In the past, businesses had to conduct meetings with everyone in the same room so that all voices could be heard. That setup just isn’t very realistic in a modern setting where everyone needs to be on the go to keep competitive. That’s where the conference call comes into play, as it allows employees if it’s an intra-office call or business partners to connect even if they aren’t all located in the same place.

Anyone who has ever been on a conference call knows that it can sometimes be a kind of awkward setup for ideas to get expressed and business to get done. People interrupt each other or become distracted. Sometimes a conference call can devolve into chaos. If you participate often in conference calls or have employees who do, it’s best to settle on some guidelines to keep your next one extremely productive and worthwhile.

Your first order of business is settling on a conference call service that ensures ease of use, call clarity, and multi-functionality. At that point, you should get together with your employees or co-workers (maybe even on a conference call) and set up some ground rules to make the endeavor as smooth and as painless as possible.

No Distractions

Unless they have to access some piece of information, there is no need for members of a conference call to be focused on anything other than the task at hand. There is nothing more frustrating than a call where seconds, even minutes of silence go by waiting for a participant to respond, perhaps because he or she has been distracted by internet surfing or watching television or whatever. If you or one of your employees fall prey to this, you run the risk of looking utterly unprofessional and derailing the purpose of the call.

Set the Agenda

The best way for a conference call to have its desired effect is if someone steps up at the beginning of the call to explain how things will proceed. Something like, “Well, I’m going to set things up by explaining the problem. At that point, we’re going to proceed in this order and get comments from each of you before we throw it out for crosstalk.” That kind of opening statement lets everyone know what to expect and eliminates any needless interrupting or talking over each other. It will also ensure that everyone is completely prepared when it comes their turn to talk. Which leads us to…?

Know Your Stuff

One all-too-common problem with conference calls occurs when one or more members come to the call without having done the research or homework to contribute. These people often assume it will be good enough to simply listen in and agree when others take the floor. The best conference calls come when everyone is an active participant. So make sure you and your employees are ready to be in the mix when it comes to the next important conference call.

Of course, it goes without saying that cordiality and respect for all of the participants are also crucial aspects of successful conference calls. If you and your employees can master these simple rules, your next call might be the most productive ever.