August 2020
Expert Author Gihan Perera
No doubt you already know just how important credibility and professionalism are in business interactions. Conference calls present great opportunities to establish your credibility - even where you don't entirely deserve it! Other participants (who might be far more experienced or senior than you) have much less data to form their judgments about you - sometimes just a voice down the line plus what they hear about you from the chair or yourself. They won't see the suit you are wearing, the car you are driving, the office premises you work from or the grey hair you don't yet have. They will often form their judgments based on the quality of your teleconferencing techniques, rather than how good or experienced you might be in your field.
Preparation
Most business people are very casual about conference calls and hence don't prepare for them. Be different! A little preparation goes a long way.
Since you only get one chance for a first impression, write out or practice any reports you need to give. Anticipate questions or concerns and prepare for them. Remember you have the advantage that nobody can see if you are relying heavily on notes, so have all the facts and figures at your fingertips.
Positioning
There are a few things you can do before the call starts to ensure you are "positioned" in the right way in people's minds.
  • Ensure your name, title and other details are correct on any contact lists or agendas. The organiser might still have an old business card and there is a big difference between Associate and Associate Director!
  • If appropriate, ask the chair to circulate your credentials or Web site address with the agenda or prior to the call.
  • Ask the chair to introduce you in a particular way. It's often a good idea to write down exactly how you want to be introduced (this also applies if you introduce yourself). This is quite natural by e-mail and if you feel a bit awkward just explain that it will be helpful for people to know how you fit in when they address questions to you.
Performance
Naturally the way you perform on the call will have a huge bearing on people's perception of you. Most of this book is designed to improve your performance, but here are a few things that will particularly help with credibility.
  • Learn and demonstrate best practice conference calling etiquette, as we've described earlier. By following these practices you will immediately establish yourself as highly professional - and experienced, even if you are not!
  • Be assertive and straightforward. Be polite but don't be too apologetic or timid. Avoid sarcasm and aggressive or passive-aggressive behaviour.
  • Err on the side of professionalism when you are first dealing with people. You will have plenty of time to prove what a funny bloke you really are once they have come to accept you. Don't cover nervousness with humour - it usually doesn't work and will make you more uncomfortable.
  • Avoid swearing unless you know the people well.
Expert Author Gihan Perera
There are three key roles in a conference call:
  • Organiser: You're the person who schedules, arranges and brings the conference call together. You might also be on the conference call itself as the "host", either participating actively or playing more of an administrative role managing the technology.
  • Chair: You're the person running the meeting during the conference call itself, just like the chair of a face-to-face meeting.
  • Participant: You're a participant in the conference call. Of course, this includes the chair as well.
There's some overlap between these roles, and they're not necessarily always done by different people. However, all three roles are important, and all play a part in making the conference call successful.
Each of the three roles has different objectives. It's important to know these objectives as well, so the call runs smoothly.
Different people take on different responsibilities during the call. Broadly, the organiser takes on primary responsibility before and after the call, and hands over responsibility to the chair and participants for the call itself.
Note that we're only talking here about responsibility for the call. Everybody involved must still take personal responsibility for their own outcomes.
Chair
Your main objective is to conduct the business of the call, whatever that business happens to be. Even if a meeting is dominated by a vocal minority - or even a vocal majority - that doesn't mean their view should prevail. It's up to you as chair to manage the call so the overall objective is met.
Organiser
Your main objective is to help the chair achieve this objective.
Think of your role as removing obstacles for the chair - things like:
  • Technology obstacles
  • Scheduling obstacles
  • Preparation obstacles
  • Agenda obstacles
  • Participant obstacles
  • Time obstacles
Focus on the things that make the chair's life easier.
Participant
Your main objective is to contribute appropriately to meeting this objective.
Expert Author Gihan Perera
With the rise in popularity of webinars, teleseminars seem to have become less popular and are often seen as the "poorer cousin" of webinars. That's a pity, because teleseminars can still be valuable for marketing and education.
Teleseminars are inexpensive, convenient, efficient, high value to your audience, and they'll give you a significant point of difference. There's no doubt that you can do a lot more with webinars, but the humble teleseminar can often achieve the same purpose, with less preparation and less chance of technology problems.
