ConferenceTown.com hopes you will find our Conferencing tips helpful in keeping you and your audience focused on what’s most important, your message.
To help you plan & organize your teleconferences, try these tools:
Conference Call Checklist Use this list to make sure you haven't forgotten anything important, and to improve the way you manage your conference calls!
Meeting Agenda Form Fill out this form, and keep it in front of you during your conference call to keep you on track! Or send it to your participants ahead of time so that they will be better prepared for your meeting!
Meeting Minutes Form Keep track of the progress of your conference call agenda and new topics for future meetings with this form.
Feedback Form Have your participants fill out this form after the conference call is completed, so that you can review their impressions of the meeting. This is also a handy way to field any questions that your participants might have been reluctant to ask while on the phone! Broaden Your Audience
ConferenceTown.com offers the following ways to help you increase the size of your audience:
Listen-Only Conference Calls allow you to add a large audience to any conference call without compromising the quality of the meeting. This is great for audiences who need to hear the conference, but who do not need to participate in the discussion.
Playbacks of Conference Calls Meetings allow for your audience to hear a conference. This is a great idea for product announcements, etc., where everyone may not be able to dial in at the time of the live call.
Pre-Notification allows you to remind your participants about the upcoming call to which they have already been invited. Teleconferencing Services Uses
At times, it seems that conference calls take a low priority with the people you've invited. Here are some sure-fire ways to make them WANT to join you at your next conference call!
Make use of Guest Speakers
Invite a special guest or high-ranking member of your organization to the meeting. Ask your guest to say a few words or field a few questions as an opener before you get down to regular business. This strategy will provide a great jump-start to the discussion that follows. Make sure to tell all your invitees about this special opportunity to speak with your guest so they won't miss it!
Have a Little Fun
Tell a "Joke of the Day"; share something about life outside the office; try some trivia...Any of these things can change the flow of a meeting, which will help everyone pay attention! If your meetings are more enjoyable, you'll have less trouble with absenteeism!
Perform a Roll Call
People are less likely to skip out on you if they know it will be OBVIOUS to everyone else that they are absent. If a roll call is part of every conference call, your guest will know that they will be missed!
Remind your callers about the upcoming call to which they have already been invited.
If you're having trouble getting your callers to participate freely during conference calls, try these tips:
Open up your meeting with a roll call. This gets your participants talking from the very beginning, and helps them to learn each other's voices. A good strategy is to ask a question before you begin calling the roll, and ask each person to respond with their answer when their name is called. This can be something relevant to the topic (such as this week's progress towards a goal), or something to relax everyone and create a more personable atmosphere (such as what everyone did over the weekend).
Make sure all participants are familiar with each other. If you have invited someone new to a regularly scheduled meeting, make sure to introduce them to the group with a brief background and a description of what they can contribute.
Track who's talking. Keep a list of all participants in front of you during the meeting, and make a point to call on participants who haven't spoken much. Make this practice a regular part of your conference calls, so participants will know that they are expected to contribute.
When it's time to open up for discussion, take the lead. Make the first suggestion, or list a few possible branches for the discussion to follow. This will "jog" the brains of your participants, and eliminate the sometimes uncomfortable position of being "first"!
There are many ways to use ConferenceTown.com in your business:
Investor Relations / Quarterly Earnings Announcements
Board of Directors Meetings
Auctions by Teleconference
Here are a few tips to help you put together a successful conference call:
Begin your conference call with an enthusiastic greeting. The impression you make in the first 5 seconds of a conference determines how receptive and attentive your audience will be.
Keep it Structured
Outline the agenda for the conference call. This lets participants know what's coming, and keeps them on track with the presenter.
Keep on track with your agenda. It's a good idea to write the topics you want to highlight in large letters on a piece of paper, and place it where you can see it during the entire call. If a question arises on a different subject, suggest that it be discussed at the end of the meeting, after planned topics have been addressed, and return to the topic at hand.
Keep it "Bite-Sized"
Try to format your discussion of different topics into clear, concise points which are easy to follow.
