How to host a teleconference
A teleconference I attended on Friday reminded me of what it takes to run such a meeting smoothly. The next time you need to host a teleconference, keep these tips in mind.
1. Send out the agenda. Release it far enough in advance that attendees can study it and add to it. Many times you’ll have openings in the meeting. By getting the agenda out early, you give attendees the chance to create presentations. They also have time to think about how they will react to and vote on matters that require their input.
2. Discuss protocol and ground rules at the beginning. These can include: keep your phone muted when not speaking (and how that is done); identify yourself before speaking; how comments are offered, votes taken; and so forth.
3. Choose someone to take the minutes. Done prior to the meeting. In some organizations the Secretary performs this function, but it could be anybody suited to the role.
4. Perform roll call. Go through the roll call so you know who is present. This is valuable to the person taking the minutes.
5. Restore order as needed. Occasionally the discussion gets out of hand or sidetracked. As with an in-person meeting, you must be willing to cut into a conversation and get the group back on message. Cut in to stop stray noises, as well. Teleconferences are prone to background noises such as barking dogs, chatter from non-attendees, heavy breathing and chewing. When you hear this, cut in a tell participants to mute their phones.
6. Take a break. Seems odd, because everyone is sitting somewhere comfortable. Even so, teleconference attendees need a break. Schedule a break every two hours or so. Consider hanging up during the break to save phone time.
7. Restart on time. Don’t wait for stragglers, unless absolutely necessary. (Our host waited about 13 minutes to resume the meeting.) If the next presenter is late, ask the next person in line to offer his presentation. Keep the teleconference call moving.
What has been your experience with teleconference calling? Any suggestions or anecdotes you’d like to share? Feel free to comment below. If you found value in this post, could you do me a favor and share it with others? Thanks!
Have you considered hosting webinars? You should. They are an effective and cost-efficient way to communicate when your presentation includes visual elements. For more on webinars, see “Create a successful webinar” and “Hosting a webinar?”
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Good point about the length of the teleconference. I should have noted that the conference I attended was scheduled to last four hours. To which I would add, “If your conference is scheduled to last at least 2-1/2 hours, include a break.” I appreciate your visit and comment.
Good point, and one I didn’t think to mention. I hinted at being respectful when I said the host needs to keep the meeting moving along. As one who has attended and hosted teleconferences and in-person conferences, I understand the value of time. Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate it.
Good evening Tom,
This is a really good post on things to make sure go smoothly during a teleconference. You mentioned taking breaks every few hours, while this is a great idea, I cannot imagine being on a teleconference that is taking hours to complete. It would be fair to say that the longest conference we have been on was like 1.5 hours….
Another good title for this would have been “Sure Ways To End Your Career During a Teleconference” – a little different spin, but the same content could have been used.
Tom, thanks so much for these great tips on hosting a teleconference. I think it all comes down to common courtesy and respect for other people’s time. It is just as important as our own!