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Chairing a Conference Call Like a Boss: 3 Tips for You and Your Team

by Kevin Bartley

With so many potential distractions and topics to cover, how can team leaders chair a conference call that's productive and focused?

Whether you're looking for tips to improve your calls with clients, host more productive meetings with your team, or train your team on conference call best practices, you've come to the right place. As a phone system provider, we live and breathe business communications. We understand conference calls can, unfortunately, be the least effective minutes of an employee's day.

To qualify that, writer Derek Thompson cites Intercall, the largest International conference call company, reporting, "More than 60 percent of Intercall's respondents admitted to doing other work or sending an email while on a conference call. More than half the people on the line are eating (hopefully on mute). Just under half are in the bathroom (hopefully on mute!). One in five are shopping. One in 11 are exercising. Six percent are taking another call." [Source: The Atlantic]

Those are some eye opening statistics. So what can you and your team members do to improve conference call efficiency and chair a conference call like a boss? We've collected some expert opinions.

1. Implement Leading Conferencing Solutions

"In order to foster the most productive and focused conference calls, it is imperative for team leaders and employees to have technology that promotes collaboration while still being easy to use," said Jerry Stabile, CEO & Co-Founder of eZuce.

"Having the opportunity to engage and collaborate with other conference attendees via multiple channels such as voice, video, file, and desktop sharing, yield a more holistic collaboration environment, allowing all participants to get the most out of the experience."

HD Conferencing solutions are becoming a necessity for businesses that want professional-grade sound. (Dropping words, or what we know as jitter, and interference can be pretty distracting and unprofessional.) HD conferencing is a term used to describe when phones and conference bridges are capable of supporting the G.722 audio codec, a.k.a. wideband audio. At OnSIP, we find this gives exchanges the clarity and personal touch typically reserved for in-person conversations.

Visual aides can also add greater depth to a conference call. At our weekly all-hands call, we employ video chat and office projectors to unite our team members in different offices. We find seeing each other's expressions keeps everyone engaged and obliged to pay attention. By utilizing both voice and video channels, we move as close to face-to-face interaction as is possible.

2. Plan Ahead

Conference call participants should be aware of the goal and topic of the discussion, and they should also know who will attend. But this is only the bare minimum. The best conference calls are guided with a prewritten agenda. Here is a handy list of information that you can provide in a well-written agenda:

Call Details

  • Objective
  • Meeting Type if Applicable (e.g. Brainstorming, Planning, Sprint Review)
  • Date, Time, and Time Duration (Careful to specify time zone if you have cross-time zone)
  • Call in Number and Code if Applicable
  • Attendees (and titles if cross companies)
  • Call Facilitator
  • Meeting Minutes Taker

Call Preparation

  • Please Read
  • Please Bring

Old Business and Action Items

  • [Item] / [Responsible] / [Due Date]


  • [Item] / [Presenter] / [Time Allotted]

New Action Items

  • [Item] / [Responsible] / [Due Date]

"Team leaders can share an agenda and any supporting documents in advance of the call," said Digital Strategist and Career Coach Angelina Darrisaw. "This allows employees to prepare and come with ideas and questions, which will likely increase their level of engagement. If I were an employee and this wasn't shared, I'd ask for it in advance."

Clear cut agendas minimize the unproductive content and conversational detours that sometimes lead employees to engage in other work (or perhaps Candy Crush) during conference calls.

3. Shoot for Brevity

"Keep it short: 15 minutes is usually fine," said Trevor Ewen, ROI Analyst at Pear of the Week. "30 minutes is really the longest they should go. Being on the phone is unpleasant as it is. I wouldn't recommend making it last longer than that."

By setting duration limits on a call, team leaders can encourage employees to communicate quickly and effectively, allowing participants to plan their schedules in advance and get back to work faster.

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