A better conference call.

By now I’m guessing most of you have seen A Conference Call in Real Life.  The comedy skit is surprisingly (and sadly) a pretty good demonstration of how actual conference calls can go. Thankfully, there are a lot more options for running effective virtual meetings, including HD video-conferencing. But even before looking at technology for a solution, consider starting with the basics with some of these questions.

  1. Do you even need a meeting? Some corporate cultures have a tendency to schedule a meeting as the default way to get something done. One issue with this approach is that you and your colleagues end up double- and triple-booked, and everyone ends up scrambling from meeting to meeting. Consider instead whether the decision needed, or the objective of the meeting, could be accomplished with an email or a direct phone call with a decision maker.
  2. Do you have the right attendees? Sure, there are those meetings where it is a one-way communication from a leader to an entire team. But in general, for meetings where you actually want to get something done, fewer attendees may be the answer. Do you have the actual decision makers? The folks that will be directly involved? And keep in mind that asking for a delegate is not always helpful.
  3. Do you have a clear agenda? Sending out a meeting request with no context and no agenda can leave invitees in a quandary – “should I even attend this meeting?” Without a guide or agenda to follow for the discussion, you can end up with circular conversations and wasted time.  The agenda doesn’t need to be complicated. It can be as simple as a list of key decisions that need to be made. And if you receive a meeting request without an agenda, consider asking the organizer what the meeting is about before accepting the request.
  4. Are you prepared? Try to send out any materials for the meeting ahead of time, and when you’re going through a document or slide deck, make it clear what page number you’re on. At the start of the call, you may want to take a couple of minutes for housekeeping, such as “don’t put the call on hold” and “mute yourself if you’re not speaking.”

Try some of these ideas on for size for a week, and see what kind of difference they can make for your schedule and productivity. You may find that your colleagues will thank you too.