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The Virtual Leader: making the most of conference calls

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We’ve all done it: finished our emails while the CEO is delivering his ‘all-hands’ call or texted colleagues and groaned about how boring this is. Conference calls, are seen as an easy, low cost way to ‘communicate’ with large numbers of people; yet the truth is, they are more likely to become a breeding ground for cynicism or disengagement, if done badly.

Investing in global calls can be enormously rewarding – but there are particular techniques to being successful.  I love the sense of reaching out across the world; remembering colleagues I worked with, or clients I’ve worked for and the places I’ve visited as a result.

Whether it’s one to one or one to many, you get what you give on telephone calls.  They take an investment in energy – just like any other major presentation.

Here’s my top ten tips and some suggested reading, for getting the most from conference calls.

1. Make it Visual; Make it Personal:

  • Before the meeting, circulate pictures of team members next to their agenda items, job titles/departments, so everyone knows what each other looks like when they come online
  • Meet your audience in person whenever possible – and connect with them on a personal level – maintaining that connection in calls.

2. Preparation (it’s everything!)

  • Prepare key messages; make them memorable
  • Edit ruthlessly: cut the waffle and junk the jargon
  • rehearse your messages; get feedback – especially on your timekeeping

3. Focus on your online presence

  • What’s the essential you?
  • Find a  metaphor or analogy for the ‘real you’)
  • Be that person on the calls

4 Invest time engaging with people on a personal level

  • At the beginning  of the call when people are joining – make one or two feel welcome, while the others are arriving
  • At the end of the calls invite one or two people to tell you one thing they’re taking away from the meeting

5. Invite people to be focused and engaged

  • You are looking for commitment to the meeting
  • Not doing other emails, taking calls on mobiles, etc., etc.,
  • Everyone needs to step up to the responsibility of making the meeting successful

6.  Who are you being as the meeting leader or keynote speaker?

  • What leadership strength are you bringing to the calls?
  • What engages you about this topic?
  • If you’re not engaged, chances are the audience aren’t either!

7. Not everyone’s first language is the same as yours

  • People may speak the same language, in theory, but culture and different interpretations may blur your messages
  • Slow down your speech
  • Pronounce each word more distinctly

8. Check for understanding

  • Invite feedback and engage people at the same time; some questions to ask might be:
  •  “Am I making sense?”
  •  “Does anyone have a different perspective?”
  • “Does this make sense in your country/territory/division/department?”
  • “Does anyone want to comment on that?”
  • “What questions might you have?

9.  Adapt to your audience’s Learning & Communications styles

  • We’re all different but there are some common themes – some of us are more ‘auditory’, others more tactile, some people make sense by writing things down
  • Most of us are visual – so use commonly-understood images to paint a ‘word picture’
  • Get your audience to write specific points down
  • Ask someone to feed back what they’ve just heard
  • Use variety to engage everyone

10. Combine the rational with the emotional

  • Use rational/logical (information) and emotional engagement – in one message; it engages both sides of the brain and engages your whole audience

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Want to comment on this article?  Please do leave your own ideas & suggestions in the comments field.

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Author: Helen Caton Hughes

Leadership and Team Coach based on inspirational and practical tools. Works with leaders around the world; trains coaches to International Coach Federation standards. Passionate about finding best ways for leaders to inspire themselves and get the best from their teams

One thought on “The Virtual Leader: making the most of conference calls

  1. This is the first time I have read something so clear on this subject. I have been quite diffident about participating in such meetings and have generally tended to wriggle out of them. This gives me the confidence not only to attend such meetings more often but also participate in them well. Thanks Helen.

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