Have you ever been on a conference call and asked a question to a participant, only to be met with awkward silence or a stammered response because the participant had clearly stopped paying attention and wasn’t listening when you asked your question? In a situation like that, even though you weren’t at fault, you can’t help but feel a bit embarrassed (although not as embarrassed as the person who wasn’t listening).
Conference calls can be a great collaboration tool, but far too many of us suffer through awkward encounters like the one above because we aren’t making the most of our conference call experience. According to a study by Intercall in 2014, more than 60 percent of surveyed respondents admitted to doing other work or sending an email while on a conference call. Fifty percent admitted to eating on a conference call. Just under half admitted to having using the bathroom during a call. One in five respondents confessed to shopping during a call; one in 11 admitted to exercising during a call. In a world where the number of potential distractions seems to grow by the minute, how can you get people to pay attention on your conference call?
Make the Benefit Clear
First and foremost, it’s important to hook your audience from the beginning. Start the call by stating a simple benefit of paying attention. It should be short, concise and compelling. Ensure that the payoff for paying attention is clear.
Stick to the Agenda
Be sure to distribute an agenda before the meeting to your call participants. At the start of the meeting, provide your main objectives for the meeting. Stick to your agenda as the meeting progresses, being sure to reiterate your key objectives. By providing a structure and sticking with it throughout the meeting, it’s easier for participants to keep their head in the game.
Focus on Interaction
If you’ve ever seen a good motivational speaker, you probably understand that the best speakers are the ones who make the audience feel like a part of the ‘conversation’. Interactivity is a crucial aspect of engaging your audience, and it is important to focus on making your meetings two-sided. Ask questions, brainstorm with your colleagues and make them feel like a valued part of the discussion.
If you’re not interested or excited about the topic at hand, then you can’t really expect your audience to feel excited about the conversation. Get your mindset right before the call and channel your enthusiasm into the discussion. Your meeting participants will be able to hear the excitement (and smile) in your voice.
By taking the above steps, you can foster a meeting environment that makes your fellow conference call participants want to listen. Say goodbye to unproductive conference calls filled with participants who are paying more attention to their Twitter feed or online shopping cart than what you have to say.