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How to Make Conference Calls Less Terrible
A recent InterCall study about the rise of conference calls and conferencing behavior found that 82 percent of respondents admitted to focusing on other work and activities while on a call. With disengagement — at least during virtual meetings — becoming standard practice, it raises questions about the productivity and value of these calls. The article's author, Rob Bellmar, executive vice president of conferencing and collaboration at InterCall, urges organizations to make meetings more productive and relevant by implementing four simple adjustments. First, stop striving for inclusiveness. "It's become too easy to send blanket, one-hour meeting invites to 10 people when only five are relevant to the agenda," he writes. In fact, with a little planning regarding what topics will be discussed at any given point on the call, managers can stagger invitation times to maximize the time of all concerned. Bellmar’s second tip is to begin using video conferencing. The notion that everyone in a meeting can watch what everyone else is doing will deter many from straying too far from the call with other work and diversions.

Bellmar's third suggestion is to not abandon the physical conference room just yet. Most organizations' physical conference spaces have evolved beyond a long table and telephone to include white boards, flat panel screens, web cameras, projectors and surround sound. "Participants may not use each accoutrement in every meeting," Bellmar writes, "but the options for dynamic collaboration are there if they need them." The downside is when a presenter takes an inordinate amount of time figuring out how to use a webcam or other piece of meetings technology. To this end, Bellmar’s final recommendation is to "understand technology use versus abuse." Technology is becoming more and more vital to innovating the conference call and boosting staff engagement. However, when applied incorrectly or misunderstood by end users, it can have a negative impact on both efforts.
Harvard Business Review (01/15) Bellmar, Rob
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MARCH 2015 EDITION
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