Basic rules are essential part in any meeting; particularly, they become more important when the meeting is conducted through conference call. Some call basic rules a code of conduct. They are the guiding principles that will support the members of the call for communicating in a professional, polite, and efficient way. There are several must have ground rules for any teleconference.
1. Start on time. All meetings should be timely. Any meeting that is allowed languishing at the beginning sets an unfortunate precedent. Start the meeting on time no matter who is missing from attendance. An important aspect to the start on time rule is that is risky to stop and debrief anyone who joins late; otherwise you will defeat the purpose of the rule. Once attendees know that the conference call will always start on time, they will adjust their schedules accordingly.
2. Have an agenda. Some may wonder if this really is a round rule, but it is! Meetings without agendas flounder. They tend not to accomplish anything other than spinning the corporate wheels. Have an agenda and articulate it during the early stages of the meeting.
3. Only one person speaks at a time. Conference calls are confusing to listen to without folks trying to talk over each other. Participants may have to practice their listening skills to know when someone is really finished with his part of the conversation.
4. Actively listen. Instead of planning what you are going to say or how you are going to respond to something someone else said, try to intently listen to what other participants are saying on the conference call. Take notes and ask clarifying questions. As other attendees notice your attentiveness, they may match it when it is your turn at the table.
5. Each person should be allowed to say their part during conversations. Another way to look at it is that each person should be participating in the discussion for the phone call. If allowed, some of the quieter people in the group can hide behind the anonymity of the phone. Ensure everyone is contributing to the conversation.
6. Decide in advance how decisions will be made. It is very important to hammer this out when everyone is still calm, cool, and collected. In some businesses the ultimate boss or decision maker will decide. If the group is allowed to make a decision, determine if it will be simple majority rule, consensus, or something else. But do decide prior to the time when discussions get heated and not everyone is in agreement.
7. Do what you say you are going to do. Often when people are conducting a meeting via telephone, they will commit to assignments without thinking it all the way through. This ground rule seeks to ensure accountability among participants that what they commit and agree to do, they can be counted upon to do so within the given timeframe. This also means that it would be improper to assign a task to someone who is not present on the call to accept the task. If you need that person to be the one to do the assignment, ask after the meeting to be sure they can commit to it.
8. Respect one another and do not personally attack another participant. In a perfect world, respect would come naturally; however, sometimes people need to be reminded. Additionally, because the phone offers some sense of distance and anonymity, attendees may feel that they can say things they would never say to someone in person. It is important to respect the other attendees enough to listen to what they have to say with an open mind and not pass judgment during the time they have the floor. That doesn't mean you can't disagree with them, it just means to be polite and remain respectful at all times.
With these ground rules, or guiding principles, in place, your meetings can be more effective and efficient. Participant morale should increase as well as participation by all attendees.