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Stick the landing: How you end a conference call matters

Stick the landing: How you end a conference call matters

No matter what line of business you are in, at the end of the day, you need to see results and productivity from your team. To stay on top of expectations, you probably speak with your team in some form of regular get-together.

When your team is remote, spread out across different locations or frequently on the road, frequent and regular communication becomes even more important. However, no matter how often you are in touch with the people you work with, if people walk away from a conference call without clear direction, then you are putting your expected results at risk of not being achieved.

This is where one of the most vital parts of a conference call - the ending - factors in. Conference calls, like all meetings, can be completely derailed by unorganized wrap-ups and conclusions.

To help you make the most of your conference call wrap-ups, here are insights on why they matter - and how you can use them to drive results.

Explain expectations at the start and end of a call

Everyone on the call should know what to expect before they even dial in. You can achieve this by sending out an agenda beforehand. But it’s also a good practice to briefly remind everyone what the goals and expected outcomes of a call are before you dive right in to the first agenda item.

According to Harvard Business Review, this also helps everyone on the call know how they will be expected to participate. Writing for the publication, author Paul Axtell says he has found that closure is usually the missing piece between meetings and seeing the desired results. That’s because without closure, some things could be unclear - if mentioned at all.

Finish with discussion on next steps

There could also be people on the call who have uncertainty or even disagreement over a specific issue. If that’s the case, providing a strong conclusion at the end of a call gives that person one last chance to speak their piece - as long as they’re given an opportunity, which they should be.

Axtell says that managers should check to make sure a topic has been covered thoroughly and that everyone is in alignment, or agreement, on what’s been shared.

You should always agree with your team on next steps that are to be taken before ending the meeting. Though next steps can be discussed after each item on the meeting agenda, you should set aside time at the end to again cover next steps. This will help fill in the gap between your call and the outcomes you’re looking to achieve.

Also writing for Harvard Business Review, Harvard Business School’s Robert C. Pozen gives a useful set of questions to ask when setting next steps:

  1. What do we see as the next steps?
  2. Who should take responsibility for them?
  3. What should the timeframe be?

Acknowledge everyone’s efforts

Without your team, you’d likely have a much more difficult path ahead of you. At the end of each conference call, acknowledge how much everyone’s efforts mean. Katy Trost, a performance and leadership coach, writes in Forbes that this type of quality communication can prevent many issues.

Validate the opinions they have shared, too, even if you may not agree with them. Trost notes it’s important to acknowledge people when they share their opinions. It’s “essential to great leadership,” she says.

When you acknowledge and validate your team members, they are all the more likely to keep sharing their opinions in meetings and on calls. Keep the conversation flowing by making sure everyone is heard and that they know you appreciate hearing from them.

Gather feedback before hanging up

Before you end the call, offer a brief time slot to receive feedback from anyone with questions. In Forbes, Trost writes that the leaders of the calls an use this time to again share their opinions, but they should also ask for comments from the rest of the team.

However, Trost also points out that leaders should speak last. Offer everyone else the first opportunities to speak. By encouraging participation from folks on the conference call and asking for their input, leaders can show they respect everyone’s opinions.

When those opinions are being shared, Trost advises leaders to listen actively. Use the comments provided to solve any potential challenges. Should conflict or disagreement arise at this point in the call, use Trost’s advice, which is to come as close to a win-win solution as possible.

Use these wrap-up strategies to improve your conference calls

When you reach the end of the conference call, make sure you provide a comprehensive wrap-up of the conversation. Before you hang up, check that everyone is on the same page, is clear on what’s expected of them - and the rest of the team - and are aware of the vital role they play as part of that team.

But there are also tools and resources available that can help ensure a conference call was productive even after it has ended. For example, if you have someone taking notes, be sure to save those in a format that can be emailed or shared another way following the meeting.

Also check to see if you can record your conference call. Send the file out to everyone who was on the call - or who may have missed the call - in the same email with the notes and recap.

Take some time to explore many of the available resources for improving meetings, too. From agenda and planning apps, to services that help calculate a meeting’s ROI, you may be surprised what technology is out there that can help.

Incorporate these strategies and tools into your conference call routine and you will be on your way to having more productive conversations - and more productive teams, as well.

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