Of all the tools we use to collaborate, conference calls are, as I mentioned last week, one of the very best we have in terms of simulating in-person communication. If they’re well planned, well facilitated and well executed, regular conference calls can do wonders for your team’s communication, camaraderie and productivity. Here are a few tips for making the most of every minute.

Consider sound quality
Many a conference call has been rendered more or less useless—and thoroughly frustrating—due to poor call quality. As teams grow increasingly distributed, regular calls are often the only opportunity workers have to hear each other’s voices. Simply making sure every person on your call can be heard and understood goes a long way toward fostering unity, promoting closer cooperation and showing that you value your team’s time.

Select something easy to use

Conference calls aren’t rocket science. Tools that require a bunch of work before your meeting even begins—getting the thing scheduled, hunting down the dial-in number, punching in long passcodes and PINs, figuring out who’s already joined—is time that could be better spent actually talking to your team. By choosing a solution that makes scheduling, joining and transferring calls easy, you’ll increase your team’s productivity from start to finish.

Don’t skimp on supervision

Take the time to join and help facilitate your team’s conference calls. Having a manager or supervisor present on these calls not only helps everyone stay well informed and on task, it also keeps you in good regular touch with your remote team members and demonstrates to them that you recognize and appreciate their work.

Take minutes

Taking good notes and making them available to everyone on the call helps keep your whole team on the same page (literally and figuratively). Minutes are a great way to make sure team members understand their action items and are making progress against their goals. They can also serve as a handy resource for planning future calls and projects.

Schedule thoughtfully

The more notice you give your team when you’re scheduling conference calls, the more likely it is that everyone will be able to participate. Scheduling calls at the same time every week or month can reduce absences, increase productivity and provide valuable structure for remote teams.

What have we missed? Are there any other strategies you use to keep your teams happy and productive on their conference calls? How do you conference with your distributed teams?

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