The Conference Call Conundrum: 10 Steps for Keeping People Engaged

 Steps for Keeping People Engaged

For busy executives, the conference call is a valuable tool, allowing them to host meetings from anywhere and with people who could be spread out far and wide. However, research from conferencing and collaboration provider InterCall found as people are spending more time on conference calls from mobile devices, many of them may not be paying attention to the discussion.

And what are people doing while on calls? The comedic video below may not be too far off, if the research results are any indication. In the InterCall survey, 82 percent of respondents said they work on unrelated items, from other projects to shopping and video games.

Perhaps it’s no surprise some people are focused on other things. Respondents reported taking calls from venues as diverse as a wedding rehearsal, a friend’s closet at a party and a racetrack. A handful of those surveyed even said they’ve had a friend jump on a call for them.

Steps for engaging, productive calls

For better or worse, multitasking is probably a fact of life when it comes to conference calls, and it is even harder to stop when calls can be taken from just about anywhere. In light of this, what are leaders to do?

Start with the basics:

  1. Make sure the call is necessary.
  2. Invite only those who need to attend.
  3. Have a clear agenda, setting expectations for participants’ action items.
  4. Stick to the agenda.
  5. Limit the unrelated discussion.

Beyond that, it’s about fostering and maintaining an engaging and relevant discussion.

  1. Schedule the call for how long you will need, not how long you could need. Resist the temptation to add extra time "just in case."
  2. Don't talk at people. As much as possible, skip data dumps.
  3. Make sure all employees’ opinions count – and everyone knows it.
  4. Call on people by name for their thoughts to build the discussion.
  5. Cut the meeting short if people seem distracted or you’re not generating the type of conversation you wanted. If needed, follow up with participants individually.

‘Don’t put us on hold!’

Finally, remind attendees about the power of the mute button. We’ve likely all heard the hold music overtake the discussion when someone puts the call on hold. Muting the phone will also avoid side conversations broadcast to the group.

How do you keep conference calls productive and attendees engaged? Please share your thoughts below.

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