Teleconferences are an important part of a world that increasingly works globally and relies upon team members who telecommute for work. Learn how to organize a successful teleconference in this article by Ronda Bowen.
Organizing the People Involved
The first step for any successful teleconference is to schedule the time and date for the conference and to organize the people and their roles in the conference. You should first be certain of the primary purpose for meeting - are you doing a call-in status update on a current project? Are you keeping project stakeholders informed? Once you know understand the purpose of the meeting, you will then be able to effectively determine who should be involved in the teleconference.
Scheduling the teleconference need not be complicated. Many iCalendar programs like Microsoft Outlook allow for you to easily coordinate multiple schedules by seeing availabilities and tentative times. Try not to ask everyone when they are available and then juggle multiple email responses if at all possible (especially if more than four people will be in the conference). Be sure to send a reminder the day before the meeting, just in case that all-important stakeholder forgot to mark the date down on his calendar.
Selecting the Equipment
Running a teleconference depends upon the equipment as much as it depends upon the reliability of the people involved with the teleconference. There are many different options when it comes to teleconference equipment. Skype, a standard for teleconferencing can be an adequate tool, but there are many other options - especially if teleconferencing is a vital point of your project teams - and you should invest in the best possible equipment your company can afford.
Organizing the Agenda
Before the date of the teleconference, preferably the day before, you should send a meeting agenda to each of the participants. You should organize an agenda before every meeting, but especially before a teleconference. Be clear in the agenda about the role of each participant in the teleconference. This way, each person will come to the teleconference prepared. This is important, especially if individuals are calling in long-distance, because you will want to keep the meeting time to a minimum. If the participants are not prepared, then it will waste your time, their time, and company time.
Staying on Task
Teleconferences, more so than traditional conferences, can wander off task easily when people who don't often talk get together. As the conference leader, your job is to make sure that the participants follow the agenda. If additional items come up that are not on the agenda, make a note of them including who is involved, and save it for a future discussion. Point out to the members of the conference that they should stay on task in a diplomatic way. By keeping the teleconference on task - and giving a time limit to the teleconference - you can have a successful run.
Once the teleconference has ended, then you will need to follow up on any action items that came up during the discussion. You should also send a recap (or have another member of the teleconference send meeting notes). This will help your teleconference members to recall what was discussed and what they need to do as a result of the teleconference. Finally, remember all those times your participants wanted to steer away from the meeting's agenda? Send out a notice to those involved asking if the topic needs further discussion.