10 Tips for Facilitating a Successful Conference Call
As a business analyst, a large part of my workday involves the facilitation of conference calls to gather requirements, review requirements, and/or resolve project issues.
Covering this type of complex and detailed material with sometimes 50+ people on the phone can be challenging at best.
Here are 10 Tips I have learned, that can go a long way toward facilitating a smooth and effective telemeeting.
1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!
Conference calls, especially those involving large groups, can be expensive with regard to people's hours. Make sure you have done your homework so that you make the most of the attendees’ time. Determine the purpose of your call. Identify critical participants. Establish a clear and concise agenda that reasonably fits into the time allotted for your meeting.
2. Get the Right People on the Call
Once you’ve invited key constituents to your call — follow up to ensure they will be in attendance. Nothing is worse than keeping 50 people waiting only to find that your major players won’t be showing up.
3. A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
Visual representations, such as infographics, screen captures, mockups, and flow diagrams, are particularly helpful for teleconferences, as they provide participants with common reference points for discussion.
4. Employ Technology
Web collaboration tools allow participants to share a common workspace where they can view the aforementioned agenda and visuals. They are also great for tracking attendance and recording calls.
5. Don’t Rely on Technology
Be prepared with an alternative way of sharing/capturing meeting information if your meeting tool isn’t “feeling well” that day. Trust me — it happens.
6. Set the Ground Rules
Review your agenda at the beginning of the call, clearly stating the purpose of the meeting, what decisions need to be made, and what type of feedback is appropriate. Allow attendees to ask questions about the agenda. Getting everyone on the same page at the start will help keep the meeting focused.
7. Stick to your Agenda
As you move through the meeting, refer back to the agenda items. If conversation strays too far away from the relevant topics, gently, but firmly, remind participants as to the purpose of the call. Promise to capture any unrelated issues in the notes so that the appropriate follow up meetings can be scheduled.
8. Take Good Notes
In my opinion, the “Note Taker” is the most important person on the call. This person should be someone other than the facilitator who is focused on capturing each issue’s discussion, resolution, and/or action items. You should check in with your Note Taker throughout the call in case he/she needs a moment to catch up or requires any clarification on what has been said. Notes should be published immediately (or as soon as possible) after the meeting.
9. Recap as You Go
Because you don’t have the benefit of reading people’s body language, it’s important to check in with the group throughout the meeting to make sure everyone is following along. It’s helpful to restate each decision or next step as identified and ask if there are any questions before moving on to the next topic.
10. Wrap Up
At the end of the meeting, restate all major action items and allow for any final questions/comments. Explain that notes will be forthcoming. Be sure to thank participants for their attendance. And — after the call — be sure to give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done!!