Conference calls remain one of the most popular and most powerful communication tools available, and their place as a staple part of most businesses’ coherence and communication has been largely unchallenged. A big part of this is doubtless the ease of accessibility which they provide. You don’t need WiFi, you don’t need a camera or any other specialist technology, you don’t need to be in any specific location – all you need is a telephone, be it landline or handheld.
Because of this, teleconferences have been firmly established outside of the traditional business setting, too. They have proven to be useful to teachers and tutors, sportspeople and their coaches, music bands and their fans. Human beings are essentially social creatures, and communication is crucial across the board, for almost every endeavour. Even if it’s just keeping in touch with that aunt that moved to Australia or being up to date of family developments before the next big holiday.
And with the availability of totally, genuinely free conference calls which will be included in your bundled minutes, or charged at the standard rate for landlines (as provided by WHYPAY?) dialling into a virtual conference room really couldn’t be simpler.
While this effortless accessibility is one of the voice conference’s core strengths, it can also create the pitfalls which make some of its users commit embarrassing gaffes or irritating faux-pas. And with the frequency with which you will likely be participating in virtual meetings, it is worth recognising and addressing these mistakes as quickly as possible. Thanfully, there’s plenty of guides on hosting conference calls out there. This handy list should help you check off some of the most frequent, and most annoying, mistakes.
- Not using a free conference call service.
Some people simply recommend using a toll-free number, because expecting your participants to have to pay to attend your voice meeting is really quite rude. But why should even the host have to pay to have a telephone meeting? With the availability of reliable and secure conference calls totally free of charge, like those provided by WHYPAY?, it just doesn’t make sense to still be paying to hold a teleconference. With WHYPAY?, you just need to click onto their homepage and hit the Big Green Button, and your own unique conference call room and secure access PIN will be immediately generated! That simple – no fees, no fuss, no personal details or subscription process. This room will then be yours to keep and use as often as you like, with up to 100 participants, and unlimited minutes.
- Not having and sharing a detailed agenda.
Because voice conferences can feel so much like having a normal conversation, and because they are often scheduled to recur weekly or monthly with the same group, you might feel like being a little spontaneous and try to let the discussion flow naturally. This is highly unadvisable. You should always write up a detailed agenda of exactly what you want to discuss and achieve during the teleconference. A simple list is not really enough, either. Try to be specific about in what order topics will come up, and how long should be spent on each.
And simply completing this agenda and having it at the ready when you’re dialling into the call won’t do! You need to email it out to all of your participants well ahead of time. That way, they will have an opportunity to think about what questions or contributions they might have for each point, and they’ll also be able to keep an eye on whether the call is running to schedule. If it is pretty close to going as planned, this can be really motivating for participants.
- Not enforcing your agenda and schedule
Alright, you’ve thought through your plan, you’ve even typed it up and, yes, you have sent it around. Sadly, the real challenge doesn’t start until everybody has joined the call. Tis is when you have to make sure that you let everybody have their turn, but maintain a firm handle on the direction of the call. Don’t let people talk too long about a certain subject, or skip oer one altogether, as this can mean that not all the issues will be properly addressed, and some people will probably be left disgruntled or dissatisfied. Keep things ticking along as they should, to show participants that you value their time and that you’re capable of keeping control. Otherwise, you won’t achieve the objectives set out in the agenda!
Not finishing on time is in itself a really big problem. Bluntly, it’s rude. People have other things to do, and they could very well have another (physical or audio) meeting scheduled pretty soon after yours is supposed to finish. Wrap things up when you said you would, even if you haven’t quite gotten to the end of the agenda. It’s better to follow up the final issues (which in most well-planned agendas will be the least urgent) in an email, or in another conference call at another time.
What’s more, if participants know that you will enforce the planned end-time, they will be much less likely to waste time or ponder on subjects that might not be so important. Nothing keeps the conversation moving quite like a looming deadline!
- Not reminding your participants of the call
People are busy, and emails are abundant. Giving them a polite nudge is not going to irritate anybody, it will simply mean that nobody has to deal with the embarrassment and hassle of having to catch up on everything they have missed when they suddenly realise what that niggling feeling of having forgotten something was. Sparing your colleagues isn’t difficult either – it doesn’t take much to send round a quick email!
In fact, with WHYPAY? you won’t even need to do that. If you create a free account, WHYPAY? gives you the option to turn on email notifications and use the scheduling feature. That way, WHYPAY? will send out the conference call room number and secure PIN, as well as the number people need to call to dial in, to each of your invited participants. There is a calendar attachment on these emails, so that participants can save the call into their own calendars, and set any reminders they deem necessary. The email will come with instructions for how to join the call, for anyone who might not be so experienced with virtual meetings! WHYPAY? will also send out a quick email to remind your participants of the call 15 minutes ahead of the start time.
- Showing up late.
This is never a good look – especially if you have been reminding your participants of the call. And if (as you definitely should) you have an announcement feature like the one offered by WHPAY? Turned on, then there really is nowhere to hide. The conversation will be interrupted mid-flow to let everybody know that you just joined the call. As if that’s not bad enough, people will then have to go back and explain everything you have missed. That’s one sure-fire way to make sure your agenda topples straight away!
- Not recording the call.
There was a time, in some far-away, bygone era, when somebody would have to sit with a pen and paper rapidly attempting to transcribe every word uttered during a meeting. Thankfully, such challenging torture is no longer necessary. IF you’re hosting a conference call, all you need to do is turn on a call-recording feature, you will have a record of everything that has been said.
Some conference call providers do make you pay to access a recording feature, though. Thankfully, WHYPAY? offers it – like all of its other features and services – entirely free of charge. There are dozens of reasons why conference call recording is so useful, but a key one is that it simply allows you to take notes of the meetings after you have finished, calmly and pausing as often as needed. These notes can then be easily emailed around to all the participants, so they have a handed summary of what has been achieved.
- Not using your mute button.
The mute button is there for very good reason. Don’t neglect it! If somebody in the office is speaking to you, or even typing especially fiercely, not everyone in the call needs to hear it. This magical button can be especially useful to people working remotely and looking after children, or sitting in a café, or those busy jet-setters who might be about to step on a plane. Wherever you are, if it’s noisy and you aren’t actually speaking at that moment in time, hit mute. Everybody will thank you for it.
- Forgetting you’re on mute.
A close second in annoyance to total rejection of the mute button is forgetting that you are muted and chattering away, wondering when all your colleagues got to be so rude. Of course, this is irritating (and a little embarrassing) for you, but it is also time-consuming and bothersome for everyone else on the call. When you finally realise why everybody is talking over your great ideas, you’ll have to take the conversation back however far you managed to last unwittingly on mute.
Make sure you avoid these simple pit falls, and you will be well on your way to hosting an impressively smooth and efficient call!