A 2004 survey from Raindance Communications looked at the issue of multitasking. And for those of you who regularly lead conference calls (like me), brace yourselves… the numbers ain’t pretty. These stats are a little dated but still eye-opening. According to this survey:
90% of people surveyed said they multitask while on conference calls;
70% reported doing other, unrelated work;
50% reported catching up on unrelated email, texting or instant messaging;
35% reported that they eat;
35% reported that they mute the meeting so they can conduct side conversations;
25% reported that they spend time on the internet.
The conference call is a common form of group communication, and it is frequently done poorly. And when we look at some of the multitasking stats above, we realize that most people don’t pay very close attention when participating in a call. So, how can we lead calls in the best way possible and give ourselves the best chance of leading an efficient call?
Here are four things you can do tomorrow to lead and facilitate better calls:
1. Agendas and planning. Sounds obvious, right? Well we still hear plenty of evidence that a large number of group calls are not organized as well as they should be. Plan it out ahead of time, and then someone on the call needs to manage to that agenda, and facilitate the discussion so you stay on task and on point.
2. Make the call inclusive. Ask specific questions to specific people, use people’s names in your examples, pass the ball around and encourage participation. If your call consists of one person speaking the entire time, it won’t be an efficient call. Remember this… the most empowering four words you can use in the work place are “what do you think?” So, do what you can to make your call inclusive. You don’t want chaos. Your call still needs to be organized and facilitated. But it also needs to be inclusive.
3. Speak slowly and give people time to digest the information. All too often, the speaker cruises through the information too quickly and people struggle to keep up. Slow down. Pause once in a while. Breathe. Let people absorb. And, when you ask for questions, wait several seconds before you move on. The people on the call might have the phone on mute, or they might be waiting politely for someone else to speak first. So if you request questions and don’t wait for people to respond, you’ll be inhibiting participation.
4. Narrate through the handouts or visuals. If you are working with materials, make sure people always know what page you are on, and where you are looking on that page. “So now if you will all flip to slide number 3, and I’ll draw your attention to the graph on the left side of the page.” Now you have everyone looking where you want them to look. Since you are not in the same room, looking at the same screen, the audience might lose track of where you are.
There you go… four easy things you can do to manage better calls. Managing good conference calls is not hard… we’re not splitting the atom here. But it is also a form of communication that is easily done poorly and when done poorly, efficiency and success are put at risk.
As always, I welcome your comments. What do you think?