The ‘kindergarten mentality’ of participants causes 75 per cent of conference calls to fail, with bullying, lack of attention, temper tantrums and shyness the key examples of dysfunctional behaviour, according to Ian Burnley. CEO of hotel, travel and event management services group Expotel.
Austerity measures place increased emphasis on ‘faceless’ decision-making, his agency says, and has responded with a list of conference calling tips to improve performance.
“The majority of conference calls do not achieve their intended purpose because the absence of face-to-face accountability seems to prompt some participants to demonstrate immature, rather disgraceful behaviour that they could not get away with in the traditional meeting set up,” says Burnley.
“It is the responsibility of the call leader to ensure that a boardroom discussion does not descend into classroom-style chaos and we are now offering coaching to help chair people reinforce proper meeting practice,” he adds.
Expotel tips include:
- Have a system for ordered response so that each participant is invited, in sequence, to offer their views on agenda items rather than being able to avoid engaging with the meeting and also to reduce interrupting when participants are unsure who is to speak next
- Establish a general rule for maximum contribution so that no one participant is able to dominate the discussion and to help keep to time
- Ask callers to sit away from their computer to avoid the distraction of emails and the temptation to carry on with other work activities during the call
- Ensure adequate telephone technology to reduce background noise and so that participants do not have to struggle to hear what is being said
- Make the chairperson aware of likely disagreements and personality conflicts in advance of the call
- Stick to standard meetings protocol with an agenda circulated in advance and minutes prepared afterwards
Burnley concludes a disciplined approach is critical: “Partly to ensure that participants take a conference call as seriously as they would a face-to-face meeting and partly to help those who are unfamiliar with the way multi-caller discussions work.”
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