February 26, 2016

Understanding the Scheduling Process for Conference Calls: What to Do and What to Avoid

quoteStarting a conference call is not as simple as calling someone up via their IP address and starting a conversation. There are issues related to different time zones, the availability of particular parties at certain times of the day, and ensuring that people who are supposed to be part of the conference call actually attend. While services such as Blue Jeans have their own proprietary systems to schedule meetings online, you still need to take an active effort in making sure that the meeting proceeds as planned.

Do Not Schedule a Conference Call for the Day After

One of the worst things you can possibly do when it comes to scheduling conference calls is to have it occur the day after you announce it. From your perspective, you are making sure that it happens as soon as possible since this allows you to take care of it immediately. However, from the perspective of the other parties involved, it would be a major and unwelcome event due its sudden occurrence. The problem with immediate scheduling is the potential for people to have other activities planned for that particular day. This can range from having training sessions, meetings or even having a scheduled day off. In fact, some people may not be available on that day at all due to obligations that they cannot get out of on such short notice. By scheduling a meeting the next day, you are placing a considerable burden on other people to conform to the schedule that you want at the expense of their own plans. Proper conference call scheduling often occurs at least four days to a week beforehand wherein the respective parties involved will have sufficient notice to adjust their schedules as need be. Since you are scheduling the meeting several days in advance, this enables the other participants to inform you of their availability/unavailability which allows you sufficient time to reschedule the call if needed. This method creates far less interdepartmental conflict since it shows that you are taking their personal schedules into consideration instead of pushing through only with what you want.

Do Take into Account Time zones

From your viewpoint, a conference call after lunch sounds like a great time and if all the parties involved were in the same time zone then you would be correct. However, given the multinational nature of many of today’s organizations who have branches in multiple countries, conference calls in boardrooms tend to involve people from a diverse array of countries, each giving their own respective reports. Going back to the example of setting a conference call at lunch time, you may think it is a great idea but after lunch for you could be midnight in another country. This would require some of those involved in the conference call to stay well beyond the time they should have gone home and significantly hampers their ability to work the next day due to exhaustion. INC states that you need to take into consideration the respective time zones of the individuals involved in the call and try to set a schedule that enables all of you to communicate with each other at a reasonable enough time that does not require significant levels of sacrifice on the part of either of the parties involved.

Do get Confirmation from the Participants

There are few things worse than arranging an online meeting and finding out when the call starts that only half of the people that were contacted actually attended. It is due to situations like this that HBR stated that you must get confirmation from the participants if they are going to be available during the time and date of the conference call. This can be obtained via emailing those involved at least a day before the conference call is to start or indicate on the invite you sent that confirmation of attendance/non-attendance is required to prevent delays. For example, imagination a situation where you have started the conference call and people start connecting one after the other. There is a slight delay between the different connecting parties but this is a normal and expected aspect of conference calls. You notice that there are still some people from the invite list that haven’t logged on yet and you assume that it is just a delay or technical issue on their part. You inform the other participants that the rest should be joining up shortly. However, after a 20-minute delay, where there is nothing but awkward silence, you realize that you have wasted 20 minutes waiting for people that won’t be showing up. It is due to frustrating situations like this that getting confirmation from the participants involved is absolutely necessary for any conference call.

All in all, the process of scheduling a conference call is not that complicated, all you need to do is follow the do’s and don’ts that have been mentioned in this article and you should have an easy time. Do note, however, that you should always check the status of your equipment beforehand – to make sure everything is working.

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