Under the “G” – Creating Great Conference Calls

woman attending a conference call

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of being a guest on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, on News 95.7. Our conversation was about conference calls, now a part of daily life for most of us.

Sheldon connected with me because of all the versions of conference call bingo showing up online. While these bingo cards are incredibly funny, they are also truthful and support the fact that … most conference calls are extremely ineffective and hinder productivity long after they end.

What skills are needed for productive conference calls? How can they easily be shared with your team?

Every great conference call, whether it’s on the phone or includes video, requires a facilitator. This can be the same person each time, or team members can take turns and share the responsibility.

The facilitator supports the success of these calls by:

  • Creating an agenda for each call
  • Circulating the agenda prior to each call
  • Asking participants how they’d like to contribute
  • Making sure everyone knows who will be on the call
  • Knowing how to use the technology
  • Confirming participants understand the technology
  • Arriving early
  • Limiting social conversations to others who arrive early
  • Limiting the length of the call (shorter daily calls are far more effective than long weekly calls)
  • Starting the call on time
  • Inspiring participation by encouraging everyone’s thoughts/reactions/input
  • Using firm diplomacy to defuse constant talkers and naysayers
  • Adding unfinished discussions to the next agenda
  • Ending the call on time

Participants support the success of conference calls by:

  • Reading the agenda ahead of time
  • Telling the facilitator how they’d like to contribute
  • Understanding the technology
  • Confirming their attendance
  • Arriving early
  • Limiting their social conversations
  • Never putting the call on hold
  • Using “mute” to limit background noise
  • Using their camera on video calls
  • Encouraging others to contribute

With a little creative push from my colleague, Linda Daley of Daley Progress, I’ve decided to offer my own bingo card. This one focuses on conference calls that are effective, efficient and engaging. Get it here: Conference Call BINGO by The Phone Lady

What about you? What are you and your team doing to create productive conference calls? Please leave your suggestions in the comment section below.


8 thoughts on “Under the “G” – Creating Great Conference Calls”

  1. Participants make sure that they are in a quiet space and focused on the call rather than doing their household chores!

    Thanks for this – it’s important to understand how to participate in an online meeting these days!

    • Thanks, Stephanie. Yes, a quiet place is an important part of conference calls and multi-tasking is a definite no-no. Having said this, with so many remote workers in place right now, some living situations make it difficult to have that quiet space. This is when mute is important. Definitely no housework at the same time!

  2. Hi Mary Jane,

    It’s kind of funny to see the lists. This is how our board and all smaller meetings are structured already for the Nova Scotia Talent Trust. (smile)

    I’m more concerned about the training and the technical side/problem solving during a meeting. Many aren’t used to the online meeting tools yet.

    Stay safe everyone,

    • Thanks, Jacqueline. Yes, the “technology” can be an issue. Even when people are used to it, problems can occur. I do recommend that everyone run a test before meetings if they are new to the technology and then, if possible, be given the ability to practice somehow to gain confidence.

  3. Thanks Mary Jane! I’ve always dreaded conference calls, or even a social call when more than two people are on the phone – remember those days of expensive long distance calling when everyone was on the line at once?
    I must say though, that our closest friends and I had a Zoom “happy hour” the other night that was most enjoyable.

  4. Great list! Participants should also be prepared to wear earbuds in case their technology causes echoes or reverberations! And also, as we’ve learned about Zoom this week, never have inappropriate private conversations on the private chat channels as that will be included in the chat recaps people might see!

    • Thanks, Anita, for this comment. I caught some of this in a thread on social earlier today and had made a note to include it but it is so much better here as a comment. This is not something I ever would have considered and it is definitely important.


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