Given the fact that zoom and hangout calls became the new normal, you need to master a new set of skills to enable yourself to effectively facilitate or participate in any conference call with your team or external parties.
Here are 6 tips and tricks that can boost your conference call efficiency and enable you to get the best out of them.
Turn The Cameras On
Naturally, we are used to maintaining eye contact with anyone we are talking to as a sign of respect and paying attention. This is exactly the case with conference calls. Turning the cameras on pressures people to look at the screen most of the time, resist the temptation to exploring the ceiling and the wallpaper, or skimming through their social media feed. As a result, people will pay more attention to what is being said and be more engaged in the call.
Even if people resisted turning their cameras on for whatever excuse, you need to keep your camera on and keep asking gently the participants why you are doing this in the meeting or after the meeting individually. With time, you will see that people naturally will comply and follow when they see the value of it.
Note: be mindful of those who are very insecure about their homework environment and or camera shy and don’t push it too much with them.
Prepare A Clear Agenda
As much as it might sound very simple and trial points, a lot of people don’t really prepare a clear agenda, and some of those who prepare it, don’t always stick to it. Having a clear realistic agenda that is shared with everyone before the meeting, will enable you to fight the distractions, be mindful of the time and politely discard any item that is off-topic without offending anyone. Also, encourage and empower everyone in the meeting/call to cut you off if you went off-topic in case you personally forgot.
So try to add the meeting agenda to the calendar event or send it via email to the attendees to prepare them mentally to the discussions and get their consent beforehand.
Keep Track Of The Off-Topic Items
Keeping track of every off-topic point that the participants try to discuss and actually discuss them later is crucial to your reputation. People find it disrespectful when the meeting facilitator says “Let’s take this offline” and forget. It does not show that you value the participant’s opinions and might come across that you are dictating the meeting. So keep a note of every off-topic item and ask the person politely “if it’s ok to take this offline so we are mindful of everyone’s time and the agenda”. You will be surprised that sometimes participants might refuse and insist on discussing it at the moment because it’s very relevant to the discussion more than you think.
So be flexible here.
Estimate The Meeting Duration Right And Stick To It
Given the agenda and your historical data, try to estimate the meeting duration moderately. Not too short to get the job done neither too long to lose people’s attention and irritate them. Ideally, 45 minutes are very good for holding a productive meeting without losing people’s attention but for daily quick updates, 15 minutes are perfect.
The very long ideation meetings that go for hours are very tricky to maintain and hold productively, but sometimes there is no other way around it. In this situation, you can. give people coffee and hygiene breaks every 1 hour or so. These meetings are better to be held in the first half of the day when people are fresh, more mentally active, and their minds are not occupied with unfinished work they started before the meeting.
It’s important to show respect to the meeting duration, apologize genuinely if you will go over the estimated time, and definitely ask for the participant’s permission.
It also makes sense to account for a couple of minutes of ice-breaking and to get everyone comfortable if the nature of the meeting requires that.
Note: asking your reporter if they have 10 minutes more does not really mean anything since they cannot tell you “No, I don’t have time for you, boss” and you know that.
Keep The Discussion A Group Discussion
There is nothing worse than having a meeting of 5 or 7 people and discuss a point that is only relevant to 2 of them and not for the others. This actually happens and it does happen more from the managers. Not only having a 1 on 1 discussion in a group can annoy everyone else, but also will encourage people to react openly to this by pulling out their phones or laptops to do something useful. At this point, you can’t tell them to please pay attention, because what is being discussed is not relevant.
A good practice here is to take note of this point and finish first all the group discussion then allow the irrelevant people to leave so you can freely have your 1 on 1 discussion.
Send The Meeting Action Points
We all have been in these great discussions that took hours and came out lost not know what did we agree on or will be done. So it is very very very important to write down the action points, even if you are not the meeting facilitator, and send them straight away to everyone after the meeting with a “please let me know if I missed anything” note.
Sending them straight away will enable you to take advantage of all the participant’s fresh memory of the meeting and let them add whatever you missed. Also, this will act as a reference for you so you can come prepared before your next meeting if it is a recurrent meeting.
Meetings are participants’ time, participant’s time equals money. In a business context, it is everyone’s responsibility to spend the company’s money wisely and effectively. So make sure to deliver constructive feedback to anyone that does not get this point using the OSCAR model for giving feedback.
Feel free to share this article with anyone you think needs to read it to be able to hold an effective call/meeting.