CEO Opinion: Stop People from Falling Asleep in Your Conference Calls

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.

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