Distance meetings save time and produce more rapid results
Some of the advantages of distance meetings are:
• Reduce or eliminate travel costs
• Increase company efficiency – travel time becomes work time
• Reduce stress levels among employees – work-life balance
• Straightforward and spontaneous
Tips for good teleconferences
Preparation (If chairing a meeting)
- Purpose. Have clear purpose for the meeting and what you expect from the participants. Is it a meeting for information, discussion or decision?
• Right people. Invite the right people, people that both adds something to the meeting and that gets something out of it.
• Required readings. Send out required readings to the participants and a personal comment to each of the participants on what is expected of them. Are they suppose to bring certain information to the meeting or explain something in particular.
• Clear agenda. Send out an agenda and list of participants in good time before the meeting.
• Inform. Explain how to join the meeting (telephone number and any PIN code) or whether a call will be made to the participant.
• Test. Before leading your first meeting, have a go at making a few test calls and try out the various functions. It may be the case that your switchboard requires special commands to ring multiple parties – check with your telephony manager.
• Documentation. How will the meeting be documented? It is a good idea to use the recording feature.
• Keep it simple. If the meeting is a recurring one, add the participants as a group in the conference guide or add individual contacts to the phonebook.
• Start and end on time. Always start the meeting at the appointed time, even if there are participants missing.
(Plan for a short break if the meeting needs to be extended).
•Follow up and follow through. Summarize, follow up and send out meeting notes directly after the meeting. [Set deadlines and let everyone know who is responsible for what].
During the meeting (If chairing a meeting)
- Introductions. Welcome and introduce everyone. This gets the meeting off to a good start and ensures an inclusive atmosphere, even for those people who are off-site. If the meeting is not very big (up to 10 or so participants), ask participants to introduce themselves briefly to get an ear for their voice. Always try to create an atmosphere that gives people the sense of sitting all together, even those participating at other locations.
• Minutes. Take notes or appoint a secretary who can take minutes and has access to the recording if one is made.
• Agenda. The person leading the meeting explains what the meeting is about and how long it will run and provides a brief summary of the agenda.
• Interruptions. Start the meeting by explain basic rules for the meeting and what can be disturbing.
You shall not be reading e-mails, surf on your Smartphone, work with other assignments etc.
• Breaks. If the meeting runs for longer than 45 minutes, take a break to allow people to stretch their legs for 10-15 minutes before continuing.
• Reach an agreement. Before moving on to a new item, check with the various participants to see if anyone wants to say anything. This makes everyone feel involved.
• Dynamic. Manage and consider the dynamic in the group. Make sure that everyone gets a say in the matter that is discussed, deal with conflicts.
• Explain. If something happens in the room (that could perhaps get a laugh), explain what is happening to anyone who is participating by phone to ensure that everyone feels included.
• Time for questions. Set aside time to deal with any questions.
• New meeting. If there are matters that need to be followed up, agree a time for the next meeting.
After the meeting (If chairing a meeting)
- Follow up and follow through. Summarize, follow up and send out meeting notes directly after the meeting. Set deadlines and let everyone know who is responsible for what.
For anyone participating in a meeting (on remote location)
• Peace and quiet. Try to find as quiet a place to sit as possible.
• Park up. If you are participating from your car, park up safely, e.g. in a car park, before joining the meeting.
• Turn off the microphone. If you are sitting somewhere with a lot of background noise, e.g. at an airport or in a car or café, turn off the microphone (mute) when you are not speaking.
• Be ready in plenty of time. Make sure you are in good time for the meeting to give yourself the chance to chat with other participants before the meeting starts (in the same way as people in a conference room together would do).
• Introduce yourself. If you have something to say, make sure people recognise your voice by introducing yourself first.
• Keep people informed. If you get disconnected (poor reception, etc.), call back immediately and, at a convenient moment, let the other participants know that you have been away for a while.
• Focus. Concentrate on the meeting. Do not read e-mails or do other things during the meeting.