Conference calls are one of the most popular tools for projects and all types of business inter-actions right now. Everyone is talking to everyone else via their phone, iPad or laptop. It’s efficient and easy, and enables you to connect with colleagues and clients wherever they are in the world from wherever you are in the world. So if you are a project manager working from home, travelling or even working while on holiday, you can stay properly connected. And if you want to you can do it in your PJs from your comfy sofa if you work from home – so that’s an added bonus.
But there’s a key problem with conference calls.
In terms of making progress on your project or business-as-usual tasks, conference calls are not the most efficient use of your time. In fact, they can make you extremely lazy. Yes they are useful and convenient, but they also tend to make us less organised. How many times have you been doing other work whilst you’ve been on a conference call or been eating your lunch and texting other colleagues? How many times have you just jumped on a conference call and prepared for it whilst it is occurring? And how often do you opt for a conference call when other types of meetings would work just as well if not better?
Let’s face it we have all become so used to conference calls that we are not taking them seriously enough anymore and not giving them our full attention. It’s not surprising then that we are not achieving as much progress as we would like to, or need to.
So here is some advice and some practical tips to help you get your Project Meetings back in shape and really working for your project.
Make The Most Of The Conference Call
If you must do a conference call, make the most of it. Prepare for the conference call so you actually have something to contribute and so that you can actually benefit from the discussions and any actions raised. Listen to the conversations that are going on and actually take in the information. Information is power, so make the most of the time you’re spending on the conference call and take everything in. Project management training teaches plenty of skills and one of them is listening, so put that to good practise in this scenario.
Instant messaging can be extremely useful if a client needs a quick fix information exchange. Sometimes you need the quickest possible conversation in order to speak with your team, update a client or send files to a stakeholder. IM is also a good tool to use during a conference call. For example; if you need to send files or back up the conversation with documents you can send them over, so it works as an excellent additional tool in conjunction with a conference call. IM also means you can refer back to a conversation whenever you want as it is logged. You can also take screenshots and send copies to your team if what has been discussed is crucial to the project.
If you have access to a tool like Adobe Connect this provides all the benefits of a conference call plus those of an IM tool.
Actually Meeting Up With Your Team Or Client
One of the best skills that you, as a project manager, need is how to communicate effectively. And a huge amount of that communication simply isn’t applicable in a conference call situation. Body language, small facial expressions and so on, simply cannot be picked up by webcam, especially if your internet connection isn’t great. Face to face meetings are important if your team need some real attention, motivation and inspiration, or if your client needs to really feel your dedication to the project. And let’s face it, life on a screen can get a bit boring! Sometimes it’s nice to smell the frothy coffee and see the other person’s face for real!
Make Phone Calls
Why make a phone call when you can conference call you might ask? Well, because it doesn’t involve a screen that’s why! If you’re talking to someone on the phone and force yourself to not put them on hands free, you will focus on what they have to say. Make sure you make the phone call away from your computer – you could even go crazy old school and use a pen and paper to make notes!
Ditch Unnecessary Meetings
If you don’t need a meeting, don’t have a meeting. Project management courses teach you how to effectively manage your time, and part of that involves culling all unnecessary activities. If you think a meeting is unnecessary, cull it and streamline your diary. Remember, just because conference calls are easy doesn’t mean they are best suited to every single task. Think creatively and tailor your meetings to suit the situation.