Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) News 

May 23, 2016

Take Control of Conference Calls

Posted by Tom Strong

Talk to most business people and they’ll have a few "conference calls from hell" stories. Unfortunately, conference calls can be miserable but are completely necessary. And in today’s business culture, with people scattered across the United States and the world, they’ll continue to be essential. However, they don’t have to be messy and confusing if you know how to keep control.

A cloud-based phone system for your business offers a variety of services to alleviate these problems, but they’re only helpful if people actually use them. Most VoIP options have excellent conference call features (i.e. manage invitations, hand-raising, muting capabilities, call recording) through their VoIP systems, yet they often go unused. These are great tools and they can help control and facilitate productive calls.

In any meeting there must be someone in charge to manage and oversee the process. This is especially true of phone meetings. One of the biggest complaints people have with conference calls is that no one or everyone seems to be in charge. To be productive a call should have an effective moderator. Here are a few guidelines, which make that job easier.

1. Establish control ahead of time

Set the tone of the meeting preemptively by making sure everyone has the agenda, start time/end time, pass codes, dial in number, leaders name, behavioral guidelines, etc. at least a few days in advance.

2. Take control at the start of the meeting

The ground rules, agenda and goals for the meeting should be clearly stated at the beginning of the call. Assume that some of those on the call didn’t read the advance information. Also, not everyone understands the procedure for a quick and efficient call.

3. Keep control during the meeting

Start on time and be firm about sticking to the agenda. Learn and use the features on the phone system, the mute button for disruptive participants is a valuable tool, don’t be afraid to use it. Rewarding (waiting for late comers) or ignoring people’s bad behavior encourages them to continue it.

4. Remind participants of good phone etiquette

Another complaint from call participants is, “I couldn’t hear or understand a thing anybody said.” Let participates know, ahead of time, that they’re being asked to use the best equipment they have access to, in a quiet room where they’ll be undisturbed. Also, encourage them to know where their mute button is and to use it on themselves.

5. Institute the “announce yourself” procedure

This is a very effective tool if handled properly by the facilitator. When people are required to announce themselves they interrupt or cut people off much less. It’s the equivalent of saying, “This is Steve from Ohio and I’m going to be rude now” and most people won’t do it. Getting people in the habit of announcing themselves significantly cuts down on the cross talk, too. Finally, it makes good sense; it’s difficult for people who are strangers to recognize each other’s voices.

It’s the responsibility, in any type of meeting, of the leader to set the tone and keep control of the process. Conference calls are no exception and in many cases they need a stronger hand than face to face ones. Most people will appreciate a moderator who’s firm, fair and fast – anyone who’s able to get them out of conference call hell and a cloud-based phone system for your business can help you lead the way.


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