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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Conference Call Coping

Words we don’t usually hear: "Oh, boy, I’ve got a conference call coming up."

OK, so perhaps it's a good news call because you landed a new client with a knock-your-socks-off proposal. Still, the generic "conference call"  a la Rodney "can't get no respect" Dangerfield has negative connotations: long, unnecessary, “who is speaking?”, boring, “why am I on this call?”

Blogger Laura Vanderkam came up with a list of amusing things to do while on a boring conference call. As communications specialists, we at CommCore relate to her gallows humor that is cloaked in a dose of reality. (We especially liked her suggestion of reading the online edition of a local newspaper in a town you have never visited while the call host drones on).

But it also got us thinking about what we tell our public presentation clients about the phone as a vehicle for communicating. (Let's clarify here: we’re talking about telephone conference calls only, not interactive online video chats, webcasts or webinars).

Good conference calls start with planning and agendas.  Send agendas and supporting documents in advance, and review the agenda for changes when you start.  Let 'em know how long you expect to be on, and stay on schedule. 

Here are some reminders: 
For the host:
• Sound animated and engaged.
• For longer calls consider standing up at your desk using a headset (not a speaker phone). You will have more energy and focus,
• If the call must originate from a conference room with other attendees, make sure the handset or microphones are placed close to the host and other speakers.
• Summarize action items, take-aways and responsibilities/next steps at the end.
For the attendees:
• If there are many participants, ask everyone on the call identify themselves before speaking.
• Ask callers dialing from a mobile phone in a noisy area to mute their phone until they need to speak.
• Pause regularly to inquire if anyone on the phone has a question or comment; that will reduce interruptions and also keep the remote attendees engaged.

What are some of your favorite (naughty) things to do when you are on a boring conference call?

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