Done badly, conference calls can end in disaster, but use them properly and conference calls could be one of the best business tools in your arsenal – particularly when you can use them completely free. Using a conference call to discuss your company’s earnings with investors, partners, analysts and so on can be an extremely efficient and beneficial practice, particularly if done on a regular basis – such as at the end of each quarter. Still, conducting a teleconference of this nature successfully isn’t always completely straightforward; certain techniques could work really well, while other practices might leave a bad impression and hinder the conversation. Of course, this is true in any conference call, so looking at some tips for voice meetings in general and common teleconferencing mistakes may be a good first move.
Tailor your tone
Something that is certainly a good idea for a quarterly earnings conference call is to tailor your attitude to fit in with how your company’s quarter has been. For example, if you have had a particularly prosperous quarter, adopt a confident style which will allow you to highlight your successes. On the other hand, if you haven’t performed as well as you might have hoped, you will want to put participants concerns at rest quickly, and show them why you have every confidence of improvement in the next quarter. In this case it’s important to show that you are addressing any issues that could have contributed to your company’s under-performance this time around. Having an appropriate attitude is really important for setting the tone of the call, which is key in creating relevant and helpful discussion.
Appoint your conductor
Once you’ve planned out what the overall tone of the call should be, you should ensure you appoint somebody to conduct the teleconference. While virtual meetings should obviously not involve somebody speaking continuously while the rest of the participants simply sit and listen, having somebody to oversee and guide the conversation is always a good idea. This person should begin by introducing the various participants to each other and laying out the discussion before it begins. Depending on the tone of the call and how well participants may know each other, you might like to take a moment to break the ice before beginning your discussion.
At this point, it’s a good idea to clarify that the discussion will involve a lot of looking forward into what you hope for the next quarter – and that none of that is guaranteed. This is linked to a key ‘DON’T’ of the quarterly earning conference call, which is don’t give callers the false impression that everything that will be said is certain to happen. Business can be extremely unpredictable, and what you say, while carefully researched and backed up, can never be definite.
Maintain a good level or interaction
On the point of being clear with your participants there comes another important ‘DO’ – try to leave time at the end of your call to finish with a question and answer session. This will give callers the chance to address any questions or confusions they may have, ensuring the call ends with them feeling reassured, confident and like they can have real faith in you. You don’t want participants to have the feeling that you are trying to hide anything from them and are in a rush to simply give your spin on events and end the call there. It’s important to be aware of the impression you’re giving and how your participants might be feeling.
Make things long-winded
It’s really important to remember that people have cleared time out of their busy schedules to dial into this conference call. You need to make sure you make it worth their while, and not let them hang up feeling they have wasted time. This means your presentation needs to be informative and engaging – you have to avoid creating a structured script which you simply read out word for word. This approach would simply leave people feeling bored and losing focus, as well as possibly creating an impression that you have prepared extremely carefully in order to cover things up and twist facts to suit your company.
On the other hand, you should also make sure that you are not completely unprepared. You need to have a clear idea of how the teleconference is going to go, and what will be discussed and at what point. Similarly, you should not keep the callers in the dark about this – this isn’t the time for surprises. Make sure you plan carefully, and inform the other callers about the agenda for the call, so they know exactly what issues will be addressed and aren’t sitting uncomfortably wondering if something important to them will ever be brought up or not. To avoid these two undesirable ends of the spectrum, make sure you DO create a structured plan of what you are going to talk about and for how long, but DON’T take this too far and write out an entire script to read out monotonously.
Dive straight in
You should also try to avoid rushing into the call. After the release of the earnings, give people a little time to process and analyse the data before launching into a formal teleconference. That way, their questions will be much more thought out and insightful, producing a better discussion. And again, they will almost certainly feel more comfortable and confident during the call, something which is obviously of paramount importance.
While these are just a few handy tips, they should get you thinking about how you want to conduct your next quarterly earnings conference call, and whether there are things you might like to change. These brief ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s only scratch the surface of a practice that can be extremely useful or mind-numbingly dull, but it’s up to you to determine which of the two your teleconference will be. Think creatively about how you can change things up to make sure everybody is enganged, involved and has a chance to speak, while selling your business and its successes as much as possible.
For some key tips for conference organisers see our post on how to lead a conference call.