Here are five key benefits of teleseminars (some are common to webinars as well).
1. They are time-efficient.
Your audiences have less time than ever before, and a teleseminar doesn't waste their time. They don't have to get in the car, they don't have to find parking, they don't have to arrive early and stay late for networking. Instead, they just sit at their desk until the time of the teleseminar, and then just pick up the phone and make a call.
2. You can reach a global audience.
It's unrealistic to expect that you'll automatically attract millions of Internet users from around the world. But you do take distance out of the equation.
Your teleseminar attendees can be in different cities, different countries, and even different time zones.
3. Teleseminar services are inexpensive.
That wasn't always the case, but it's certainly true now. Some teleseminar services are even free, with the only cost being the phone costs of the participants. Others are free for participants, but charge you a per-person fee. Either way, they are not expensive - for either you or your participants.
4. Teleseminar services are easy to use.
Again, that wasn't always the case, but you can now find a service that takes care of most of the technology for you. You and your participants call in, you run the teleseminar, you hang up, and it e-mails you a copy of the recording! How much easier could it be?
5. Long-distance phone calls are cheap.
Your teleseminar service might involve your participants making a long-distance phone call - and perhaps even an international phone call. However, many participants can now use phone cards, Skype, or other VOIP services. Even if they don't understand what that means and just use their standard phone line, it's easy to get a cheap long-distance phone plan nowadays.
So what are you waiting for?
Teleseminars are an easy, efficient and effective way for you to deliver your message in another way. You don't have to discard any of your existing programs; you can just offer clients another way to experience them.
Expert Author Gihan Perera
There was a time when conference calls were only common for organisations - and large organisations at that - not individual business owners. But times have changed, and now it's vital for all business owners to learn and use this technology.
Here are ten reasons why...
1. The technology is far better than ever before.
Everybody now has access to high-quality conference call services that make teleconferencing viable, practical and easy to do. You no longer need to invest in advanced telephone systems, your own ISDN lines or special training.
2. It's more cost-effective now than ever before.
You don't have to sign up for long-term contracts; the calls themselves aren't expensive; you can choose options with or without operator assistance depending on your budget; and practically everybody now has a cheap long-distance telephone plan.
3. It's even cheaper when you use the Internet.
You can use Skype and it doesn't cost you a cent; you can share documents and materials easily; you can view participants' screens during the call; and you can conduct your calls from anywhere with Internet access.
4. It's another way to deliver your material.
If you're a presenter, you can leverage this material into a webinar or teleseminar for delivering a training session, a conference call for facilitating a discussion, or a series of follow-up calls to reinforce the learning.
5. It creates new product and service opportunities.
You're not just replacing face-to-face sessions. You can also create new touchpoints, such as a series of follow-up calls after a workshop; facilitating meetings among participants who don't work in the same office; and running regular problem-solving sessions to help people implement your ideas.
6. It increases everybody's productivity.
Although meetings are sometimes necessary, they can also be one of the biggest time-wasters in a business. A conference call doesn't eliminate meeting time altogether, but it does eliminate some of the wastage. If attendees have to travel to a meeting, there's a huge amount of lost productivity of taking people away from their desks for a conference or meeting. Conference calls eliminate travel time, parking time and dead time before and after your meeting. Anything that reduces that down time is worth it for you, your colleagues and your customers.
7. It's more and more common in a tough economy.
If your customers are canceling meetings because of the costs - particularly if the meeting involves travel - offer them the convenience and cost-effectiveness of conference calls instead.
8. Your clients expect you to lead the way.
If you're a presenter, you're expected to be ahead of your clients when it comes to presentation technology. Some of your clients are already using conference calls. How embarrassing if you're not - or if you fumble and stumble your way through them!
9. Video conferencing still doesn't cut it.
Video conferencing is also advancing in leaps and bounds, but it's still not a mature technology for everybody. If you've ever been on a Skype video call over a standard Internet connection, you know exactly what I mean!
10. Your competitors are doing it already!
You might not be ready for tapping into the power of conference calls, but you can bet your competitors aren't sitting around waiting until you are! They are probably already using them to some extent. So if you don't start matching them, you'll soon be left behind.