Six Tips for Successful Group Phone Meetings

With more of us working from home or remote offices, phone meetings have become a staple of the business world. While these calls can drag on, veer off topic, and get confusing, none are more fraught with potential disaster than the group phone meeting. There’s a good chance almost half of the people on the call are passively listening while paying attention to something else.

What’s worse, studies show that 50 percent of meetings are unnecessary or quickly become a waste of time. One study revealed that businesses in the United States alone waste $37 billion in ineffective meetings. The problem can often be too many people in a meeting or no clear meeting leader.

Here are some things to think about whether you are dialing in or gathered around a speakerphone in a conference room.

Be prepared

Just like on the radio, all your filler words—um, uh, y’know, like—are much more noticeable on speakerphone. If those little things are amplified, imagine big things like not knowing what you want to say.

The best solution is to be prepared. Write out the points you want to make and what questions you want to have answered. Also, try to predict what questions might be asked of you. You’ll be glad you did when you have a succinct, informative answer at your fingertips

Stay on topic

You might genuinely like the people on your call and be interested in their lives. But not everyone else on your call will be interested. Keep on topic, say what needs to be said, and catch up on extraneous stuff in a face-to-face meeting or one-on-one call.

Whether it’s something major in your life or a silly anecdote in someone else’s, personal stories or unrelated work gossip should be kept to a minimum. And here’s another reason to stay on topic: You never know who else might be listening! You have to assume anything you say could be heard by someone else in the room or on another line.

Listen before you ask

It’s easy to tune out if the call covers areas outside your concern, but keep your ears open. There’s always a chance your question will be answered. There are very few things more frustrating for other people on the call than to hear the same ground covered twice because someone wasn’t listening.

Get to the point

Maybe the only thing more frustrating than a question asked twice is a long-winded question or a comment posing as a question. Hopefully you already have your questions written out because you are prepared. There’s a chance the conversation will raise new questions, of course. So before you speak, ask yourself, “What’s the heart of my question and how can I get to it in the quickest possible time? It might even help to write it down before you ask it.

Speak up

Once you know what you want to say and how you want to say it, be bold. Unlike in-person meetings, you can’t raise your hand or use other visual cues to make space for your question or comment. On phone meetings you have to make space with your voice. If there are many people on the call, it might help to say something like, “This is Mary and I have a question.”

You should also, as always, be wary of being talked over. If other people on the call don’t make room for you to finish what you wish to say, it’s perfectly acceptable to say something like, “Excuse me. I would like to finish what I was saying.” You aren’t being rude. You’ve taken the time to craft what you want to say. Don’t be afraid to say it.

Don’t make noise

Calls with many people can get confusing. There is no room for side conversations, diversions, cross-talk, or background noise. Radio broadcast booths have a Cough Button. Use your mute button. It will be more pleasant for everyone.

How do you keep phone meetings on track and to the point? 

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