Gone are the days when a round-table discussion actually needed a round table and a bunch of people sitting round it, in the same room. Telecommunications have evolved to the stage where conference calls pulling in delegates from across the globe may be conducted with great clarity.
But staging the call is one thing – having a successful meeting is another. Here are some recommendations to help.
Prepare The Ground
To help maximize the time spent on important issues, draw up an agenda of the various points that need to be covered. Bearing in mind the projected duration of the total call, you should also set up a time-frame allocating a greater proportion of this time to the priority issues.
A few days before the call is scheduled to take place, circulate this agenda to the invited delegates via email, text message, or other means. This will give participants time to prepare, and also allow for any feedback from them which might alter or affect the agenda.
Get Your Own Space
Set yourself up in a quiet space with good insulation against outside noise, and no visual or other distractions. This will enable you to focus your full attention on the call.
Do An Introduction Round
When the call starts, check in with all the delegates to get their names and to verify that their phone lines are clear. If there are numerous participants, consider asking them to identify themselves by name each time they make a comment or ask a question.
Give Everyone A Chance To Contribute
Before moving on to new points of discussion, allow some time for comments or queries. If collaboration or input from all departments is part of the program, your moderator should check in with those participants who may not have been heard from for some time.
Have A Time-table – But…
Your schedule of points drawn up before the call should guide its progress – but if sticking points occur requiring a fuller discussion, or if certain issues are resolved quickly, your time-frame can be adjusted as required. If the conference wraps up early but still manages to cover all essential ground, so much the better.
Stay On Message
Don’t allow delegates to wander off on irrelevant tangents – and resist the urge to do so yourself.
Keep A Record Of What’s Said
You can ensure that all the scheduled topics are covered and memorable ideas and observations are archived by keeping written notes of important points and comments as they occur. Modern teleconferencing platforms using VoIP technology often provide call recording facilities as standard – and these transcripts can serve as the “minutes” of your meeting.
After the conference ends, an email follow up to the participants can provide a summary of what was covered, and gives them an opportunity to come back with questions or issues they might have. MP3 audio files or documents transcribed from the voice recordings may also be circulated to the delegates at this time.