5 ways to avoid conference call disaster

Conference calls have the potential to have awkward hiccoughs and even become disastrous, if used by people who have not properly researched conference calling and have little experience. Below are ­­­­5 ways to ensure you have a smooth teleconference experience.

1. Schedule in advance

Before you even start the call, make sure that you send clear invitations, with start and end times, as well as the PIN number and conference room number participants will need to access the call. Some teleconference providers can do this all for you, sending out automatic email invitations to your desired participants, and even creating a calendar attachment. This way, you avoid the problems that come with a participant forgetting about the call, or joining late because of confusion regarding the call’s start time. It also means people should not have difficulty in gaining access to the call, as the numbers they need are stored for them. And not only will you help ensure all the necessary people are present in the call, but by giving them an idea of when the call will end, you raise your chances of them creating enough time to stay for the entirety of the call’s duration.

If people feel the call may have a long time left, they may feel they have to excuse themselves because they have other business to attend to. If, however, they know exactly how much time to dedicate to the teleconference, they can plan their day accordingly. Similarly, you may start to lose people’s attention if they feel the call is dragging. This is avoided by giving them a clear indication of how much of their time you require, so they do not feel like the call is taking too long. Clearly, this is a step that should not be skipped, as it sets the way for a seamless conference call.


2. Brief your participants beforehand

Another step that should be taken before the call has even begun is sending out a summary of the aims of the meeting and the points which should be covered. In this way, people will not be dialling in with conflicting agendas, or a detrimental lack of preparation for the discussion. Again, keeping people informed of just how much they need to get through will help to hold their attention until the end, and prevent anybody feeling that you may be taking advantage of their time, or even wasting it by discussing things that they did not think were relevant.


3. Use participant announcements

Most conference call providers offer an announcement service as part of each call. This alerts you every time somebody enters the call and announces their name, so that you avoid any confusion about who is participating. This avoids awkward cases of mistaken identity, helps ensure your call’s security and allows you to give everybody in the call a chance to get involved in the discussion.


4. Take note of the mute button

Learn how to use your mute button properly. It is one of the most essential, and simple functions for a teleconference. Take care not to accidentally mute yourself, as this would, obviously, be disastrous, and lead to a great deal of confusion and potentially wasted time. People may leave the call, believing there to be a problem with the connection or with their own telephones. But being sure not to mute yourself is not all there is to the mute button. You also have to know when you should use it. Background noise can be extremely distracting and irritating for people in the conference call, so if you have noisy pets or family-members, or are simply in a bustling office, it might be a good idea to mute yourself when you are not speaking. Otherwise, you might drown out what other people are saying, again causing confusion and miscommunications, as well as frustration and boredom for the people in the call.


5. Choose a good location

This links to the final important rule for conference calling – choose your location carefully. You should try to avoid being somewhere where there are lots of potential distractions, to ensure your colleagues, and the matters at hand, get the attention they deserve. As mentioned, you should if possible be in a quiet and calm area, where you feel free to talk undisturbed and without people listening to potentially sensitive or private information. Also, think about how strong your signal will be, as this can also wreak havoc on a call. Participants dropping in an out can be hugely distracting, particularly if there is an announcement every time they re-join. Crackling signals, or you breaking up every few words, can also be distracting and unpleasant, and get in the way of important points you are trying to make. So, make sure you pick with caution, and plan well ahead of time.

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