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July 23, 2018

The Ultimate Guide to Setting a Conference Call Agenda

Why You Need a Conference Call Agenda (and How to Create One)

Conference calls are an important part of any business’s operations, but they have the possibility to go off the rails—and fast. All it takes is one tangential anecdote or a collection of easily distracted participants for the entire crew to lose sight of its original meeting goals.

There are a few potential solutions to correct this, but none are as efficient as setting an efficient, proactive agenda.

Why Agendas Are So Beneficial

So why do agendas have the distinction of being able to make any conference call run smoother?

  • Time constraints. First, an agenda puts a time constraint on your meeting. Without some external force keeping tabs on time, meetings tend to swell unnecessarily; that’s why 30-minute (and shorter) meetings are so effective.
  • A concrete course outline. A good agenda will tell you exactly which topics to address, and when to address them. There’s no time for ambiguity or wandering conversations because the course of the meeting is already laid out.
  • Prep time. If given an agenda in advance, meeting participants have a chance to think about what they’re going to say, and prepare items to keep the meeting flowing smoothly. There will be fewer pauses, and no moments of delay as participants try to figure out what’s going on.
  • A touch point for distractions. Human beings are easily distracted, so it’s no wonder why so many conference calls deviate from their intended path. However, this isn’t productive; an agenda can tell you how and when a meeting has gotten off course, and give you a touch point so you can return.

How to Set an Agenda Effectively

You can’t throw an agenda together and hope for it to work out. Instead, you’ll need to apply these strategies to ensure the agenda is useful:

  • Create and print general guidelines. If there are meetings you plan to hold regularly, such as daily check-ins, or monthly reporting meetings with clients, it’s a good idea to create templates that you can use indefinitely. Furthermore, you’ll want to contact an inexpensive print facility and print up copies for all your remote workers. Think of it as an encyclopedia for conference call agendas that everyone can reference.
  • Tie each section to a goal or action item. In your meeting agenda, make sure to tie each section in your agenda to a specific goal or action item. This will make the objective of each section clear, and make it obvious when you’ve completed that objective so you can move on. Even abstract goals, like brainstorming new marketing initiatives, can be defined.
  • Define time to be spent in each section. Put a hard time limit on each section, even if it’s only a few minutes. According to Parkinson’s Law, the time it takes to accomplish a task tends to swell to fit whatever time is allotted for it. Therefore, the more you restrict your conference call time, the less time it’s going to take.
  • Distribute the agenda in advance of the meeting. This should be obvious, but make sure to get your agenda in the hands of your participants well in advance of the meeting—preferably at least 24 hours in advance. That way, your participants will have plenty of time to prepare, and will know what to expect when they call in.
  • Designate a point person to hold the group accountable. Before the call, you should designate a point person (possibly yourself) to hold the group accountable to the agenda. They should be the ones addressing when a section has been completed, and the ones to recognize when the meeting has unproductively deviated from the schedule.
  • Spend time evaluating what went right and wrong. After each conference call, spend some time evaluating what went right and what went wrong in the meeting. This is a valuable opportunity to learn which aspects of your agenda were successful in curtailing bad habits, and which ones require further refinement. Use these lessons to make your next agendas—and your next conference calls—even more effective.

If you apply these tactics consistently and create an agenda before every conference call, you’ll notice your meetings running much more smoothly. From there, use slight adjustments to your approach to gradually improve your conference call dynamics over time. If you’re committed to making your conference calls more streamlined, and willing to make changes, there’s no limit to the efficiency you can achieve.

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