You signed up with Freenet for your first long-distance business meeting, received the secure PIN number via e-mail, and self-scheduled a two-hour long conference call with a hundred associates for 7:00 pm. By 9:00, you were stressed out, had ringing ears from too much meaningless babble and distracting background noises, and felt that that meeting was highly unproductive and disorganized. The time and money you thought you were saving from getting together in person was not really saved at all. What went wrong?
Long-distance meetings conducted by phone require the same, if not more, amount of preparation and protocol as face-to-face ones do—and there are ways to ensure that your next telecom meeting proceeds more smoothly than did the first. Here are a few tips to consider for effective conferencing.
First of all, keep in mind that participants will be communicating by voice only, therefore visual cues and physicality will be non-existent. You will not be able to read body language or see gestures. Notes, sales charts, spreadsheets, or other graphics—if they must be incorporated into the meting—should be sent to everybody ahead of time, so time won’t be lost in explaining the information contained in them.
A day or two before the conference begins, make sure everyone has the login PIN number, and remind them of the start time—relative to their time zone! And remember that it is more than a phone call—it is a meeting, so plan accordingly with tasks, goals, and expectations clearly stated. Set an agenda and a time limit for each topic to be covered, rehearse what you are going to say, and keep the event simple and short. (Ideally, the meeting should not run longer than an hour because people tend to get bored, tired, or lose their focus while on the phone any longer than that). If you are planning future teleconferences, try to set a consistent schedule as you would face-to-face meetings, so that everyone will get into the habit of remembering them and being there on time.
During the meeting, it is best to keep small talk to a minimum, and thus keeping it on track. Staying on schedule can be more easily accomplished if you hold off suggestions, comments, questions & answers sessions, and/or discussions towards the end. You might want to conclude the meeting by summarizing some of the main topics covered. Be sure to end early or on time, thank everyone for attending, and remind him or her of the next meeting time. If notes have been transcribed or the call has been recorded, make sure everyone gets a copy or has access to playback; this way, participants can review what was discussed or get clarification if a portion was unclear or missed.
You can indeed save time and money by using FreeConference for your next teleconference. By taking these tips into consideration, you can save aggravation and confusion as well.