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A woman sitting outside on her smart phone

Remote conferences are an integral tool of the work place. In an increasingly mobile and diverse business landscape, maintaining lines of communication in a way that is regularly organized and easily accessible ensures projects remain on task while goals are clearly maintained and communicated.

Phone meetings are by far the most commonly implemented for remote conferencing, and come with their own sets of headaches and challenges. As a team member or project coordinator, you may find yourself in need of strategies to use as a shorthand in organizing consistent, quality phone meetings. Feel free to use these suggestions below while you’re planning!

1. Stick to a schedule

Humans are creatures of habit, and scheduling phone calls can be one of the larger sources of frustration for mid-size or large teams. If you’re looking to utilize phone meetings as a convenient and regular means of convening a team, make it easier on your team members by scheduling calls at similar times at similar points in the week.

Typically, it’s simpler for someone to block out an hour in the morning every other Wednesday than to constantly be checking their schedule to see if they can make a meeting work. Sticking to a regular schedule upfront also helps establish project timelines. It can also help instill a sense of structure and a general sense of expectations.

2. Have a routine

Make sure to outline a procedure for beginning meetings, and for larger groups. Utilizing established formats, such as Robert’s Rules of Order, can help facilitate the chaos of having many voices present. Stick to a consistent limit of how long the group waits for people to join, and outline consequences for non-participation at your first meeting. Reiterate standards as necessary.

3. Prepare a small agenda; have someone take minutes

Board meetings utilize both these strategies, and are a simple but effective means of staying on task. Agendas serve doubly as excellent meeting reminders when provided in advance, and allow more time for team members to formulate specific questions they may have. You may want to incorporate unconstructed conversation time toward the end of meetings to field sentiments about the project at hand and candidly address issues that don’t neatly pertain to a specific task.

4. Be gracious, have a consistent facilitator

Always remember to be polite and professional. And remember, without visual cues and body language, you are bound to encounter miscommunication in a phone meeting at one point or another. Having a consistent facilitator, or a regular rotation of facilitation provides additional support and structure in meetings, as well as a default avenue for conflict resolution as the need arises.

Phone meetings don’t have to be a source of stress. When conducted effectively, they can be brief, clear, and helpful for all team members. Pair these strategies with a framework that best suits your team members’ schedules and working styles. And when in doubt, talk it out!

Margaret Smith is a career coach, author, Insights® Discovery (and Deeper Discovery) Licensed Practitioner, and founder of UXL. She hosts WORKSHOPS for people who need career or personal guidance.
NOW LIVE: Check out Margaret’s NEW online Leadership Course.

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phone meeting2

Many initial meetings happen over the phone. You might be “meeting” with a prospective client OR interviewing with a potential new company OR connecting with a possible collaborator for a new project. Whatever the case, don’t take these initial meetings lightly. Phone meetings are valuable opportunities to put your best foot forward and make an excellent first impression. How can you make sure your next phone meeting is a positive one?

1. Prepare

Nothing is as important as well-planned preparation. One of the most critical things you can do is research the other party. Visit their website, familiarize yourself with the company (or the person with whom you’ll be speaking), and learn about their guiding principles or mission statement. You’ll likely be able to interject some of your knowledge about the company during your phone conversation, but DON’T FORCE IT. You don’t want to sound canned or rehearsed.

Next, go over exactly what you’re going to cover in the meeting (or what you think you’re going to cover). Practice asking yourself questions that will likely be covered in the conversation and prep answers that are flexible and can be elaborated on or modified, depending on the question.

2. Warm up your voice

If it’s early in the morning or you haven’t been talking much all day, your voice will likely sound scratchy or weak. And that does NOT make for a good first impression. What to do about unused vocal chords? Warm ‘em up! Talk to a co-worker, call your mother, or even talk or hum to yourself. Newscasters, actors, singers, and other people who depend on their voice know the importance of warming up—a warmed up voice sounds more powerful and confident. For more ideas on prepping your voice, Business Insider printed an excellent article with several tips and tricks.

3. Be punctual

If it’s up to you to initiate the phone call, be punctual. Calling too early might rush the other party; calling too late gives the impression that you don’t really care.

If you’re on the receiving end of the phone call, be prepared to speak five minutes before the scheduled time. You don’t want to be caught off-guard by an early call.

4. Practice good listening

It’s easy to let your mind wander if you’re speaking with someone who is not in the same room. If your laptop is sitting in front of you, you might be tempted to absentmindedly scan your email, Facebook, the New York Times, the latest shoes on your favorite retail site…DON’T DO IT.

In order to truly absorb what the other person is saying, you must give them your full attention. Multi-tasking has been proven time and again to be ineffective and unproductive. Instead, put distractions away, take notes, and really listen. By being completely engaged in the conversation, you’ll be able to ask good questions and demonstrate that you care about the speaker and what he has to say.

Keys to Good Listening

5. Set up a follow-up meeting

If it’s within your power to set up a follow-up meeting (i.e. if you’re NOT interviewing for a job), then do so. Unless the phone meeting was a complete disaster, you’ll likely want to follow up with the other party. By setting up a time to meet—either face-to-face or over the phone—you’re demonstrating that you care and are enthusiastic about working with the person or company.

Once you hang up, send out an email to 1) thank the person for their time on the phone and 2) confirm the next meeting time and place. Not only is this good etiquette, it also shows that you’re grateful for the other person’s time.

 

Do you have specific questions about an upcoming phone meeting? Send me a message! I would be happy to answer any queries you might have.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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