Last week I wrote a few tips on how to lead a better conference call. Most of the tips focused on setting up and starting the call. Here are a few more tips once the call is started.
- Keep everyone engaged. From my experience, the key challenges while leading a conference call are fighting the multi-taskers and letting others drift into a silent telephonic void. Don’t dominate the conversation or feel the need to fill dead air time. Call on all your participants and force interaction if you have to (you can warn people at the beginning of the meeting that you will do this).
- Level the playing field. It is always tricky when you have some team members physically located together and some that are remote. Typically, the people in the conference room hold the discussion and in the last few minutes of the meeting someone will ask, “does anyone on the phone have something to add?” It’s no wonder why some virtual team members feel alienated. If I have more than 1 or 2 team members calling in, then I often force everyone to call into the conference line. This forces everyone to conduct the meeting virtually and ensures the conversation isn’t dominated by the group sitting together.
- Stay on track and use your parking lot. Like all meetings, conference calls can digress quickly, especially if there are a few vocal people trying to steer the meeting. Don’t be afraid to course-correct. If you hear the conversation getting off topic, document the issue, assign someone the action to follow up. Put the issue in your “parking lot” of ideas and get back to the meeting topic.
- Recap the Actions. The key word is “actions.” Summarizing the meeting at the end of the call is always a best practice, but more importantly, make sure you have documented all the actions, assigned owners, and established a deadline for completion on each action before you hang up. Meetings that end without actions are a nice get-together at best but not that useful.
- Follow Up. Based on the documented actions, ensure you follow up and update the team on progress. No, this doesn’t necessarily mean another conference call. There are a number of ways to do this outside of meeting (i.e. email, scorecards, wikis, etc.). Remember that the follow through is what adds value.
What’s your best practice? Please share your ideas (or pitfalls to avoid).