Conference Call: Your Leadership Test

Full name
11 Jan 2022
5 min read

The bad news: Conference calls aren’t going away. According to a Wainhouse Research survey, time spent in audio conferences in the U.S. is expected to grow almost 9 percent a year through 2017.

The good news: A single ingredient can avert most conference call annoyances. It’s leadership. So why not bring your best skills to your next call?

These four tips on how strong leaders can hold better phone meetings are deceptive. They’re so easily implemented that they’re easy to dismiss. But put in place, they’re guaranteed to improve the quality of your calls.

1. Publish ground rules. The meeting leader should, at the start of the meeting (or even better: before the meeting), communicate expectations. Include the statement that the call will begin and end on time. Advise participants to allow extra time to log in and include the login information in each communication. Remind all to mute the phone when not speaking and to refrain from putting the call on hold if their system pipes music. Then gently enforce these rules during the call.

2. Act like a party host. Your goal: Have everyone clear on who’s on the call and why, then to get comfortable with the group. Either summarize the names of all who have joined the call or take roll call. If participants don’t all know one another, take a few minutes to get acquainted — at minimum by having each person explain their role. A great way to create rapport is to have each participant answer a goofy question: What’s your favorite airport? Or perhaps, What’s your favorite breakfast?

3. Manage the conversation. If some people are face-to-face and some are on the phone, check in with phone participants regularly — they’re at a severe disadvantage. When voices talk over each other, it’s the leader’s role to direct and instruct one to continue and follow up with the other. When someone is not participating, address that person by name for their thoughts.

4. Choose the tech with care. Find a platform you’re comfortable with, then commit to it. Web-based services are more versatile because most offer screen sharing, plus chat features allow reticent participants to raise their hands. Add video to discourage inattention. And of course, use a land line if at all possible, depending on your platform, for clear connections.

Bring your A-Game to the next conference call you lead. Then expect a home run.

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