Time to change the “boring conference call”, don’t assume all conference calls have to be tedious and mundane.
Conference calls are a way of life for most businesses. While convenient, they can be dreadfully boring and uninspiring. Remember that all communication is a combination of look, sound and content, and without the benefit of “look”, all of your expressiveness and emotion has to come through the sound of your voice and your carefully chosen content.
Here are three tips to help attendees stay present and actively participating:
1. Speak naturally
Very consciously vary your vocal melody, pace, and volume to keep people engaged.
If you’ve ever been on a conference call where some folks are in the room with you, you’ve probably seen people lean way forward and talk loudly and somewhat robotically to the conference phone.
This has the effect of flattening out your vocal melody, and monotones are not inspiring! Don’t shout at the phone – move it closer to you if necessary.
Speak naturally, ensuring everyone can hear you, and make a point of using brighter tones and key word “lifts” to bring attention to important points.
Another way for highlighting vital content is to pause just before and just after that important fact or statistic. Pauses allow people to take in the information, and variations in pace help engage listeners.
2. Be clear and deliver value
Be clear about the purpose of the call and organize content accordingly.
For example, if your meeting goal is to make a decision, streamline and prioritize the discussion points so that the people participating virtually can follow along more easily and everyone can participate in the decision.
If your goal is to share information, choose only that content that is of value and interest to this group of people.
As you share information, be sure to tell people what the main idea is, how they should take action, and why this information is so important to them, their teams, or the enterprise.
3. Engage participants
Finally, let people know in advance that participation is not only welcome,
it is expected. After years of unproductive calls, people have learned to tune out, give minimal attention, and reclaim their time by multitasking.
You can change that. Alert key participants in advance that you’ll be calling on them at certain points in the agenda, and then acknowledge their participation during and after the call.
Replace some of your “tell” content with questions that will allow others to add value.
If groups of people are participating from other locations, ask one person in each group to act as your eyes and ears in the room, and give them permission to interject when the other group has a question or comment.
It’s time to change the “boring conference call” paradigm. Don’t assume that all conference calls have to be tedious and mundane.
When it’s your call to run, you can make your own choices to increase engagement.
You’ll know you’ve succeeded when someone says to you, “I always look forward to your calls. They are informative, efficient and productive.” Ka-ching!
There’s more on effective leadership in my book Managing the Moment.