How to Plan a Professional Conference Call the Right Way

by : Huzaili Aris

If you're an office professional who's just been asked (okay, ordered) by your boss to organize the company's first high-tech phone or internet conference call, you're probably shaking in your boots. You have no clue how to go about. What if you screw up, lose the big account, and totally flush the future of your employer's company down the toilet?

Well, we're here to make sure you don't. Read on to learn how to set up a conference call that will be the envy of every other admin in your office building. And don't worry, it won't hurt a bit.

Get a Game Plan
It's always important to know what you're doing and when. First, make sure you have a set date, time and number of participants laid out. Also, take into account any time zone differences if you're doing some international conference calling or making a long distance conference call. Don't try to schedule a meeting with a supplier in Asia for 2:00 AM their time. Unless, of course, they really want your company's contract.

Now Tell Everyone Else
A month's notice gives busy people the opportunity to pencil you into their datebook. Provide them with the date, basic instructions on accessing the phone conference, their dial-in number, and PIN. Also include the name of the organizer (you) and contact info, proposed start and end time, and topic. And, of course, give them a copy of the proposed agenda. Don't know how to make one? Breath deep and calm down - we'll get to that.

Be sure to include any incidental necessities with your notification email; spreadsheets, visual aides, charts and graphs fall under this category. If you don't have all this material ready when your email goes out, or want your group to have updated info, send it out two weeks in advance.

How to Make Up an Agenda
If you don't want your teleconference to descend into anarchy, provide your meeting-goers with a complete and organized agenda. No blaming your mistakes on a hapless temp, either, because that's just mean.

Make sure your agenda covers the following points:

.Topics (Advance notice will allow your conference buddies to propose their own if necessary.)
.Who's Speaking on Each Topic (Make them do some talking too.)
.How Much Time each Person Has (Recycled toilet paper in the company bathrooms is an important issue, but you shouldn't allow 40 minutes for it.)

If you send out your notification far enough in advance, you can take requests. Just like a good DJ, you can choose whether to play the HR discrimination complaints with the fiscal breakdown. If something just won't fit, time-wise, suggest that the contributor send a memo to all participants requesting that it be brought up at a later date.

Also Keep In Mind...
Teleconferencing has come a long way, but it still has challenges and potential pitfalls. The new, high-tech conference call lines have an annoying tendency to pick up every little comment and sound. In other words, don't bad mouth your boss, or mutter any swear words under your breath. To avoid disaster, it's important to be organized and know what you're doing, or at the very least, how to troubleshoot. And remember, a little preparation goes a long way.