A conference call can be done by anyone, but there are a few common mistakes made that can prevent you from having a successful call, on both the part of the host and the attendees.
Here are some of the most common mistakes committed by conference call hosts and guests, as well as how to avoid and solve them!
Mistake #1: Not having an agenda
It may be tempting to be spontaneous with a conference call, especially if it’s a regular weekly meeting or a casual brainstorming session. Even if you have an agenda for how you want to host the call and what you want to accomplish, you may not think to distribute it to your guests ahead of time, or not want to give away that information before the call itself.
Solution: Make and share a detailed agenda that breaks down the parts of a call, the approximate timing for each part, and what you expect to get out of the call overall. Distribute this to your attendees in your email notifications and reminders. You can still keep certain information, like special guest speakers, secret by billing it as a surprise. An agenda will show your attendees that you value their time and will help keep everyone on track.
Mistake #2: Failing to remind attendees
You might think sending out one message about your conference call is enough to get attendees to show up. Unfortunately, this overestimates anyone’s ability to recall one email from the many that they receive every day. Even the most enthusiastic and time-conscious guest might not save the date and time of the call to their calendar right away, and the email gets quickly buried in their inbox and forgotten.
Solution: Send out three reminders for the best chance for your attendees to show up—and show up on time—to a conference call. The first should be sent out a week in advance of the call, the second goes out the day before, and the third is sent out the morning of the call. Each reminder should include the date and time (including time zone), access information, and an agenda for the call.
Mistake #3: Not using quality equipment
On the go in your car and need to dial in to the conference call from your cell phone? Accessing the call from your desk at work in a busy open office? While these methods are convenient, unfortunately they are not conducive to the best conference call experience for anyone. Factors like background noise, cell phone usage, speakerphone mode, and using VoIP services all create extra noise and sounds whenever you are speaking or don’t have your line muted.
Solution: Use a reliable landline with a headset or a handset without speakerphone on. Dial in from a quiet location where you won’t be disturbed for the duration of the call. We recognize that these conditions can’t always be created, but it’s particularly important for a call host or other main speakers, and especially if you are recording the call. If you’re an attendee who won’t speak for much of the call, just make sure your line is muted until you need to speak.
Mistake #4: Not providing ground rules
It’s easy to think that once you have a quality service for phone conferencing and you know how to use it, it will be simple for attendees to call in and enjoy the call without a hitch. You may forget to inform or remind them about simple features like how to mute their line, reach an operator, or lay down any other rules you may have for the conduct you expect on your call.
Solution: Provide detailed information about how to access the call, perform functions like muting one’s line or dialing an operator during the call, and even some troubleshooting for common issues they may run into. You can give out this information in your email reminders as well as verbally at the beginning of your call. These measures should prevent common problems, reduce tardiness, and keep your calls on track.
Mistake #5: Failing to use conference call etiquette
As an attendee, you can dial into a conference call from anywhere, whether it’s your sofa, the car, or a coffee shop. This creates a level of casualness that might lead you to be a little more relaxed, distracted, or negligent than you would be during a regular in-person meeting. You might be tempted to eat or drink on the call, dial in from a noisy location, or be distracted by your surroundings—all while leaving your line unmuted for all to overhear.
Solution: Do your very best to call from a quiet location where you won’t be distracted. Arrive on the call on time or even early, avoid eating and drinking on the line, and make sure you know how to mute your line so you can anticipate and avoid any background noise that could interrupt other callers’ experience. Be respectful, listen closely, and value the time of the other attendees and hosts just like you would at an in-person meeting.
Mistake #6: Failing to take notes or record
In all your planning for a conference call, you may not think to assign someone to take detailed minutes or notes of the call, or simply use the recording feature to save the audio for later. You may think that that you shouldn’t provide a recap if you want more people to attend the live call itself. However, it only hurts you and your attendees to lose the valuable information shared on your conference call.
Solution: Use the recording feature for every conference call! Or, assign someone to take good notes of the call to type up and distribute later. You don’t have to expressly advertise ahead of time that there will be minutes or a recording of the call available later, but you should certainly distribute the notes in an email or make the recording file available for a couple days afterward. You and your attendees should be able to revisit the information, or catch themselves up if they missed it.
Mistake #7: Not soliciting feedback or testimonials
As a host, if you don’t hear about problems from your call attendees, it must mean they are enjoying every second, right? Unfortunately, probably not. If you host regular calls, you could be missing out on valuable feedback from your attendees if you don’t ask for it. There could be issues or room for improvement that guests don’t think to tell you on their own.
Solution: Set up a quick survey for every call, which attendees can quickly take online or over the phone to give their feedback. This allows you to continually improve the experience on your calls. Also, for attendees that have been on your calls for several months, ask if they’d be willing to provide a testimonial to help encourage and grow your attendance and reputation.
At Conference Calls Unlimited, we provide phone and web conference call technology that you can count on for a quality experience, but it’s up to you, as a host or attendee, to make those calls a real success. Avoiding the common mistakes listed here will put you on the path to easy, efficient conference calls that attendees truly want to dial into every time.