Anatomy of a Worthwhile Conference Call

The little hairs on the nape of my neck used to stand up when someone said, "Let's schedule a call with the team to talk about it ..." The little voice in my head cried, "Nooooooooooooooooooooo!"

Face it, friends. Conference calls can be bad. Real bad.

But I'm coming around. My clients and colleagues are schooling me in the art of the well-planned and worthwhile call. In thanks for their organizational and planning skills, I share with you the bones of what I've found make for a call that will not have you rolling your eyes and flopping around like a bored 14-year-old ...

1. Set a time limit. Not revolutionary, but it does keep people from waxing poetic or veering off into tangential waters.

2. Don't begin every call with the Book of Genesis. The idea is to move the project forward. Assume everyone is up to speed and current on the status of the job. No need to begin at the very beginning each time you convene partners. If you need to send out a quick "up to speed" email prior to the call, do that.

3. Agendas are your friends. Having an outline of topics to cover eliminates a lot of wasted time—and also provides a very polite way to reclaim the conversation from someone who has an ax to grind.

4. Wrap Up Emails are your buddies, too. This is a blatant, shameless butt kiss to Bob Merrigan. When he's right, he's right! Don't judge me. Anyway, what good is a call if no one is really sure what the next steps are? If passing the buck is an option and no work gets done as a result of your numb buttocks and cauliflower ear? Take the ten minutes it requires to write up action steps and designate responsibility for them.

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