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Let’s face it. Conference calls can be a humongous waste of time for everyone and their mothers. We, humans, are still relatively new to this kind of “abstract meeting,” devoid of body language and visual communication.

However, if you work in an office, it’s buried somewhere in the initial contract that at least 30% of your time will be spent leading these calls. We all know what happens during conference calls…

So here are 7 effective conference call tips you can use to face them head on and move on with your day.

1. Create an agenda

Here’s an example:

#1: Talk about which Friends character you are most similar to.

#2: Discuss your favorite smoothie toppings: chia, flax or hemp.

#3: Compare the difficulty levels between the P90X and Insanity fitness programs. Team Tony or Team Shaun T?

And I’ve always thought I was a mix between Monica and Phoebe.

Agendas are important so that everyone knows what the call is about and can prepare. A brief and concise agenda can make all the difference.

And for the life of me, please bold, circle or highlight the call number for your meeting invitees. You know I’m going to frantically search for it 20 seconds before the meeting time if you don’t.

2. Have objectives

1st Objective: Waste Vanessa’s time.

2nd Objective: Waste more of Vanessa’s time.

3rd Objective: Discuss the plan for the…oh no wait, it’s just to waste Vanessa’s time.

Please have a purpose for using up my precious life resource!

For example, it’s typical to have monthly update meetings. As call organizer, if you know there’s not too much to update, consider just sending out a briefing email instead.

3. Stay focused

“Oh yes, that’s a really interesting note. You know what we can discuss this offline. Actually, let’s just cover it now for 10 minutes because I don’t care if the topic is completely unrelated. And if the other 7 people completely tune out. Blah blah blah blah blah.”

This is where you need a lasso to redirect someone if they’ve gone off the rails. Just let them know they can discuss it with you later for everyone’s sake.

4. Keep track of time

If you wrote in the invite that the call is for 30 minutes, I only have 30 minutes for you.

I have a lunchtime yoga class and if I don’t get to work on my crow pose, I’m going to be cranky.

So please, learn how to manage your time. Start to wrap up the call 5-10 minutes beforehand and then we can all go into downward dog.

5. Try to ask questions directly to someone

“What were everyone’s updates for this week?”

Everyone speaks at once:

“This week my numbers were…”

“I didn’t get a chance to…”

“I was wondering if we could…”

What did you think would happen if you asked this open-ended question?

Real simple: ask someone a question directly so we don’t have the awkward 10 seconds of silence and then have everyone speaking at the same time. Another idea is to make sure everyone knows who is responsible for contributing different parts of the call.

6. Background noise

If you were one of the people who took the survey from West Corporation and admitted to taking a call at McDonald’s play place, at least try to tell the yelling and screaming children in the background to zip it for a moment.

Wherever you are, if you can hear it, everyone else can hear it too.

7. The Mute Button: Use it, don’t lose it

During a conference call, the mute button is your best friend.

Turn it on and you’re free to type away and even snore out loud without anyone knowing.

Just watch the button before you start speaking.  

“So what are your weekend plans Joey?”

“Just a hot date in my sweatpants”

“Oh hi guys, you both are still on the call…”

Of course, you also need to keep tabs on that little button so that you can get back into conversation quickly.

You don’t want to make it totally obvious that you’ve been off in the land of Wikipedia. Scrambling through all of your open windows looking for the mute button will lead to awkward exchanges.

And there you have it. Does anyone else have their own conference call tips or experiences to share?

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  1. Monica/Rachel combo here.

    I’m really a big fan of making any conference call or group meeting an email as much as possible. If a meeting is going to be 90% me talking at my team, 10% my coworker discussing movies from the 70s that no one else in the room has heard of, I think we can safely summarize it all in writing.

    Of course, when everyone else on the team ENJOYS having their time wasted (who are you people?!) I guess there’s not much I can do. Except maybe print this out and post it at my desk. 🙂

    • Modern Flourish Modern Flourish

      Hi Monica and Rachel,

      Thanks for your comment – it was hilarious. It’s interesting to hear how other workplaces operate. Sounds pretty similar to ours!


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