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Conference calls a waste of time? Not with these simple tips…

Most people admit teleconferencing is a hugely valuable tool. Conference calls have great benefits for businesses, but they’ve also been put to all sorts of amazing uses outside the business world. Having such ubiquity and popularity, how could anyone consider conference calls a waste of time? Group phone calls have many potential applications for anyone who likes to speak to more than one person at a time. NHS conference calls have saved our health service millions, allowing the money to be better spent on treating illnesses. Teleconferencing’s beneficent potential has also shown itself in conference calls for charities and non-profits, and groups like BIBBA have used audio meetings in their mission to save the bees – and the world.

Are conference calls a waste of time for businesspeople?

While these innovative pioneers are implementing conference calls in creative and world-changing ways, the business world is growing fatigued. We can perhaps detect a pattern here. We find a tool which can really shape the way we work, and which revolutionises meetings and day-to-day working life, and we over-use it. Thus the infamous death by Powerpoint which many of us have come to dread. After overly-wordy and enthusiastically-animated presentations became a staple of all meetings, the mere word ‘Powerpoint’ began to strike exhaustion into our hearts.

But that doesn’t mean that having dynamic visual aids can’t be useful. Just as there’s nothing that would inherently make conference calls a waste of time. In fact, they can be one of the most powerful – and cheap (read: free) – tools in your business arsenal. By following these simple tips, you can harness the communicative power of conference calling and guarantee smooth and mutually beneficial collaboration. In this article, we’ll look at the positive choices you can make to run an efficient and pleasant conference call. But there are also common conference call mistakes which you’ll want to make sure you don’t commit!

Just keep this advice in mind, and we’re sure you won’t ever consider giving up conferencing again.

 

The 5 Ps are crucial to ensuring nobody considers conference calls a waste of time

Yes, it’s hackneyed, but the expression is tired and overused for a reason. Prior preparation really does prevent poor performance. And in any scenario bringing together a group of people, several of whom might be working on totally different sides of a project, or come from disparate professional backgrounds, being prepared is more important than ever. You might have to be able to succinctly but clearly explain ideas to people with totally varying levels of understanding. You don’t want anybody to fall behind, you need to include everything important, but you don’t want to bore those who know more about the project. Giving some thought to how you’ll introduce the agenda and the participants is vital.

So, however artificial it might feel, create a plan. It should include as many details as possible. From how you’ll open the discussion, to what order people will speak in and for how long, you need to think carefully and actually put it down on paper. If you deviate from the plan as the meeting flows naturally, it’s not a problem. But you’ll have a life-float in front of you to grab hold of if the call feels like it’s devolving into chaos. Poor organisation and confusion are two of the biggest offenders in making people consider conference calls a waste of time. But with the proper planning, you can host the perfect conference call.

Be very clear about exactly what the meeting is for. You should be able to summarise the agenda or objectives in a short sentence. Then, keep referring back to this sentence with every point you add to the schedule. That will help keep the meeting focused and prevent you from going off on tangents which might be irrelevant to some participants.

 

Choose your participants carefully

This is a really important point. Having that focused objective will help narrow down your virtual guest-list. Go through the people you’re considering inviting, and for every name clarify to yourself how they contribute to the single sentence which heads up your whole plan. If they have nothing they can offer to that particular objective, they really don’t need to be there.

Because of the convenience and affordability of teleconferences, people often over-invite. With conference call bridges like WHYPAY? allowing up to 100 participants, totally free of charge, it can be tempting to just send out mass invites. And while there’s a lot of truth to the proverb that two heads are better than one, there’s also plenty of broths being spoiled in over-stuffed kitchens.

There’s nothing to make conference calls a waste of time like having no idea what’s being spoken about, or nothing to add to the conversation. In fact, it can just be an uncomfortable experience for everybody. It can even create extra work for you, as you have to explain topics which they’re totally unfamiliar with. So spare everybody the hassle, and only invite people who are vital to the discussion.

 

Let your invitees share in your preparedness

You’ve (hopefully) gone to the trouble of sketching out a detailed plan. You know your agenda and objectives. The order of speakers has been vaguely determined. The topics have been outlined in a coherent order. So share your hard work with everybody else!

By letting attendees know what’s expected, you’ll ensure they arrive as prepared as you are. This will save lots of time, embarrassment and discomfort for everyone. Distribute the agenda well ahead of time, and let everybody know what kinds of contributions they’ll be making. That way, they’ll have all the relevant numbers and ideas at their fingertips, and be raring to go.

Otherwise, you risk people losing focus halfway through the call, and allowing themselves to be sucked into other tasks.

 

Choose your call conferencing service wisely

A study by LoopUp reported that on average, people spend 15 minutes just trying to get everybody on the call. Considering teleconferencing is for many almost literally an everyday practice, that’s a lot of 15 minute blocks which will very quickly turn into hours. No wonder people are frustrated and believe conference calls a waste of time.

But these are 15 minutes which can be easily saved. You just need to be more discerning when picking a conference call bridge. Luckily, the industry is becoming aware that teleconferencing providers have to make it easy for customers. But this doesn’t always translate to actual results, and a lot of people are struggling to get onto their conference calls every day.

A quick look over WHYPAY?’s Trustpilot reviews will assure you that these difficulties disappear the moment you choose WHYPAY?. Customers consistently report that our conference calls are reliable, high-quality, and really easy to use. We truly think WHYPAY? is the easiest, quickest and cheapest teleconferencing provider out there. If you want to find out for yourself how speedy and simple setting up your 100% free conference call room is, just hit the button below.

