When I read Derek Thompson’s recent article in The Atlantic, “Study: Nobody Is Paying Attention on Your Conference Call,” it was a wake up call for several reasons.
First, the data collected in the referenced study conducted by Intercall nailed me for all my bad behaviors while on conference calls. I’m guilty of just about all the behaviors listed.
Getting past my embarrassment, I realized there is a ubiquitous workplace problem here that we communicators need to help solve.
Here’s a classic example of an audience that is obviously not engaged with the information that is being shared with them. You don’t have to dig too deep into the PR toolkit to address the problem by helping the meeting organizers in your company to start by asking the right questions to determine if a conference call is the proper tactic
- What information needs to be shared and what level of engagement is needed? Would a face-to-face meeting, webinar, or an informational email be more effective?
- What’s the call to action? Do we just need the audience to get some information or do we need their active participation? Listening with no visuals is not a great way to hold people’s attention, so if the meeting is just for a download of information, the conference call format is not the best option.
When a conference call is the tactic of choice (hopefully after considering these questions and picking this option purposefully), it is then important to follow effective communication practices. First, there needs to be an agenda that defines speakers, content, participation expectations, time, etc. Participants need to have regular opportunities for active involvement by sharing information, asking questions, and other means beyond listening. Any materials to be referenced need to be available to everyone on the call, in advance.
Communication professionals are in the best position to understand effective practices and the nuances of company cultures. They need to be advising their organizations on how to not just have calls, but to plan for effective engagement with internal and external audiences of all sizes.