Are you tired of conference calls being obnoxious and unproductive? You have important business matters to discuss, but every call seems to either go off the rails due to conversational tangents or technical difficulties. It’s also frustrating when people do not come prepared. Web conferences do not have to be as miserable as you are used to them being. Here are a few ways to make your calls run as smoothly as possible.
Start with the right platform
Your virtual meeting is doomed from the beginning if everyone plans on using a second-rate platform or one not designed for conference calls. There are plenty of services out there that enable multi-person video chats, but there are specially programmed software services available that are made explicitly with video conferencing in mind.
You want a web conferencing software that you trust not to short out in the middle of a discussion. Frozen video, dropped audio, and other technical difficulties can halt a productive conversation in its tracks. Then, the meeting either runs over or does not accomplish everything because you need to reestablish communication. Don’t suffer through that; opt for a robust platform that includes features like calendar integration and reliable video and audio quality. Video conferencing is the closest thing technology has to an in-person meeting, but nothing ruins the illusion like a suddenly blacked-out screen.
Plan for everything
Plan the meeting as much as possible beforehand. You cannot control what people will say, of course, but you can plot out points of discussion, the information you want to share, and questions you want to ask. Having an agenda will help keep the meeting on track: if the conversation veers toward something irrelevant, then you can steer it back toward the matter at hand. Making sure you know what direction the meeting should take is courteous to other participants.
Though using a web conferencing service should work smoothly, have a backup plan in case there are still technical difficulties (someone’s internet may not work, for example). Have a backup plan in place so that someone can call in with their mobile device, and always record conversations so that anyone can review them later.
Invite the right people
It’s imperative to invite the right people to the meeting. Many businesses do not err on the side of exclusivity, though; instead, they tend to invite too many people, and those people end up sitting silently without gleaning anything useful from the conversation. You waste people’s time if you invite them, but they do not need to participate. Plus, you might have to spend a few minutes catching them up, and then everyone who is already familiar with the subject sits idly.
Communicate with everyone beforehand
Your call with run much more smoothly if everyone arrives prepared. Send out a mass email with the meeting’s agenda and loose structure so that everyone knows what to focus on, and then restate the agenda when the meeting begins.
Communicate with people on an individual level, too. What material do you want them to cover? What data do you want them to present? The conversation will be more productive if everyone does their homework.
Appoint a facilitator
Many meetings, especially those with more than five people, benefit from having a call facilitator. This person may be you if you are the organizer, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. The facilitator will commence the meeting by stating the meeting’s purpose and introducing everybody present. They’ll also announce the ground rules, such as how long people have to speak and how to use people’s names when speaking. Saying, “What do you think, Tamir?” will save a lot of trouble over asking, “What do you think?”
The facilitator will then guide the conversation according to the agenda. If people begin to talk about subjects irrelevant to the meeting’s purpose, they can gently say, “Let’s return to the previous point.” The facilitator can also keep an eye on the clock so that the meeting does not run over.
Ask participants for feedback
You will have your own opinions and feelings about the meeting’s success, but other callers might think differently. To ensure that the next conference call runs even smoother than this one, ask participants for feedback so that everyone can keep improving. Was there a subject people wished had been brought up? Did some people attempt to speak over others? Constructive criticism will help your conference calls get better and better over time.
Conference calls should not be miserable experiences. How do you go about making virtual meetings run as smoothly?