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May 24, 2018

7 Things to Do Before Any Teleconference to Increase Your Chances of Success

7 Strategies for Holding a Successful Teleconference

If you’ve ever been in a teleconference, you know it isn’t an ideal way to have a conversation or hold a meeting. It’s estimated that businesses waste around $37 billion on unproductive meetings each year—and while that figure covers both phone and in-person meetings, it should be eye-opening to you.

There are a handful of factors that can keep your teleconference from being productive, and if you know how to compensate for them, before the meeting takes place, you can ensure that your phone meeting will run smoothly.

The Common Problems

Let’s start by briefly analyzing the main challenges that teleconferences face:

  • Impaired sound quality. Even after all these years, our phone call quality leaves something to be desired. The problem gets worse when you add more phone call participants, since you’ll be dealing with more data and more individual voices.
  • Unnatural conversation patterns. You can’t read body language over the phone, so teleconferences are often vulnerable to unnatural conversational patterns, including more interruptions and false starts.
  • Productivity and attention. Without visual reference points, it may be harder to keep track of certain points. On top of that, there’s no way to tell whether your other participants are multitasking, the way you can in a physical meeting.

You’ll also have to contend with the challenges of typical meetings.

What to Do Before the Meeting

Fortunately, you can control for these factors by taking the following actions in the days and hours leading up to your teleconference:

  1. Distribute materials before the event. Print up some booklets, email some PDFs, or link your participants to the same website before the meeting. That way, everyone will be referencing the same materials at the same time during the discussion. There will be less confusion, and the meeting will be able to take a firmer direction.
  2. Limit the number of participants. Speaking of participants, keep your numbers limited. Every new participant is a new variable that adds to the complexity of the meeting; you’ll have more voices competing to get heard and more connections to increase the chances of a technical problem arising. In an ideal world, you wouldn’t have more than four or five active participants at a time.
  3. Explain the purpose and goals of the meeting. Make sure all your participants understand the purpose and goals of the meeting. What are you here to accomplish? What do you hope to have done by the end? If you aren’t sure of the answer here, you probably don’t need to have a meeting in the first place.
  4. Choose a meeting leader. Most teleconferences work best when one person is designated as the meeting leader, to run through the agenda, recognize other points, and lead the discussion toward the intended goals. They can avoid tangential distractions, and make sure the right people are participating in the right ways.
  5. Check your equipment before making the call. If your phone system isn’t working properly, it’s not going to support your teleconference. The same is true for your screen-sharing software, if you’re using any. Double check that this equipment is working properly about an hour before the meeting, so you can fix any bugs you find in plenty of time.
  6. Ask non-speaking participants to mute themselves. At the beginning of the call, kindly ask your participants to mute their own lines until they’re ready to speak. This will cut back on interference significantly, and will prevent the majority of unintentional interruptions.
  7. Nix persistent technical problems. Even with all these precautions in place, you might experience technical problems. If those problems persist across multiple calls, it’s a sign that your system is overdue for an upgrade. Don’t let these problems ruin every meeting you attempt to hold.

With these steps in place, your meeting should run with fewer hiccups. There’s no such thing as a perfect meeting, let alone a perfect teleconference, so instead of striving for perfection here, strive to correct your most noticeable problems, and get closer to achieving the goal of each meeting in as little time—and with as few interruptions—as possible.

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