How to Conduct a Teleconference Meeting

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Businesswomen on a teleconference call.
Businesswomen on a teleconference call. (Image: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Holding meetings by phone can save time, travel and effort for everyone involved. However teleconferences are vulnerable to the same problems as any business meeting, such as dithering discussions, wandering off-topic and pointless arguments. Meeting by phone also poses unique problems: a 9 a.m. call in New York is 6 a.m. in Los Angeles, for instance. It's up to you to schedule the right time and keep everyone on track.

Prepare Yourself

Contact the people you've invited to the teleconference and confirm which ones will attend. Send them an email with the number for the conference and any necessary PINs to access the conference. The email should include the meeting agenda and any reports or background material you want people to read beforehand. That should reduce the amount of actual meeting time wasted on explanations.

Remember It's a Meeting

Just like any business meeting, a teleconference should start on time, with everyone who said they'd attend actually showing up. Start by reminding the attendees of the purpose of the meeting. Have everyone introduce themselves, and encourage them to do so every time they speak. Once the meeting gets underway, keep people focused on the agenda items, without wandering off onto irrelevant topics.

Engage People

Talking on the phone makes it easy for attendees to check Facebook or email or otherwise drop out of the discussion. When you conduct the meeting, make an extra effort to keep everyone involved. Don't let anyone dominate the conversation, including yourself. Ask questions individually rather than "Does everyone agree?" which can lead to a babble of simultaneous answers. If people do try to speak at the same time, it's up to you to decide who speaks first.

Mute and Hold

If someone puts her phone on hold, everyone's going to hear the hold music or informercial. Remind everyone of this, and discourage going on hold unless it's essential. You may also want participants to use the mute button when they're not talking, so that nobody has to hear other noises from their office. CIO Magazine says, however, that not using the mute button makes it easier for people to respond instantly. It's up to you which approach works better.

Keeping Track

As you work through the agenda, take notes -- important points, majority decisions, problems someone brought up. Don't try to write up minutes, though. Coordinating the meeting is a big job, so if you want a detailed record, assign the minute-keeping to someone else. At the end of the meeting, summarize the key takeaways, so that everyone knows what happens next. This also gives anyone who disagrees with your interpretation a chance to say so.

Review Your Performance

After the meeting wraps up, take a look at the agenda. See how much of the agenda you actually covered. If you fell short, it may be you squeezed more onto the agenda than you could go over or that you didn't keep everyone on track. Talk to the other participants about what they thought and how it could have done better. Every unsuccessful meeting holds lessons on how to do better next time.

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