Best Practice: Prepare Your Audience

Well begun is half done. And the best way to start a conference call is prepare your audience before they arrive. Manage their expectations of each step in the conference call. That starts with a clear explanation of  what they will experience throughout the call from the date and time of your conference call, to the conference dial-in number, what they will hear when they reach the conference call, what's expected of them/what they need to do, the agenda, how long the call will last and any follow-up or homework assignments, afterwards.

* Date and Time. We rarely receive calls from our customers or their guests on this issue.  We do recommend our customers remind their audience 3 times in the week before a call: 1 week before, the day before and the day of the call. Everyone's busy. Make it easy for your audience to remember your important call.

* The conference dial-in number. See above. The instructions to reach your conference call should be included

* What they will hear when they reach the conference call. Too many times we field calls from customers or their guests who are confused by what they experience when they arrive at a conference call. The most common sources are the music-on-hold feature and the high-touch operator-assisted call. The music-on-hold feature is a great security feature that minimizes the chance for unproductive, disruptive dialogues prior to the start of the conference call. But the music remains for your guests until the host arrives using the host conference code. Difficulties arrive when the host uses the guest code for convenience and the music…just won't go away… Operator-assisted calls are answered, assisted, with a live operator. A live operator greets each caller. That requires the caller to identify which call they want to attend. Oftentimes our customers don't help their audience by providing them a consistent, simple, identifying title to use with the operators. Or they fail to tell their guests that with such a large audience expected for this call, please plan to arrive 10-15 minutes prior to the start of the call. You may experience a moment of silence when you reach the conference as our operators personally greet each caller. Callers, or our customers, panic, calling us about the problem…

* The agenda. We've written about this in the past. But a prepared agenda, delivered prior to the call, keeps the host organized and the guests. It's really a sign that the host respects the time of their audience. And this agenda should be included with each reminder of the call sent to your guests.

* Follow-up or homework assignments. That's part of the agenda, really. Make your audience clear on what's expected of them after the call. That helps them prioritize their attention-span during your call.

We'll talk more about each of these in the coming weeks. But bottomline, for the best conference call be sure to Prepare Your Audience.