Recent studies confirm a singular interesting, but not very surprising, trend that people on conference calls aren’t really devoting their full attention to the information at hand. According to an article posted by the Harvard Business Review, more than half of all people multitask in some capacity during a conference call. The most common activities were doing other work, sending an email, eating, and texting. Other people confessed to using the time to take a bathroom break, do some online shopping, or even… sleeping.
Recent online articles by adigaskell.org and Harvard Business Review include a list of ten things people do during a conference call. These sites discuss how many people use the time during a conference call to text, engage with others on social media sites, play video games, and exercise.
It’s a sobering thought to realize that fewer than half of those on a conference call aren’t really plugged in. It’s most shocking for those hosting the call who are discussing what they feel is relevant information during the call. The results show that conference calls can be boring for participants. But teleconferences aren’t going anywhere so we have to learn to conduct them a lot better and minimize this loss of time. These startling statistics leave one question in the minds of those who utilize conference calls. What can be done to minimize distractions and maximize participation?
How to Succeed at Conference Calls
1. Invite Only Key Participants
One way to keep participation and employee happiness up is to only invite those who truly need to be involved. Bit players in a project often do not have an immediate need to be kept up to speed on every detail of a project. Often, they can glean the information needed from a summary of a meeting or from their supervisor. Do not invite people who work on multiple projects if they really do not have a need to be involved. That’s valuable time that would be taken from other projects. So, think before you act. Don’t just send out a conference invite to the masses because you think it’s important that you get everyone involved. Look at your call agenda, establish the topics you will cover, the questions that need to be answered, and consider who really the key participants to invite are.
2. Use Web Conferencing Software
Instead of just relying on a conference call, use web conferencing software to better engage your call attendees. In short, provide visual stimulation. We are all visual learners, perhaps some of us more than others, however the bottom line is that visual stimulation is important to us all. Hosting a web conference that involves interactive mediums such screen sharing and whiteboards to provide a live platform where different forms of visual stimuli (e.g. PowerPoint slides, graphs, photos, etc.) are shared, can help keep people awake and engaged.
3. Record the Web Conference
Ten people who work on the same project may often have different deadlines for their contributions. Attending a conference call or other meeting can take time away from meeting their deadlines. Recording the web conference for project participants to view later is a viable solution. Harvard Business Review reported that the most common activity done by people during a conference call was “other work”. If your colleagues have pressing deadlines to meet, it’s no wonder they get distracted during a conference call. In this case, it’s better to record the meeting. Participants who were unable to attend the live call can then playback the recording, give their full attention to the content, and will be updated and ready for the next call. This saves valuable work time and will prevent the employee from multitasking during the meeting.
4. Dynamic, Visual Interaction
As stated earlier, we are all visual learners. In a nutshell, this means that people learn better when they can see ideas put into action. This includes slideshows, videos, or other visual stimulation. The right web conferencing software will allow you to share screens, switch presenters, transfer files, and offer an interactive whiteboard. Switching presenters means that people pay attention when a voice changes. Invite only the participants who are essential to the meeting and make it mandatory that they have something to present. This minimizes the chance that their time during the scheduled conference will be spent doing other things. A change in presenters is a clear indication that something new is being offered. This small change can make a big difference and results in people paying attention.
Any presenter can share a PowerPoint presentation, website, or any application on their desktop. Screen sharing makes it easy for all of the presenters to give their information in a way that is unique to them. They are not relegated to simply sharing a file. They can use a slideshow or even show a website where they found their information.
File sharing is another helpful feature to keep people engaged after the meeting. Meeting hosts can provide meeting files for to participants for download and use as their own personal copy. This is a great solution for those who are both visual and hands-on learners. They get the ability to later view and go over the data again.
An interactive whiteboard allows everyone in the web conference to add something to the whiteboard. It’s not just limited to the presenters which increases the participation across all meeting attendees and therefore their engagement as well.
5. More Involvement
Using web conferencing software instead of relying solely on a conference call ensures more involvement from participants. People can participate live or even watch a recorded session at a time that works best for their schedule. Adding a screen sharing component to your conference calls involves more than just listening. Visual learners are kept engaged and meetings are more productive.
Web conferencing software doesn’t mean that people are chained to their desks to participate. Even those who were previously scheduled to be out of the office can participate while on the go. Of course, the ability to record a web conference means that those out of the office can watch it upon their return.
More involvement and productivity is the end goal for any type of meetings and there are numerous ways you can achieve this and keep your conference call participants awake.