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Conference calls can be a productive and efficient way to hold a meeting, especially for individuals who would otherwise have to travel far distances to attend. However, if the call is not conducted in a professional and organized manner, it can be a waste of time for your participants and yourself. Below are 10 ways you can create a successful conference call.

Organize and Prepare

One of the most important things to remember before any phone meeting is to be prepared and organized. This step is crucial if you want to accomplish the items on your agenda and keep your participants engaged throughout the meeting. Prepare ahead of time for the topics you want to discuss. Create an agenda or an outline of the call for yourself and your attendees. Also, prepare as much material as possible before the meeting so that you will not waste time on useless topics.

Encourage Participation

When others feel comfortable, you create an environment for ideas and strategies to develop. If you are hosting or managing the conference call, ask your participants questions. Let them know that you value their opinions. Letting others participate in the phone call is key. People who aren't involved easily tune out and become lost in their own daydreams and will not provide the feedback or the help you may be seeking.

Many conference call services provide features to involve your attendees. These features may include polling, surveying and Q&A capabilities. For many services, these features can be accessed by entering in certain codes on the dial pad. At the beginning of your conference calls, go through these codes and ensure that your participants are aware of how they can contribute to the conversation.

Be Punctual

Just like any other business meeting, it is important that you arrive early. Dial into the call a few minutes early. If you wait until the last minute, you may encounter technology issues that can take time to fix. You may also find that you have the wrong dial-in number or passcode to access the phone meeting. Being punctual to your meeting is also another way you can be prepared and ready to participate.

Be Aware of Your Location

Your location is critical during a conference call. If you are in a loud area, you may have a difficult time hearing the conversation over the phone line. Additionally, you will want to seclude yourself from others. By being in the same area with many people, you may find yourself quickly distracted and missing important information.

Also, if you use a microphone or speakerphone, be aware of its location and surroundings. You want the device close enough that it picks up your voice but far enough that it won't pick up every little sound you make. Additionally, be aware of any electronic devices. These items can cause interference and affect the quality of your call.

Stick to the Agenda

People are busy. They do not have the time to listen to conversations that are not pertinent to their job and the tasks at hand. It is important during a phone meeting to create an agenda and stick to it. Don't waste time discussing the latest basketball game or where you ate lunch. By discussing the current problems and topics at hand, you will receive more participation and more willing participants. Also, do your best to stay within your scheduled timeframe. By extending the meeting, you may also quickly lose participation and attentiveness.

Use Visual Aids When Necessary

Visual aids can help entice participation and encourage discussion among attendees. Visual aids are ideal if you are presenting new ideas or strategies to a large group. They do not need to be used in every phone call, and they can become an annoyance if they are long and provide too much information. However, to use visual aids during a conference call, you will need an internet connection and web conferencing capabilities.

Keep Notes

Keeping notes is an excellent way to stay focused during a long conference call. Also, if the information being presented is important, you will want to keep notes as a reference. Regardless of whether you take extensive notes or just jot down a few ideas, you should always keep a writing utensil and a notebook next to you during your phone meetings.

Record the Conference Call

Many conference call services allow hosts to record the phone meetings. This can be a valuable tool for several reasons. First, it can allow participants to go back and review the phone discussion and the presented information. Second, if an individual cannot attend the meeting, they can listen to the recording and receive the same information as the individuals who were there. Additionally, a recording is a way to keep track of the meetings and verify what information was discussed and presented.

Become Familiar with the Conference Call Service

Conference call services vary. Each service can offer different features and tools, particularly interactive features such as hand raising, polling, whiteboards and more. Before you begin a conference call, spend some time researching the service and learning its features. Many services allow an operator to sit in on the call to make sure things run smoothly. Also, it is a wise idea to go over certain commands and features at the beginning of a conference call to ensure that everyone on the call can participate.

Keep the Meeting Short

One of the quickest ways to lose participants' focus in a phone meeting is to extend it much longer than is necessary or its scheduled length. By keeping the meeting short and concise, you will have captive participants and individuals who do not dread your meetings.

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