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Do your conference calls feel like this for you:

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What we know about conference calls?

  • Conference calls can be really boring and way too long! Human attention span is on average 8 seconds (apparently less than an average gold fish), so planning a long conference call just won’t work unless you know how to create virtual energy!
  • It is harder to build relationships and trust over the phone. 93% of face-to-face communication is non-verbal – if we can’t see the body language it is harder for us to trust what is being said and to build relationships.
  • Conference calls feel depersonalized. We think more about ourselves when we are sitting alone on a call than the team (virtually) around us. Perspective taking is a key strategy in influencing others. Conference calls (and also email) cause us to focus on ourselves more than the other person, making it far harder to understand their perspective.
  • We get less feedback telling us whether we have been heard and understood. As hard as it can be to stay engaged as a participant, it can be equally challenging to stay engaged as the speaker if you don’t have a way to get feedback on whether you are being heard. This is where head nods and smiles of a real audience are greatly missed!

So what can you, as the leader, do to make conference calls more bearable?

  • Choose the right topic and time for a conference call. Short and sweet, with pre-reads and quick discussions are best.
    Plan extra time for relationship and trust building in virtual teams – allow time for introductions and small talk at the start of the call.
  • Use richer media in the initial stages to speed up relationship building, for example, face-to-face meetings where possible, or video-conferencing rather than telephone conferencing
  • Remind yourself to use perspective taking – what might be the key issues for others? Use your time to map the stakeholders on the call and listen for their perspective – this will also encourage more active listening.
  • Facilitate development of trust using socialization strategies such as virtual coffee breaks/online chat rooms, social conferencing via video
  • Stop and ask for feedback – ask for those virtual head nods
  • Be inclusive: if you haven’t heard from someone for a while, invite their viewpoint. If possible, make reference to why their view is valuable.

If you have additional insights, please share them with us.


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