Does your company schedule conference calls routinely? Maybe every week with remote offices or with staff who travel, or maybe even with large client groups. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a conference call my guess is that you have left that virtual “meeting” on several occasions. Whether you check out mentally or physically, most of us have learned how and when to be a conference call Houdini and make the great escape!
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review, What People Are Really Doing When They’re on a Conference Call, shares some interesting statistics that are an indictment of the whole theory that conference calls save money and time while improving communication. From doing other work (65% of employees surveyed admitted to this) to falling asleep (27% admitted to that), it is clear that participation is not critical or even noticed.
Interestingly, where you take the call doesn’t necessarily impact your engagement level, it’s more about the distraction level. Because we are all connected, clients and colleagues expect us to return texts, emails and calls immediately. It’s pretty easy to mute a conference call and go on with your regular work. Taking a call on the beach or at the pool isn’t nearly as disruptive as a facilitator that lacks the ability to lead a quality meeting or call.
Personal interaction is the key to keeping people on the line – ask participants to be involved in the call discussion, encourage everyone to avoid the mute button, reduce the number of participants so all can be heard. As with in-person meetings, keep conference calls short, share an agenda and have specific outcomes planned. Using web conferencing tools may help people stay engaged; it’s a bit more difficult to check out when the boss can see you.
After reading the article, review your company’s protocol for the dreaded conference call. A change in process could help you improve communication and productivity.