Great Conference Calls and Why Yours Isn’t.

September 27, 2011

Are your conference calls in the stone age?

Last week I was on a call of an informal group of social media leaders. The purpose of the call was to exchange best practices and share ideas on the industry and how it applied to a specific niche. All of the participants on the call were thought leaders and everyone wanted to be on the call. There was passion. There was excitement. There were side-bar conversations. There was no fee to be involved, no membership application to complete.

Now think of the last call that your organization had. Was there positive emotion? Was there non-stop conversation or was it so quiet that you could hear a pin drop?  Sure, there are always going to be calls that people don’t want to me on. Tedious call discussing budgets, staffing issues, technical problems, etc.  However, if you run an association or other type of organization where people pay money to participate, shouldn’t there be a compelling reason for people to join. Shouldn’t they want to be on your calls? Shouldn’t they be passionate about their membership?

So how do you fix this problem? How do you reinvigorate your member interactions? How do you keep your organization viable so that people don’t go renegade on your ass. (ya know, short for association).

1. Survey them. I’m not talking your old standby email survey (unless you’ve never done this). I talking the kind where people who matter call people who matter and talk to them. Or Skype them.

2. Make calls unusual lengths. If you have 23 minutes of content, schedule the meeting for 23 minutes. Trust me, Outlook lets you adjust the call length when you send out an invitation.

3. Try Google Hangout for your call. Up to ten people can get onto a video chat and have a real discussion. It’s still not a perfect solution, but it might hekp to keep people’s attention a little bit better than the typical call.

4. Don’t have calls just for the sake of having a call. Don’t have a meeting because you planned to have meetings every 4th Wednesday in a month. On the flip side, make sure that you are having meetings if they are needed and if momentum is flowing between members.

5. Get people excited. How you might ask? Push the limits. Try something new. Surprise them.

6. Weed out Debbie Downers. Have you ever fired a client? Sometimes you need to remove people from committees if they are unfixable and you realize that you can never make them happy. Weigh the ramifications and if you see a green light, go for it. It can completely change a group dynamic to get rid of the weakest link.

7.  Integrate Google Docs into your program. By adding a level of interactivity to the call you can easily create a backchannel and boost engagement. This can also be attained by using a webinar service to screen share.  Build non-business into the agenda – share recipes, movie reviews or something completely unconventional.

Am I crazy or could some of these ideas actually work? Let me know your thoughts.