IBA, as the premier business brokerage firm in the Pacific Northwest, is firmly established as a respected professional service firm in the legal, accounting, banking, mergers & acquisitions, real estate, and financial planning communities. Periodically, we will post guest blogs from professionals with knowledge to share for the good of owners of privately held companies & family owned businesses. The following blog has been provided by Margo Myers of Margo Myers Communications (www.margomyers.com):
Conference Call Facilitation for Business Owners Working Virtually
Many people are working from home with the corona virus outbreak, and finding themselves on conference calls practically every day. Even during the best of times — sitting in on conference calls can seem challenging to hold an effective meeting and accomplish anything.
There’s the sound of typing (that sounds like they’re using a hammer), or someone’s dog is barking in the background. We’re not sure exactly WHO is on the call because we can’t see each other, and that also means we inadvertently talk over others or interrupt. Or our train of thought is derailed by someone else who jumps in and interrupts us. The person who’s supposed to be talking is accidentally on mute. You know the drill.
When a corporate client asked me to put together a workshop on effective communication that included making conference calls more productive, it made total sense. Teams often make pitches to clients over conference calls, and when there are tens of thousands or even millions of dollars on the line, you want those calls to go as smoothly as possible.
Let’s start with various communication styles. These aren’t formal styles, but ones I’ve noticed over the years. Maybe you recognize yourself or your colleagues in some of these, and how they ‘show up’ on a call.
Extrovert – you get your energy from people. You’re comfortable talking, sometimes a lot. You can dominate the call if you’re not careful.
Introvert – you may prefer working on your own, and don’t feel compelled to talk. You can make presentations (if you have to), but it takes time to recharge. We WANT to hear your ideas.
“Process” out loud – you aren’t sure what you’re thinking until you say it out loud. This is how you think through your ideas. It may take you two minutes to process a thought, when people only listened for the first 30 seconds.
“Broadcasters”– communication is a one way street, mainly from you to everyone else.
Nervous communicator – nerves may prompt you to talk too fast, or talk too much and reveal information better left unsaid.
Silent partners – you’re more comfortable being quiet, and you hesitate to share your input or ideas.
Ideal communicators – Engaged two-way conversations, who ask others for their ideas and perspective.
Recognize yourself (or your colleagues) in any of these? It’s good to be aware of our tendencies. When you bring all these styles onto a conference call, it can be like ‘herding cats’ and results in a chaotic call. There’s little structure and sometimes, key points get lost in the mix. When there’s a major project or contract on the line, that’s NOT the result you want.
Conference call solutions
1. Choose a team leader
When planning a conference call, it can be useful to choose a team leader. The leader runs the conference call, shares the agenda and makes sure everyone is heard. (If you’re planning with another company, they can coordinate a ‘call leader’ to work with your ‘team leader). They also keep the call on track and on time.
At the beginning of the call, everyone on it is introduced including their name and role or title. That way, there are no ‘silent partners,’ and people know who to address.
3. Set ground rules
Your team leader can set ground rules for the call, such as being present, no multi-tasking, visiting social media or working on another project during the call. We all know how frustrating it can be to repeat ourselves or, when asking for an opinion, have that person unaware of the conversation. The ground rules may also establish the length of the call so people can schedule their time accordingly.
4. Be inclusive
Once introductions are complete, the team leader can state objectives for the call, and ask the person introducing the main concept or project to begin. The leader can follow up by calling on people by name to offer input or a response. If someone wants to jump in, they can do so but must first announce who they are. The team leader runs the call and makes sure everyone is heard, not allowing one or two people to dominate the discussion.
5. Before wrapping up
The team leader can restate the objectives, what’s been agreed to, and outline next steps for the team, or for the next call. Make sure everyone knows who ‘owns’ what action items.
6. Thank people for their time
Being courteous and thanking people for their attention can go along ways in reinforcing good behavior. People know the expectations for the call, and what’s next.
Planning ahead and giving the call a structure may seem like an extra step, but it ensures that the conference call, especially if it’s a high stakes call, goes smoothly.
If you have questions relating to the content of this article, Margo Myers, PCC, CHIC and President of Margo Myers Communications, would welcome inquiries. Margo Myers can be reached at (206) 604-4535, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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