Ask for Input
Periodically ask participants for their opinion on the subject at hand. Choose someone out by name instead of asking for "comments from the gallery". This simple technique helps you gauge how well your message is getting across, and other participants will pay more attention if they know they might be called on for input!
Be clear when your presentation is ending. Recap the highlights of the meeting, clearly restate any goals or expectations you have for them, and formally end the meeting.
Keep the Finished Product in Mind
Take advantage of special services your teleconferencing provider might offer. Consider having an operator monitor your call for unwanted background noise, and to insure that a presentation can proceed without interruptions. If your presentation is to be rebroadcast or stored into a voicemail system, make use of editing services to ensure that the audience hears you in top form.
In addition, make a point to remind your call participants that there are some rules everyone should stick to for the success of the meeting:
Be on Time
Holding up any meeting is inconsiderate.
When callers are not speaking, request that they use the "Mute" button on their phones and pick up the handset when they do wish to speak. Background noise disrupts the meeting for everyone, and may prevent participants from hearing the information they need.
Ask that each participant state their name when they begin speaking. Not all callers will be able to identify others by the sound of their voice, especially if they use a speakerphone or cellular phone.
And the most important tip of all: BE PREPARED!
Have a clear idea of how you would like your conference call to proceed, and take the time to complete a written agenda. There's no substitute for good preparation!
Make sure you are in a quiet location where you will not be disturbed.
Use appropriate equipment.
Speakerphones pick up lots of background noise, and sometimes cause "clipping" because of the limitations of the equipment. If you are using a speakerphone, try to find one that is "full digital duplex"--this will allow all parties to speak at the same time with no clipping. And if no one in your room needs to speak, use the "Mute" button on the phone to prevent background noise from disrupting conference calls. When someone needs to speak, simply release the "Mute".
Turn off your call waiting.
Some of our conferences are set to play a tone as an announcement of a new person entering the conference. If your line starts beeping with call waiting, it can be very confusing and disrupting to the meeting! Most call-waiting features can be deactivated by dialing 70# before dialing. Check with your local phone service provider if you are unsure how to deactivate this function on your phone.
Be on time or early!
It is especially helpful for the host or chairperson of the call to arrive a few minutes early to greet each of the participants, and let them know whether everyone is ready to start yet. Your presence in these opening minutes will also help you head off any premature discussions the participants might begin before you're ready!
Introduce yourself when you begin speaking.
Others may not know your voice!
Don't put your phone on HOLD to do something else.
Your hold music will play into the conference call, and make it impossible for the other participants to continue the meeting in your absence!
Try to stay on schedule.
Stick to the minutes per topic laid out in your agenda, and be respectful of others' time!
For the most accurate transcription, speakers should identify themselves each time they speak (i.e., "This is Tom, and I think" or "This is Debbie, and I'd like to add..."). Since we won't have heard their voices before, it is extremely difficult to accurately identify each speaker otherwise. If this is impractical, speakers should introduce themselves at the beginning of the call and at least the first few times they are speaking. Those few sentences MAY help our transcriptionist accurately identify a voice. Whenever possible, provide a participant list.
Speak slowly, clearly and do not talk over another speaker.
With multiple participants, people often tend to talk at once, making the conversation extremely difficult to decipher. Try to speak one at a time so that we can pick up the conversation in its entirety and better identify the individuals.
Outline Your Expectations:
Ask Yourself--"What specific action do I want to take place as the result of this conference call?" Design your the structure of your meeting and agenda around this goal.
Ask Your Callers--to review the agenda so that they will be prepared to address the issues you will be discussing.
Restate Your Goals:
Perform a "roll call" at the end of the conference call, calling on each person by name, and asking them what goals they have set for themselves as a result of the discussion.
Ask for Feedback:
During the Call--pause for a moment and ask someone to summarize what you've been discussing, and take a couple of questions. You'll be able to tell right away if your message is not coming across clearly, and head off any problems before they occur.
After the Call--distribute a feedback form for your participants to fill out. This will help you clarify any issues that might still be confusing after the meeting.
Distribute meeting minutes as promptly as possible to remind everyone of the goals set and issues discussed.
Address all "loose ends" in the agenda for the next meeting, so that you will be sure to know if someone's productivity on a project is falling behind.