Use These Best Practices For Making Your Virtual Meeting & Conference Call A Success
Conferences or town hall meetings are a great way to get everyone in your organization together for business updates, goal progression, or strategy decisions.
With more and more employees opting to work remotely, it’s challenging to hold conferences face to face. Fortunately, video conferencing makes it easy to host virtual meetings that allow conference call attendees to participate from wherever they are through the use of a mobile device.
Additionally, virtual conference calls enable the host to share content quickly, record the discussion for review, and interact with callers in new and engaging ways.
It can be nerve-wracking if you’ve never acted as a virtual conference host before. There is always a chance the conference call will feel unorganized, boring, and filled with awkward bouts of silence.
The good news is that virtual calls don’t have to be tricky versions of the successful in-person meetings you’ve hosted before. They can be a great way to connect with your team without the inconvenience of traveling.
Take a look at seven practical and actionable tips on how to host a conference call that runs smoothly and effectively engages your participants, as well as some pro tips to take your hosting skills to the next level.
Photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions
Before The Conference Call
To host the best virtual conference call possible, you will need to do some preparation.
Planning your virtual meeting can boost attendance, increase engagement, and relieve the stress you may face as an event host.
Consider writing an opening script to engage your audience. Having a good idea of what you want to say will remove pressure and make the virtual call run smoothly.
Also, brush up on your conference call etiquette to ensure you meet the hosting expectations of your attendees.
1. SEND THE AGENDA IN ADVANCE
Online meetings are only as good as their agendas. It’s easy to get lost or side-tracked without a specific set of objectives for the discussion and goals you’re hoping to accomplish. This means your virtual meeting participants will lose their motivation to contribute.
Send the agenda in advance, at least 24 hours before the virtual meeting, and offer your counterparts a chance to approve it, amend it, and make suggestions. If it’s going to be a lengthier meeting, break the agenda into different sections:
Additional Meetings Required
Be sure to include whatever applies to the tasks at hand and attach the agenda to the email invites. This may seem like a no-brainer, but a clearly defined plan will set the tone for the meeting and how seriously your attendees will take it.
Use your agenda to guide your conference call to host better virtual meetings. If the conversation gets off-topic, rely on your agenda to reel participants back to the task at hand. Not only will this help your meeting end on time, but attendees will appreciate your efficiency in keeping the conference call on track.
2. PROVIDE MULTIPLE OPTIONS FOR CALL ACCESS
In today’s business world, professionals call into virtual meetings from different types of devices: desktops, laptops, mobile phones, and tablets.
As a conference call organizer, you must account for all of that and ensure there is an access option for all attendees.
In the calendar invitation and meeting invites, it’s essential to provide a URL link and access code to the conference call platform. You should also offer a toll-free phone number to access the conference call via landlines, Apple, and Android phones.
If you are co-hosting the call with a team member, be sure to provide the host code well in advance to prevent any missteps.
If you meet with attendees from across the globe, include a set of toll-free numbers that accommodate whichever international phone system they are using.
Remember to be considerate of attendees in different time zones. You may consider using call recording so that you can share the meeting with attendees who are unable to join.
Ensure participants who can’t make it due to time zone restrictions can still access a recording of the call and any materials shared during the call. You can disperse these through your follow-up email, which will also allow attendees to review the contents of the conference call.
Again, be sure meeting attendees receive this well in advance by sending it through an email or attaching it to a reminder app like Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook. If you’re using a mobile app, reach out to attendees to ensure they understand how to use it before the day of your conference call.
Photo by Anna Shvets
During Audio Conference Calling
Once your conference call attendees start arriving and phone calls start rolling in, it’s time to take a deep breath and start acting as host. Always start your meeting by introducing yourself as the host. This will help dial-in attendees to recognize your voice throughout the meeting.
Remember to stick to your meeting agenda and apply your in-person meeting skills to web conferencing. Keep an eye on the clock to ensure you start and end on time.
3. THE POWER OF SILENCE
It’s critical to make sure you are in a quiet space before you even begin to host the meeting. NOTHING is more frustrating during a conference call than experiencing an onslaught of background noise.
Along similar lines, if you cannot mute callers upon entering the virtual meeting room, ask them to mute their microphones and to unmute only when speaking. Some hosts enjoy playing hold music while call participants arrive, but this can mask the distracting sounds of an unmuted microphone.
That being said, some experts assert that muting participants serves as an enabler for their multi-tasking, so perhaps this tip is more useful when an attendee is presenting content, as opposed to throughout the meeting during open discussions.
If you ask your virtual audience a question and aren’t receiving any feedback, try acknowledging that the question may have been difficult to understand and rephrase it–let them know it’s okay to take a minute to think about their answer.
