From time to time we do posting on practical suggestions involving conference calling — both free conferencing and traditional conference calling. Here is the latest one: First Five Tips for the Facilitator of a Conference Call
Conference calls can make business much more effective by allowing participants of a meeting to participate from all over the world. This kind of meeting is great for information sharing and to get the word out to many people all at the same time.
In order to make your conference call effective, the use of a facilitator is highly encouraged. The facilitator should follow these tips to making the most out of the call:
Keep the conference call on time. The facilitator should ensure that the meeting starts on time, breaks are taken regularly, participants return from breaks promptly, and that the meeting ends on time. One technique for getting your meeting guests to return to the meeting on time is to have a short game that begins promptly when the break is over. It’s amazing how well that brings people back to the discussion. Another approach is to appoint a timekeeper for the meeting. This person will keep track of the time and let members know when an agenda item time limit is about to expire.
Provides a structured approach. Have an agenda and use the agenda to keep people on track. A trick for keeping off-topic discussions to a minimum is to have a parking lot. This parking lot is simply a list of topics that were not on the agenda that participant brought up and wanted to discuss. You stop the off-topic discussion and let the meeting guests know that you’ve add that topic to the parking lot for discussion at the end of the meeting if time is available; otherwise it will be added to the next conference call agenda.
Eliminate domination of the conference call by one person, allowing for equal participation by all. The role of a facilitator is to ensure discussion occurs from all participants. If one person is dominating the conference , the facilitator will want to place them on hold while they draw out the other meeting guests.
Allow the leader to participate in the meeting. When a conference call has a facilitator, the leader can sit back and allow the conference to run the meeting. This will allow the leader to actively participate in the meeting and offer his/her thoughts on discussion topics as well.
Encourage creativity. Sometimes people have a hard time being creative and they get stuck in the moment of the conference and solutions are not coming about readily. The role of a facilitator is to be resourceful in encouraging creativity in the participants. Brainstorm exercises are always a good tool to get people to think outside of the box.