So today we had a video conference with a client in Germany so we thought we'd proved some Stella tips on conference calling. While modern technology has freed workers from the drudgery of the in-person meeting, in some ways it’s made it harder to keep meeting participants engaged. With video conferencing, it’s easy to spot a participant who has “checked out” or given in to distractions. But with telephone conference calls, it’s almost impossible to know whether attendees are actually paying attention. Anyone can become susceptible to boredom, leaving an open door for the distractions of text messages and social media.
Instead of crossing your fingers and hoping for the best, why not try some of these effective engagement strategies on your next conference call?
1. Use the Best Audio Technology Your technology should be an asset, not an obstacle, to accomplishing your meeting goals. Yet all too often, mediocre technological “solutions” wind up being anything but. Poor connection, background noise, and audio that cuts in and out render an otherwise well-planned audio conference completely ineffective and frustrating for all.
On the other hand, high-quality audio technology picks up and cleanly transmits all sounds. Knowing that everyone on the line can hear each keystroke and mouse click tends to deter conference call participants from multitasking.
Ensure that your next conference call reaps the benefits of high-performance audio technology with features like GoToMeeting’s Smart Meeting Assistant, which handles meeting transcriptions and frees up your participants from having to take notes (or simply claiming that they are).
2. Skip the Agenda Consider not publishing an agenda for every meeting. It might sound crazy at first, but hear us out: when there’s an agenda, participants can determine at which point they can “check out” during the call. Alternatively, they can mute their phones, allowing them to focus their attention on other activities.
Rather than setting a firm schedule for every call that spells out who talks when, adopt a more flexible approach. Circulate a general overview of meeting topics to make sure the conference call stays productive, but keep specifics to a minimum in order to keep everyone engaged.
Include a brief list of action items to introduce the meeting and prompt participants to share their updates. This frames everyone’s expectations so they know the meeting’s purpose, which can also strengthen engagement.
3. Talk Less, Listen More Any participant would tell you it’s challenging to stay engaged in a meeting that turns into one long monologue by the moderator, or a discussion that gets monopolized by just a few voices. It’s human nature for us to tune out during meetings like these. For the most part, your conference call participants want to actually participate! They want to be heard and acknowledged. Take advantage of human nature by asking your fellow participants targeted questions about relevant projects. Elicit their opinions — and encourage them to share their expertise with the group.
By the same token, ensure your responses to questions and other input stay as brief as possible. Keeping the spotlight on your participants means they’ll feel more inclined to stay focused.
Lastly, tap into your team’s creativity. Ask for ideas on topical issues. When you turn the audio conference call into a group brainstorming session, you’re letting each individual member know they’re critical to the team’s overarching success. Not only do they become more engaged on the call, the team grows stronger as a result. Talk about a win/win!