Consider utilizing your virtual meeting platform’s collaboration tools, like live polling, chats, and interactive whiteboards, to encourage participants to engage without being unmuted.
Silence on a conference call has the potential to scream as loud as nails on a chalkboard, so spin it and use it to your advantage.
4. DON’T FORGET ABOUT PARTICIPANTS ON THE PHONE
More often than not, screen sharing is going to be involved in your virtual meeting–and this is a great way to engage participants, as well as illustrate your points.
However, not everyone is sitting in front of their computer when they join the call, which impedes the functionality of your visuals. Here are some ways to include call-in attendees:
Use Descriptive Language: When referencing a slide or showcasing a visual, take a moment to paint a mental picture for your mobile users in real-time.
Reach Out During The Meeting: When asking for ideas on a topic or brainstorming, start by engaging dial-in callers first, so they don’t get lost in the mix.
Offer A Solution: Remind them that you are recording and the images will be available to them later.
Ask Questions: Be sure to ask phone participants if they have any questions or need clarification on any topics discussed.
As a virtual conference call host, it’s your responsibility to ensure all participants receive what they need out of the meeting. Make yours a success by engaging phone participants to keep everyone on the same page.
5. ALLOW EXTRA TIME FOR QUESTIONS
There is no exact rule of thumb for how long your video calls should take. Typically, virtual meetings do not exceed one hour to prevent engagement loss or distraction.
Using one hour as a point of reference, plan content for about 45 minutes. It’s best practice to assign estimated units of time to each section of the agenda so that you can keep your conference call on track and running efficiently.
Of course, it’s essential to respect the schedules of your call participants, so leave about 15 minutes at the end to answer questions or return to items previously tabled during the call. As conference call host, you can log items designated for the Q&A portion or assign this duty to a team member.
Do your best to answer each query presented during the meeting so that participants feel their questions were validated and addressed.
You’ll have already covered most of your plan by this point, so you can invite callers who are satisfied with the meeting to disconnect. Nothing boosts morale more than being able to leave a meeting early!
6. AGREE ON THE NEXT STEPS
Towards the end of your conference call, wrap up by summarizing the key takeaways from the meeting. Then, directly address the following steps:
Who is responsible for what?
Who owns which project?
Which questions still need answers?
What objectives need to be met before the next meeting?
Are deadlines on track to be completed?
Once you have done this, let attendees know what post-meeting communication they can expect–and, if there is an upcoming meeting, when and how it will occur.
This will allow your participants to prepare for the next conference call and alert you to any scheduling conflicts that need to be addressed.
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto
After The Conference Call
People who host meetings know that their job isn’t over once the conference call is over.
It’s important to wrap things up neatly and reach out to your call participants to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Hosts can also provide valuable insights that will help them adjust their conference call approach for optimum success.
7. FOLLOW UP!
When you follow up with your conference attendees, you demonstrate to them that you value their presence at your online meeting. Here are some ways you can easily follow up after the web conference call.
Send a thank-you email to attendees before the end of the day to show you appreciate their participation.
Share meeting minutes, slide shows, and other related documents with all attendees to ensure they have access to all essential documents from the conference call.
Schedule a phone call to touch base a few days after the conference call to field any questions or concerns that you didn’t address in the meeting.
Send a survey to get feedback on how the conference call went to help inform future conference calls.
Take this opportunity to reiterate what your team accomplished during the meeting, record who owns what action items, and relay the next steps. This will ensure that everything discussed in the conference call will come to fruition.
If someone was unable to attend the conference call, don’t forget to include them in the follow-up! They can still benefit from the information and materials discussed in the meeting. This also shows that you value them and welcome their presence at your next conference call.
Virtual Conference Call Pro Tips For Hosts
Conference calls are a staple for any industry, so you must get them right as quickly as possible. A clunky, confusing conference call will cause your message to get lost as your participants grow frustrated and tune out what you have to say
Here are some tips you can follow to ensure your call goes off without a hitch and your attendees are satisfied with the meeting.
Tips For Hosting A Virtual Conference Call
How It Helps
Set Ground Rules
Assume You’re Not Muted
Host A Hassle-Free Conference Call With BeaconLive
Once you find a flow, hosting a virtual conference call will become second nature.
Keep these seven conference call process tips in mind, and you’re sure to crush your next video conference call.
For more tips on hosting large-scale video or audio conferencing, webinars, or virtual events, check out the BeaconLive Resource Page.
Our virtual conferencing service offers cloud-based solutions that hosts and attendees can access on any mobile device.
BeaconLive’s competitive pricing, top-of-the-line conference call service, and expert customer service representatives are ready to assist you with your next virtual conference call.
For more insights into boosting participation in your virtual events, check out our complimentary eGuide: 7 Ways to Increase the Attendance of Your Virtual Event.