptions, and is prepared for the meeting with a copy of the agenda and any other additional materials. Also make sure all team members introduce themselves when they join in and before speaking up as not all participants can see you during a conference call. Also have them keep comments brief, as without visual cues it is easy for remote participants to tune out of a drawn out monologue.
Introductions are important In a conference call, it is important for the project leader to start off with introductions of their team, and having the other party or remote participants do the same. This helps keep the meeting professional and structured, and there is lesser chance of confusion. It is also important to keep taking names, start questions with the name of the person they are addressed to, and encourage your team members to introduce themselves again before they speak as it is quite impossible to recognize so many voices over the phone.
- Maintaining control and momentum
As a project leader, it will fall upon you to take the lead and guide the discussion in a meaningful direction. Try to stick to the agenda, and keep the conversation flowing by asking questions and announcing the next topic under discussion. Also, if someone is quiet, don't assume this means approval, and keep asking for feedback and confirmation. Moreover, it is easy for the remote participants to feel isolated or for your team to forget they are there, so be sure to keep them involved in the discussion and keep them from getting distracted by addressing them as you speak.
- Take Notes
It is easy to lose track of who said what in a conference call especially since you can't tell most voices apart, so be sure to keep taking notes. This will also help you remember what was discussed and what decisions were taken, and who was assigned which job till the next meeting. Without this, your precious and carefully planned conference call can go to waste, as it is impossible to retain so much information in your busy head without notes. Also, these notes can serve as a basis for the next meeting's agenda.
These few considerations can help any project manager lead better conference calls where all team members can take something of importance away from the meetings, and important urgent decisions are made instead of just wasting valuable time.