Conference Calling Best Practices
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Best Practices for US Canada Conference Calls
Best Practices for US Canada Conference Calls
Avoid Common Conference Call Mistakes
Audio conference calls remain an effective means of communicating with a group across the United States and Canada. However, not all conference calls are as effective as they could be. As the moderator of US and Canada conference calls, your teleconferences can be more successful if you avoid the following common mistakes.
• Overlooking time zone differences.
While a three-hour time zone difference may not be overly challenging, you’ll still want to be mindful of time differences. For example, if you’re in Vancouver, BC Canada and you’d like to host a late afternoon conference call, chances are your colleagues in Toronto, Montreal, and Calgary have already left their offices for the day. Likewise, the reverse is true. A mid-morning conference call originating in Nova Scotia would be far too early for your colleagues on the other side of the country.
• Leaving phone lines unmuted.
It’s considered good form to mute individual phone lines during a conference call. However, not everyone abides by this unspoken rule of business conference call etiquette. You may hear all kinds of ambient noise such as side conversations, typing sounds, chewing sounds, chairs squeaking, traffic noise, and more. Even if only one line is left unmuted, these unwanted sounds can be disruptive and annoying. Our US and Canada conference calling plans allow moderators to quickly and unobtrusively mute noisy phone lines using either our free Connect app or the free Live Conference Viewer.
• Winging it.
Whether confronting a potential crisis or holding a weekly team meeting, starting a conference call without an agenda can lead to an unnecessarily long, off-track meeting. Even the most basic conference calls can benefit from an agenda. While writing and distributing a formal agenda is helpful, in a pinch creating a rough outline of the topics you’d like to discuss and a suggested duration per topic is better than winging it.
• Not being present.
We’ve all heard stories of audio conference call attendees multi-tasking during a conference call. Moderators often do this too. After all, no one can see you when on an audio call, so why not moderate your conference calls from the golf course, in a taxi, or while reviewing the latest headlines? Aside from common courtesy, in order to benefit from any US or Canada conference call, you need to be fully present.
• Not providing convenient, low-cost conference call access options.
Have you ever thought twice about calling a person or company when the phone number given to you is clearly from another country or city? Even with historically low long distance rates, out-of-area phone numbers are off-putting and some people may object to joining your conference calls if they perceive costs associated with participation. Avoid this problem by providing local or toll free US or Canada conference call access numbers. Our domestic conference calling plans allow you to offer toll free or city specific numbers for locations across the United States and Canada.
• Not documenting your conference call.
Not sure if someone attended your conference call even though they indicated that they would? If you had documented your conference call in some way, you could look it up. Options include recording the conference call and then taking a verbal roll call, or, better yet, referring to our attendance report which is automatically generated and emailed to you after your conference calls.
1. Use a map to visualize the conference call’s reach.
While you may think that most of your participants are in your same time zone, using a map could reveal otherwise. Simply print out a basic USA - Canada map and start plotting the locations of your attendees on it. Use this visualization as a guide when determining the optimal conference call time.
2. Obtain consent for recording the conference call.
The map may also be helpful if you’re concerned about obtaining consent from all parties when recording the conference call.
In the United States, 12 states (California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington) require two-party consent. If you have attendees in these states, you may want to get their consent via email in advance or do a quick audio roll call to obtain consent.
In Canada, you must inform parties that the call will be recorded and why as well as provide meaningful alternatives if they object to the recording.
3. Schedule the call during business hours for if possible.
If most of your attendees are in the continental US or Canada, this should be relatively easy. For example, if you’re in Atlanta and the furthest attendees are located in Vancouver, British Columbia, a 4:00pm Eastern Time US Canada conference call would take place at 1:00pm Pacific Time. If you have participants in Hawaii, this time would also work as it would be 10:00am in Hawaii.
4. Set and share an agenda.
Agendas set the tone and duration of your conference calls, and they help participants prepare. Those expected to contribute status updates will know beforehand what topics are being discussed along with their role and time allotment. Those who may not be assigned an agenda item per se still need to know what’s in store. The agenda does that, giving them the heads up in advance so they can formulate questions and know what to expect.
5. Provide toll free access numbers.
Toll free numbers are the easiest as everyone knows how to use them and that the calls are free to callers.
6. Use real-time conference call management tools such as attendance monitoring and line muting.
Seeing who’s on the call and the participant count can help you to know if you need to wait a few minutes for everyone to join in. Likewise, if a key attendee is absent, you could have the operator work on locating and bringing that person into the conference call while you move forward with it.
7. Actively manage the agenda.
Keep everyone on topic and stick to the allotted time limits. This will ensure that your conference call remains focused on the agenda and concludes on time.