Create a FREE Teleconference

As well as ease of use, you’ll want to make the call accessible no matter where participants are dialing in from. WHYPAY? has you covered here, too. Our teleconferences are not only reachable from conference call phones, normal landlines, mobiles, and smart phones, but they won’t cost callers a penny whichever option they choose. If your business is global, or your colleagues are notorious jet-setters, you won’t need to switch to a difference conference bridge. Making international conference calls with WHYPAY? is totally straightforward.

 

Choose a free provider if you don’t want to make conference calls a waste of time and money

There’s nothing to make people really resent a meeting like making them pay to attend. If you’re expecting your participants to face a hefty phone bill after dialing into your conference call, you’re starting off on the wrong foot. Before the meeting even begins, they will already feel disgruntled and irritated. You never want to the be the person who sends out invites then expects everybody else to foot the bill.

Even finding a service which places all financial responsibility on the host can cause problems. You might feel more impatient to finish, or reluctant to schedule vital follow-up conference calls. Going back to our earlier point, it can also mean people try to combine what should be several meetings into a single call. That means there are people sitting there twiddling their thumbs as you go over areas that have nothing to do with them.

With WHYPAY?, there are no costs for anybody. We don’t charge a penny for providing the service, and our conference calls are accessed via 03 numbers. Ofcom rulings mean these must be included within callers’ bundled minutes. If none are available (say a caller is on pay-as-you-go, for example), the call is still only charged at the standard landline rate.

 

Think about when you schedule your conference call

Now that you’ve addressed what will be covered, who will attend, and how they’ll access the meeting, it’s time to think about when it all goes down. This is a really vital part of guaranteeing a productive conference call. Unfortunately, unlike aspects like choosing free teleconferencing, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution here. Different groups will have different schedules. What’s important is that you take all participants into account.

For example, if one of your employees is working remotely in order to care for young children, a mid-afternoon conference call might not be ideal unless you enjoy the sounds and stresses of the school run in the background. If you do have international attendees, you’ll obviously need to consider different time zones, too. If you know part of the contingent has weekly round-up meetings on Friday mornings, having the call straight after might work really well as they’ll be fresh and fully informed. Or it might make the call really dull for them, if they’re going to be covering exactly the same material.

 

After choosing the perfect time, make sure participants remember it!

We’ve seen just how much time can be wasted getting started. Late arrivals only worsen the problem. You’ll have to keep circling back and filling people in on what they’ve missed. Worse still, if people forget to join the call altogether, they won’t be able to make their contributions. This could mess up the plan you worked so hard on, and mean that you can’t quite meet the objectives you set.

When you’re choosing your conference call provider, check how easy it is to send out invitations and reminders to participants. This is a feature which WHYPAY? provides for free, and which makes a world of difference for users. Even better, along with the invite comes the scheduling function. This lets you easily schedule the conference call in your calendar software, making it almost impossible to forget!

 

Remind people of the mute button

Muting is one of the most powerful, simple and often overlook functionalities of a phone. Although it’s easy from almost any device, people can often forget to use it. You might not want to call anybody out during the call and embarrass them for caving and reaching for their sandwich (especially because starving participants definitely will struggle to concentrate on the call!), so it’s a good idea to include a little reminder in your introduction.

Making sure people understand how and when to use the mute button will make a huge difference to your call. Background noises can prove extremely disruptive, not only distracting people but sometimes turning the whole conversation away from the topics at hand. It seems silly for such an easily resolved problem to make conference calls a waste of time.

 

Stick to the schedule

You made a plan for a reason. Don’t abandon it the minute the meeting starts. Keep it in eye-sight, and be sure you broadly follow the order and timings. Otherwise, people become confused and lose focus trying to figure out how they missed so many sections. Likewise, they might not even realise it’s their turn to speak.

Over-running is also a big no-no. It’s not only dull and frustrating, but bad manners. It tells participants you don’t value their time. Everybody has  other things to do. They’ve specifically arranged their schedules to fit the audio meeting in, but the minute you start cutting into their next task is the minute they consider conference calls a waste of time, regardless of if productive conversation is happening.

If you start to deviate from the agenda, people will start to get on with their next job. As well as attending calls they can’t contribute to, over-running is one of the biggest reasons that around 60% of people admit to doing other work while on a call. In fact, some turn to even less productive or professional distractions. 55% of people who are multi-tasking during audio meetings are making or eating food. Video games, social media and online shopping make unsurprising if worrying appearances on the list. 9% of people are even exercising while teleconferencing!

In that vein, always know when it’s time to end a conference call. Hopefully, this will simply follow your plan, and you’ll reach a natural conclusion. But without visual cues, you’ll have to learn to pick up other signals from attendees to get a feel for if they’re becoming fatigued and bored. That means paying close attention to vocal cues on the conference call to keep everybody engaged and know when it’s time to wrap up.

 

Remember: if meetings aren’t, there’s nothing to make conference calls a waste of time

At the end of the day, a conference call is simply an audio meeting. Follow all the advice you’re familiar with about avoiding productivity-killing meetings and keeping people on-board. Of course, there are special considerations when it comes to conference calling, but there’s also special advice for hosting the perfect conference call.

The main thing is to make sure that you, your plan, and your participants are focused and ready. The logistical and practical considerations are easily addressed by choosing your conference call bridge wisely. If you plan properly and stick to it, there’s absolutely nothing to make conference calls a waste of time.

 

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Gabi JamesConference calls a waste of time? Not with these simple tips…
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