‘Sorry, I was on mute’ | Tips for Leading an Effective Conference Call

01.23.2018 | Janae Frisch

As a PR professional, it’s commonplace to have regular conference calls with clients and colleagues. They can be a productive and efficient way to hold a meeting, especially for those who would otherwise have to travel to attend. However, if the call is not conducted in a professional and organized manner, it can be a waste of time for both you and your participants.

Anyone that’s ever had an office job knows conference calls can often be the worst. The constant beeps, the awkward pauses, that guy who forgets to use the mute button — the reasons people hate those dreaded meetings – just goes on and on. Thanks to this sketch from Tripp and Tyler, which hilariously demonstrates how a conference call would play out in real life, we have a witty reminder about the importance of leading a successful conference call.

To ensure your participants aren’t disengaged and multi-tasking on other things during your next conference call, consider the following tips.

Organize and Prepare

One of the most important things to remember before any meeting is to be prepared and organized. This is crucial if you are

leading the conference call and you want to accomplish the items on your agenda and keep your participants engaged. Prepare ahead of time for the topics you want to discuss and be sure you have the right people on the call to accomplish your objectives.

Be Punctual

Just like any other professional meeting, it is important that you arrive on time. If you are the host you should dial into the call a few minutes early. Equally important, stay within your scheduled timeframe and end the meeting on time. Limit calls to a reasonable length so participants know what to expect. As the host, it’s your job to keep the call concise, on point and moving along.

Stick to the Agenda

People are busy. It is important to create an agenda and stick to it. Send the agenda in advance so everyone knows the purpose of the call, approximately how long it will last, and what they are expected to prepare. This reduces anxiety for all. When people dial into a conference call, they don’t have the visual cues that are present with a face-to-face meeting – the added clarity of the agenda makes the call go smoother.

Encourage Participation

Let your participants know you value their opinions. You don’t need to bring your pom-poms to the call, you simply need to ask questions – particularly of those who haven’t been as active. People who aren’t involved easily tune out and will not provide the valuable feedback you may be seeking. Many conference call services provide features to involve your attendees, particularly for large groups. These features may include polling, surveying and Q&A capabilities.

Be Aware of Your Location

Your location is critical during a conference call. This is an obvious one, but something that everyone continues to experience. Be aware of your locale and your surroundings. If you are in a loud area such as a coffee shop or at home with a barking dog, you may have a difficult time hearing the conversation and keep in mind everyone on the call will experience this with you.

Familiarize Yourself with the Technology

Your meeting shouldn’t be the first time using the conference call system. Set up a practice run and learn how to use all the features, including how to mute and unmute

all callers. There’s almost nothing worse than being on a conference call with a host that doesn’t know how to use the technology.

Record the Conference Call

Many conference call services allow hosts to record the calls. This can be a valuable tool for several reasons. First, it can allow participants to go back and review the discussion. Second, if an individual cannot attend the meeting, they can listen to the recording after the fact. Additionally, a recording is a way to keep track of the meetings and verify what was discussed and presented.

Send a Recap

Keeping notes on the discussion will provide a quick summary of the items discussed and the decisions agreed upon. It’s helpful to streamline these notes and keep them focused on action items and major developments, as you don’t need every detail if you’re recording the call. This is also an efficient way to keep the momentum moving after the call and remind participants about actionable next steps.


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