Tips for An Effective Teleconference Call

Seeing is believing, except when you’re on a teleconference (as this video shows). Then you have to rely on what you hear to effectively communicate. You miss out on nonverbal messages—a raised eyebrow, someone folding their arms, looking away. That can put you at a disadvantage if you’re discussing a sensitive topic or negotiating a contract. It’s not that teleconferences aren’t useful. You just need to use them wisely, with tips like these.

When Should You Teleconference?

Teleconferences offer a number of advantages. With advances in technology like fiber-optic transmission, teleconferences provide clear and reliable sound quality. That’s important if the participants are in different locations or on different devices. They can meet almost immediately without incurring travel expenses or taxing productivity. It also gives you access to clients, even when they’re not in your area.

Besides the lack of nonverbal communication, there are some challenges to teleconferences. With multiple people on the line, it can be difficult to track who is speaking or to interject an idea. And you miss the informal conversations that can lead to valuable insights. If you are integrating a third-party host like Skype or Zoom, there can be a learning curve to using the technology.

How to Make Teleconferences Work for Your Business

Here are some tips to help you maximize the advantages of teleconferences and conquer potential challenges.

Before the Meeting:

  • Set expectations with an agenda. It will help participants prepare and gather any information to address the topic. These agenda templates will help you get started. Notice that some agendas also identify who will be on the call
  • Send a calendar invitation and reminder for the conference. Be sensitive to different time zones when setting it up. Include any dial-in information needed to join the conference
  • Do a dry run. Test any equipment or online tool prior to the meeting. You want to identify and resolve any connectivity issues so you’re not wasting anyone’s time
  • Join the conference bridge several minutes before the scheduled start. That allows for the informal interaction needed to get the conversation started

During the Meeting:

  • Identify a leader to serve as the gatekeeper. Their duties include: start and end the meeting on time, introduce everyone on the call (including any joining late), clarify the reason for the call, manage the topics and time, facilitate discussion (especially when two people talk at the same time), assign follow-ups
  • Ask participants to identify themselves before speaking. This helps bridge the visual gap that occurs naturally in a face-to-face meeting
  • Ask participants to mute their phones when not speaking. This helps minimize any distractions that can get you off track
  • Get verbal acknowledgements. When meeting in person, you can look at someone to gauge whether they’re on board with what’s being said. You can’t do that in in teleconference. Instead, direct comments/questions to others by name, especially if they are not responding. Use phrases like, “Can I hear from Josie first, then Jerry, then Josh?”
  • Sound the five-minute warning. Let participants know the scheduled meeting time is nearing its end. That signals the group to come to a conclusion and establish any follow-up tasks
  • Close the meeting by summarizing key points, follow-ups and who is responsible for each

After the Meeting:

  • Send out a summary of what was discussed, including any follow-up action items assigned to specific people. Include due dates for each follow-up. If you recorded the conference, email a link to the replay
  • Follow-up with individuals to get more detail, solicit ideas or clarify your understanding. Some individuals are more comfortable contributing individually rather than in a group
  • Get feedback. Consider sending out a survey to persons on the call. Their insights may help you make the next conference even better

Teleconference calls can be a great way to connect with staff and clients virtually anywhere. Maximize their effectiveness with these tips.