Conference calls are a great way to conduct efficient and meaningful meetings when you have participants in remote locations. One way to make sure your participants know what to expect and to prepare ahead of time is by having an agenda. In addition, an agenda will help to keep the meeting stay on track and no stray away from the main objective for the meeting in the first place. Can you believe that reports show only 37% of meetings in the U.S. use agendas? That means 63% are not conducting meetings to their maximum productivity. Now, this can be a huge mistake as it can lead to wasted time, managers and employees not finishing tasks or being disrupted from their work, and of course, it can cost your company money.
Don’t try to be one of these people.
Conference calls without agendas can be disorderly, and with a lot of people joining the call, it can end up being counterproductive. An agenda contains the topics and items that need to be discussed, decisions that need to be made, concerns, or any updates. The flow of the conference call will be smoother and more efficient with it.
Believe it or not, using agendas is also a great way to avoid wasting time on large conference calls. By creating an agenda and sending it to the conference call participants beforehand, you will be able to eliminate any unpreparedness and confusion during the call. With an agenda in mind, you can get started right away and people know what to expect.
Just like the agenda, the meeting minutes are an important part of your conference call. This is where you can check the participants, refer back to decisions, see the next tasks and the people assigned to them, and more. If your agenda is organized and your conference call is productive, then your minutes will be neat and orderly. If your large conference call provider already has a meeting summary service that can help you with transcribing your meeting minutes.
However, simply listing down topics and items you need to go through won’t guarantee to be effective, especially when managing a call with a large number of people.
Make sure you consult your team before creating the agenda. Ask them about new concerns and certain updates that they want to be included in the conference call. This ensures nothing important is left out and everyone can prepare for the meeting.
Jot down the chosen time and date, the estimated time duration, the host (whether that’s you or someone else), and the name of the expected participants. Title the agenda with the main reason for the meeting.
Specific action-oriented language in your agenda can also help push your meeting forward. For example, “Brainstorm topics for this quarter’s email campaign” is much better than only writing down “Brainstorm”. This kind of language will help drive the meeting and encourage everyone to arrive at decisions, action plans, and outputs.
Apart from the initial email invites, include the conference bridge dial-in information on the agenda that you will send to the participants beforehand. If your conference call provider offers mobile phone one-click links for easy joining, provide it along with the regular toll-free and passcode. This will be a helpful trick and can make the process for your team members easier.
Making sure that you have listed the designated lead for each topic will make the meeting flow quickly and efficiently. The leader will help discuss the item they were assigned to. They will also keep the participants on topic and focused on the task at hand. According to Harvard Business Review, the purpose of an agenda topic can be to share information, seek input for a decision, or make a decision. If you state these purposes in each item, participants will be more organized as they go through the entire conference call.
It also helps to list the agenda topics as questions. This method can guide the conference call into a discussion and ultimately getting to a unified decision. For example, don’t just write down “annual team outing”. Rather, say it like “What venues would be good for our team outing?” With this, people know just what to talk about, speak up with their suggestions, discuss, and come up with a decision at the end.
And of course, you also need to allow enough time for the whole conference call and each of the items on your agenda. Consider the importance of the topic, its purpose (will the leader simply share information? Seek input from others? Come up with a decision?), and also consider the number of people on the conference call. This way you can make sure you aren’t underestimating the duration of the meeting.
Last but not the least, make sure to include your agenda on your calendar invite. With this, everyone has a chance to quickly review the conference call agenda and prepare before the meeting. They also have a chance to suggest changes or add more information.
(This article has been updated on 5/12/2021)