Even if you are a development/aid professional who spends most of your time in the field working directly with beneficiaries, it’s inevitable that you’ll have to spend some time on conference calls with the group you are working with.
Skype, Facetime, Hangouts, GoTo Meeting, WebEx, the good ol’ fashioned telephone … whatever the platform, you need to be able to effectively meet in a virtual group.
Highly educated and savvy professionals mostly think they do this well. And yet, technology limitations aside (e.g. poor connections and equipment), I’ve found there is still plenty of room for improvement.
The following are what I’ve found to be baseline skills for making group calls effective and efficient, and which (bonus!) make call participants look like savvy professionals:
Agenda: You shouldn’t be scheduling a call unless you know why. Specifically, what will you be discussing? What decision(s) do you intend to make? Ideally, keep your agenda limited to only one or two things.
Timing: Be realistic about time – people aren’t able to concentrate for more than an hour.
Show up early: No one likes waiting around for you to get connected.
Respect the facilitator: One person should “run” the call so you avoid cacophony and keep the agenda moving.
Consider sound quality: It’s almost always better to talk into a handset or headset with microphone than a speakerphone.
Avoid side-conversations: Stay focused on the topic/meeting.
Appreciate silence: If you’re not contributing, keep your line muted.
With these simple actions, you can improve your group calls. And of course, the rock star professional always goes a step further. Depending on your role, after the call you can:
Report on what was agreed: Provide the group with clear bullets detailing the agreements/decisions that were taken.
Share minutes: Make sure everyone has access to the meeting notes (this is super easy via Google Docs, Dropbox, etc.).
Execute: Most importantly, make sure you deliver what you’ve agreed to.
If you (and, yes, everyone else) follow these tips, you’ll find your group calls are much more efficient and effective.