Potent Compound Corner

Ten ways to run a better conference call

If you’re an EHS professional for a multi-facility company, conference calls can be an unfortunate way of life. These calls are often frustrating and seem like a complete waste of precious time; however, there are certain things you can personally do to make them more productive. Here’s ten suggestions…

  1. Ask “Is a conference call even necessary?” If it’s just a periodic routine update to the department head, most of that can be handled either in an email summary report or using collaboration tools like Slack or Basecamp. Conference calls may only be necessary when there are complex concepts to explain, or when different options need to be discussed, but updates can be handled by other means.
  2. Be on time. Nothing is more frustrating than having a whole team of people wait 5 minutes or more for that one person to show up. Don’t be that person! If you have an early morning conference call make sure you’re in the office early, make sure you have your time zone calculations correct, and that you can get connected. Don’t be the technology inept person that can’t figure out how to connect or can’t install the VOIP plugin on their browser.
  3. If possible, skip the “round the table” introductions. I’ve seen too many conference calls take 15 minutes or more just for the introductions, then the key issue to be discussed only takes 3 minutes to answer. It may make more sense to send out links to everyone’s LinkedIn profile prior to the meeting rather than having someone tell you their name and title.
  4. Be prepared. Read the background information ahead of time and have it in front of you during the conference call. Have your questions written down and submit them ahead of time. This is especially important to complex subjects like discussing toxicology reports, where the person that needs to answer the question may need some advance preparation.
  5. Distribute handouts ahead of time. If you have data or visuals to present, make sure that you have distributed them ahead of time. In addition, make sure that the pages are clearly number so you can refer to the page number during the call.
  6. Make sure you’re positioned to communicate well. Have a high quality headset that allows you to stand and move around a bit. Most people communicate more naturally and better when standing rather than bent over a speaker phone.
  7. Make sure everyone contributes. If you’re the leader of the call, have handy a list of all attendees and don’t be afraid to call out people by name and ask what they think. Ensure that everyone is participating.
  8. If someone disagrees with something, don’t be afraid to ask why and for more details. Having opposing opinions in a real-life meeting is tough, but in a conference call it is a lot tougher.
  9. Summarize at the end. Summarize what was agreed upon and what follow-up action items need to happen. Ensure that there is a person or mechanism in place to ensure that all action items are tracked.
  10. End the conference call on time. Nothing is worse than having a conference call drag out and everyone loses interest. If the topic requires further discussion than what was planned, schedule an additional meeting or better yet - follow up by other means.

Published December 28, 2017

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