If you're in business, you'll know that communication is key to everything you do. For many businesses, conference calling is a vital part of their communication strategy. It allows businesses to communicate with others quickly, easily and efficiently. While these benefits might seem obvious, it's not enough just to think that because you've decided to use conference calling services, you'll automatically make the most of them without any thought. Here are some of the things that can help your business make the most of its conference calls.
Make sure your staff see a conference call in the same way that they would see a normal, face to face meeting. Although it's technically a telephone call, the nature of it means that it should be treated more like a meeting. That means that while there doesn't necessarily need to be a formal agenda, there definitely does need to be clarity on what the call will cover in advance, and time for staff involved to make adequate preparation and make sure they've got the relevant documents in front of them during the call.
Have a record keeping system.
For most conference calls, you need to make sure that some kind of record is being kept. You don't need formal minutes – but you do need to know what has been agreed at the end. It could be useful to make one person responsible for recording decisions and actions made, and then distributing them by email to those who attended just after the call. That way, there's no ambiguity about who should be doing what, and the time spent on the call won't be wasted. Bear in mind that it's often easier for people to get confused over what has been agreed in a conference call than in a meeting, as the lack of face to face contact means that they may get distracted.
If you want to make sure that you make the most of your conference call, make sure that you don't forget to follow it up. Presumably you held the call for a reason, so you should make sure that the things agreed during it are acted upon. If you don't, then the time staff spent on the call was wasted. It could be useful to make one person responsible for chasing up actions agreed as a result of the call.
Have good telephone skills
Being effective in a conference call requires a different set of skills than a face to face meeting does. In a meeting, it's generally obvious if a person wants to speak, and easy to make sure that everyone gets their turn. In a conference call, it's difficult to do this and the lack of personal contact means that people are more likely to speak over each other. Consider getting some training for staff, or at least agree a set of rules for conference call etiquette.
Matt Smith – Freelance business, conference calling and technology blogger.