Problem Solving Conference Calls

Do you ever attend conference calls while at home? Likely, almost everyone answered yes to this question.  In fact, with the advent of new communication technologies, global teams and the desire for companies to cut office expenses, more of us conduct work from home than ever before.  Some of us periodically.  Some of us full-time.  The benefits are numerous, allowing remote teams to flourish and maximize productivity.  But all of the advantages are not without risk.  Consider this example. 

Like many of you I will sometimes schedule conference calls from my own home.  One day I dialed into a particularly important call with a prospective client.  Four people were on the line to discuss plans for a large-scale training and development project.  I felt confident and competent, as I was able to answer all of their questions and explain our value proposition in a professional way.  Things were looking good.  All of the sudden, I heard a fifth voice on the line.

“Daddy! Daddy!  Daddydaddyda da da daaaaddy…”

Then, like the famous horror movie, I realized…THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE!

I had mistakenly dialed in on our personal line instead of my office phone, and my son had picked up in another room.  Panicked, I apologized profusely while running from room-to-room to find him. It felt like a red-faced eternity.  Thankfully, the client had a good sense of humor and didn’t hold it against me.  Perhaps they too experienced the frequent challenges of conference calls depicted in this humorous video:

We may joke about it later, but conference call foul-ups are not always a laughing matter.  Too often, inefficient remote meetings kill our productivity, leading to wasted time and missed deadlines. 

According to one 3M study, the primary purpose for 72% of our meetings involves the vital activity of solving problems or making decisions.  Given that many of our meetings also include conference calls, perhaps we need to pay more attention to improving the effectiveness of remote meetings.  Here are some tips to improve the effectiveness of your next conference call: 

  1. DO:  call in 5 minutes early to assure the conference bridge is working.   Greet participants by name.
  2. DO:  find out how to mute or disconnect a noisy line.
  3. DO:  allow everyone to introduce themselves when possible.
  4. DO:  review the agenda aloud and restate the desired outcome for the meeting.
  5. DO:  encourage participants to state their name before they speak.
  6. DO:  use open-ended questions to encourage more discussion, especially on sensitive topics (What questions do you have?  Vs.  “Does anyone have any questions?)
  7. DON’T:  Multi-task!

For the past thirty-five years, we have helped clients improve their meetings for more effective problem solving and decision making.  If your problem solving and decision making meetings could use some improvement, give us a call at (800) 386-5611. We’d love to help!







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