The outbreak of Covid-19 has got the world on lock down and many employees have transitioned to working at home. With that, many entrepreneurs are holding daily conference calls to keep teams connected.

The upside is many employees are having greater communication with their managers than they previously had. Unfortunately, many owners have never participated or hosted conference calls and in my conversations with participants, I’m hearing that many of these calls are bit chaotic and frustrating.

So I thought I’d offer up the following 6 tips to have better conference calls.

1. Be on time!

There’s nothing more distracting than someone joining a call late only to declare “Hi I’m here!”. This usually happens without consideration that with a call in progress, someone may be already talking, and your arrival and announcement totally disrupts the flow. Login quietly and wait until there’s a break in the topic to let people know you’ve arrived.

2. The meeting Chair

Whoever is hosting or chairing the call, needs to set some rules or guidelines in order to control the conversation and keep it on track. One thing I did when chairing in-person committee meetings in my many volunteer roles, was to make sure everybody had a chance to speak. Many people have great ideas or want to contribute to a conversation but just don’t have the confidence to speak up. These same people tend to be a little more reserved and therefore remain quiet. Let be honest there’s always a core group of people who monopolize conversations, so the quieter ones are little intimidated and don’t speak up.

So, in order to give these individuals a chance to air their ideas or concerns, I would keep track of who has spoken on a given topic and then I would go around the table and ask the individuals who hadn’t commented, if they had anything to add. This way they were given the opportunity to make their thoughts known.

In a conference call, the chair should state the issue or ask the question and then ask each individual, one at a time to comment. This alleviates the typical free for all that usually happens, and the conference call becomes more productive.

As a caveat, some conference calling platforms have the ability for individuals to digitally raise their hand to comment. However, many of conference calls taking place today calls are being held on mobile phones without these functions.

3. Set out an agenda

Just like in person meetings, whoever is running or chairing the call should put out an agenda beforehand. Since these conference calls will be daily or twice daily events, the list will be small. It’ll help at keeping everyone focused on the issues at hand.

4. Put your phone on mute

There’s nothing more annoying than background noise during conference calls. Since many people are going to be working from home, with kids and dogs underfoot, this is a big problem. So, if you’re not talking, put your phone on mute until it’s your turn.

5. No speaker phones or hands free.

Usually the sound quality when talking on speaker phone is significantly reduced. Using the speaker phone setting makes it difficult for everyone else to hear what your saying and requires immense concentration. Get a set of headphones if you need your hands to be free during the call. It’ll make the call more comfortable for everyone else.

6. Assign a minute taker

Just like any formal meeting someone should be taking minutes of the meeting. They don’t have to be long dissertations. Point form is sufficient and is really just a summary of issues and actions required. Unlike an office meeting, there’s little chance to do face to face follow up, so these minutes can be distributed shortly after the conference call ends and serves to keep everyone on task. The minute taker should be rotated between the callers every day.

These are trying times for most entrepreneurs. Many have never faced such a dramatic shift in they way they are forced to do business. However, this is a wonderful opportunity to try out those ideas you’ve always had, but never had the time to test.

Using conference calls to keep your arms around everyone and provide clear direction is just one of the tools, that did not exist or were the exclusive domain of large corporations not that many years ago.

Stay safe.

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