This week I had a realization. One hour is just too long for a conference call.
Yet, as a virtual telecommuting employee, my calendar is filled with neat, little one hour conference call time slots from sun up to sun down.
As I look at my schedule, I can tell you exactly which calls are the focused ones where I know I’ll have to pay 100% attention and be fully engaged. I can also tell you which ones will be spent randomly chatting for half of the hour, allowing me ample multi-tasking time.
Obviously, our time is one of the most important, investible resources we have as employees, and I’ve grown to recognize way too many conference calls as huge company time sucks.
If you’re leading conference calls, do us all a favor and consider the following:
- Do you really need a conference call? Sadly, I’ve sat on calls where I have to believe a short 1:1 telephone conversation with a couple of people would have been much more efficient. Or, better yet, an email. An email detailing out the problem or situation (which, let’s face it, someone always ends up having to send that email AFTER the call in any case) and soliciting feedback.
- Do you really need an hour for your conference call? Just because calendars come with neat blocks of one hour time slots, doesn’t mean we should fill them up when the meeting purpose doesn’t warrant it. If you have 30 minutes of issues to discuss, just schedule it for 30 minutes. Chances are you’ll be on task more in order to accomplish what you want in the duration set.
- Did you send out an agenda prior to the call? Agendas keep not only yourself, but the whole team focused. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It does need to include perhaps 4-6 bullet points of exactly what will be discussed and specifically what should be accomplished as outputs of the meeting. Additionally, if it’s a follow-up call where participants are going to need to give status updates on deliverables, call that out specifically in your email as well.
- Did you allow the group to chat off-topic for way too long? It is beneficial to allow some small amount of time in the beginning of a call for small chit chat, and brief socialization. This can be helpful for team camaraderie and can also set the pace and tone for the meeting ahead. However, if you are leading the call, it is your responsibility to bring the group back to topic and focus — more than once if needed.
- Did you follow your call up with a summary email listing action items and delivery dates? Nothing keeps people on task and focused more than the expectation and knowledge that they will be held accountable for commitments on future calls. Taking a few minutes to recap who is doing what and by when is invaluable.
Certainly, no meeting is perfect – be it a virtual conference call or a face to face meeting. Luckily with most virtual meetings and settings, you really don’t need to invest more time to make it work – you just need to put your mind to it and approach it a bit differently.
by Channon C.