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Are your conference call participants zoned out? Try these tactics

Posted Mar 3, 2014 7:50 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Meetings by conference call pose special problems, but they are still gaining in popularity.

Some workers on the end of the line zone out, perform household work and forget to hit mute when slurping a drink or when their kids are crying, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) says in an article on the topic. Yet time in audio conferences in the United States is expected to grow by nearly 10 percent a year through 2017, according to market-research firm Wainhouse Research.

The article provides tips on running a smooth conference call. They include:

• Set explicit agendas to keep participants’ minds from wandering. Meeting leaders should encourage participants to talk more, with questions prepared in advance. Participants who don’t know each other should be asked to introduce themselves and explain their roles in the project being discussed.

• Keep participants on topic and set time limits.

• Be aware of time differences. A remote participant from Australia who had to get out of bed for the conference call may be irked if the first 10 minutes of the meeting are delayed for coffee. Try to set a meeting time that can accommodate everyone.

• Remote participants may feel like second-class citizens who aren’t among the “cool kids” at work. They will be able to follow the call better if participants say their names before speaking. If someone on site cracks a joke, resulting in laughter throughout the room, the meeting leader should let remote participants know what was said.

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