Conference Calls Can Be Productive If
Steve Adubato, Ph.D.
People in the workplace love conference calls. If done the right
way they can be huge time savers. Conference calls can get several
people communicating on an important issue and allow for critical
decisions to be made in a timely fashion. That's what conference
calls CAN be, but too often they are not. They wind up being chaotic
time wasters that cause many participants to be frustrated, confused
and downright bored.
Recently a colleague told me about a conference call she was on
with a business associate. The call was going along just fine but
as they were wrapping up and deciding on what needed to be done,
another voice came out of the blue--a voice that hadn't been heard
during the entire call. Who was this and why wasn't he identified
earlier in the call? Was he listening the whole time? What role
was he playing? Finally, what level of trust can you have with someone
that doesn't even tell you that there is another person in on the
This is just one instance where people in business use conference
calls in a counterproductive fashion. Next time you are thinking
about organizing one of these calls consider the following tips:
---Treat a conference call the same way you would treat an important
meeting. Make sure everyone has a clear, itemized agenda. Have the
conference call start on time and end when you have committed to
---Limit the number of people on the call to 4 (maximum 5). Anything
over that borders on chaotic. It becomes extremely difficult to
keep track of who is talking, plus, when you have too many people
on the call, it is an invitation for people to go on automatic pilot.
Some of us have even pressed the mute button and start multi-tasking.
---Don't multi-task when on a conference call. If you THINK you
can answer your e-mail and participate in the conference call you
are kidding yourself. Things are going to get missed when you do
that. You wouldn't respond to your e-mail if you were in a meeting,
so you shouldn't do it if you are on a conference call.
---As the organizer of the conference call, have everyone introduce
himself or herself up front. Then ask for people to state who they
are before they speak. They don't have to do it every time, but
it is important for people who don't know each other's voices especially
well to become familiar as quickly as possible.
---Try not to interrupt. Hold your tongue and wait for the appropriate
time to jump in. One big difference between a meeting and a conference
call is that there is no non-verbal communication over the telephone.
Other participants can't see that you are looking to get in. Frankly,
you have to be a much better listener and your concentration level
has to be higher over the phone than in person.
---If you come into a conference call after it starts, try to make
sure that people know you are there. If you are the organizer of
the conference call and this happens, seek an opportunity to introduce
that person and then quickly review any key decisions that have
--Finally, as the organizer of the conference call, wrap up the
meeting with a recap of what has been accomplished and agreed upon.
Also, identify issues or questions that must be explored further.
Make sure you thank everyone for his or her participation and say
Write to me about a recent conference call experience that left
Dr. Steve Adubato coaches and speaks on the subjects of communication
and leadership and is the author of the book "Speak from the
Heart." Write to him at The Star-Ledger, 1 Star-Ledger Plaza,
Newark, NJ 07102, visit his Web site at www.stand-deliver.com,
or e-mail him at email@example.com.
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