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What Is The Ideal Time For A Conference Call?

Overview

We have the technology, but somehow the majority of conference calls still end up taking longer than anticipated or make you wonder if they are more trouble than they’re worth. Becky Cowlan explains how you can make them work with 7 ways to master conference calling.

As more and more companies embrace remote working, conference calls are likely to continue playing a key role in our work life, whether you enjoy them or not. Communication is key to remote teams, yet can easily be time-wasting and a threat to employee productivity and face-to-face meetings pose the same threat.

The endless issues of intermittent lines, disengagement and cross talk can delay the objective of the conference in the first place. In fact, a survey from Intercall found that 65% of workers are guilty of completing other work, over 50% of people are eating and most shockingly around 45% of people on the line are in the bathroom!

So, with up to 53% of professionals working remotely at some stage during the week, here are seven ways to master the art of the conference call.

Does Time And Day Matter? 

Timing is everything if you want to get the most out of your conference/virtual meeting. The modern day problem is finding a slot in everyone’s busy calendar. Especially if teams are working remotely or from a different time zone.

Everyone being different, means that some individuals prefer to work late evenings and avoid early mornings due to their productivity preferences. However, behavioural scientist Dan Airely claims we are at peak productivity between 9am and 11am and the later in the working day you hold a meeting the less capable we are of making decisions and judgements.

Not only is time an important factor to bear in mind but data also suggests that the day you choose to hold a conference call can make a difference to how successful it is. Tuesday appears to be the winner, being early enough in the week that there is sufficient time to take action on any decisions/targets set. In addition, Tuesday is soon after the weekend, positively affecting your teams work ethic. Conference calls that take place at the end of the week are prone to a higher percentage of absenteeism and can be responsible for a lower standard of work. People are even guilty of letting the ‘Friday feeling’ have an impact on their deadlines.

What’s On The Agenda 

This one’s a no-brainer really. The easiest way to keep participants interested is to nail the agenda beforehand and circulate with the initial invitation. Chris Ogle – a business development manager at Flow Digital who regularly holds conference calls to discuss web strategy explains that “the detail in your ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘why’ not only adds structure to your conference call but cuts the potential for daydreamers.”

Participants should be told in advance how to join, an outline of the discussion and expectations of contribution. Last-minute calls can be a disaster if nobody has time to prepare as participants will struggle to contribute anything valuable.

Relationships 

It is more than likely that the participants on the call are from different countries so building a relationship before and during the call is important in reducing any awkwardness. Journalist Butch Ward wrote a blog about his time managing a team of remote workers. He stated he would always try to meet his team face-to-face whenever he could, despite the long-distance travel involved. Unfortunately, with Covid-19 having temporarily bought travel to a standstill, this is not currently possible.

Keith Ferrazzi, the CEO of consulting firm Ferrazzi Greenlights, suggests that organizers implement a moment at the beginning of each call where, for the first five minutes of the meeting, “everyone should take turns and talk a little about what’s going on in their lives, either personally or professionally.” It’s a great ice-breaker.

Save The Jokes 

Ross McCammon, articles editor for GQ magazine, says he adopts a far more serious persona than he would in a physical meeting. This is because humour in a conference call setting is much harder to read with visual emotion cues and body language being not so obvious, even on video conferences with delays and intermittent lines, humour tends to backfire.

On the other hand, Alyssa Bantle, global curriculum manager at Crown World Mobility, trains employees to overcome cultural differences when working with international teams. She mentions that humour can be used as a means to bring people together. However, irony, wordplay and poking fun can be endearing to some, yet be hard to understand and may even cause offence to others.

Sometimes Less Is More 

According to the productivity expert Laura Stack, conference calls should be kept short and precise. She adds that 45 minutes is the best length for any meeting and recommends splitting longer sessions into 45-minute periods separated by substantial breaks.

Ogle agrees and explains how the success of your call can be damaged by too many variables such as devices on a call or number of people involved. When key decisions need to be made, it is best to limit the amount of people you include in your call.

Overcome Cultural Differences 

One of the major obstacles during global conference calls include cultural clashes and colleagues with different accents or varying levels of English. Bantle mentions underlying reasons for misunderstandings – the cultural differences in the way we listen, interact and communicate. She gives an example of UK team talking to colleagues in Japan. The Japanese workers may find it hard to keep up with their fast-talking British friends. Cultural conditioning also means the Japanese employees are politely waiting for their turn to speak (which never arrives) and as a result it appears they have nothing to say.

To avoid this mess, Bantle advises taking the following steps. Firstly overcome any language barriers, remember to take turns and avoid interrupting.

If you are leading the call you should:

  • Set rules for turn-taking

  • Clarify by confirming what has been said

  • Urge people to repeat complicated ideas and phrases.

  • Ask if everyone on the call has understood

  • Acknowledge others so they know they have been understood.

Embrace Video 

Video has become an increasingly popular means of communication in both our personal and working lives recently. After a 3 month lockdown in the UK caused by Covid-19, people have come to realise and appreciate the power of video technology when it has not been possible to see friends, family and even colleagues in day to day life. However, many businesses are still reluctant to embrace video conferencing. According to Wainhouse Research, 74% of employees who use video during meetings like the ability to see colleague’s reactions to ideas and 70% feel it increases participant connectivity.

A 2017 Forbes study revealed that 62% agree that video conferencing improves the quality of communication. In addition, 50% believe video conferencing also improves the degree of understanding.

The Power Is In Your Hands

To master the power of conference calling, we recommend (along with our top 7 tips) the online meeting platform Zoho Meeting. You can conduct online conferences from anywhere with real-time audio, video, session recording, virtual hand-raising, remote control and screen sharing.

As the world embraces remote work, there is no better time to master the conferencing skill! Why not get in touch with us today and learn more about how A2Z Cloud can help you. 

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