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We’re all guilty of it: multi-tasking on mute during a conference call, whether it’s emailing on your laptop, texting on your cell phone or – if you can believe it – even riding the stationary bike at the gym.

InterCall, the world’s largest conference call company, used by 85 percent of Fortune 100 firms, recently surveyed 530 Americans on their usual conference call habits. And the results made it clear that we’re all struggling to focus amid all of the digital noise and distractions. Approximately 65 percent surveyed admitted to doing other work on calls and 63 percent said they were busy sending unrelated emails. How do we know this? Market research, baby! And it continues to go down the multitasking hill from there – everything from hosting a call in the middle of the woods during a hiking trip, to outside while grilling up burgers for the neighborhood block party.

Conference calls are integral to conducting business, especially for the team here at March, where many of our clients are based internationally. Oftentimes these calls are simply the best opportunity for us to get everyone in one room (albeit virtually) to hash out the week’s to-do’s and make sure we’re all on the same page for the latest product launch or campaign.

But InterCall’s research makes it clear that we need to work a little harder to ensure 100 percent engagement on our conference calls these days. Whether digital media or disorganization are to blame, here’s how businesses can reengage the participants and maximize their meetings to make the most of them.

Follow the Agenda

If the team comes together for a meeting or conference call, and no one knows what it’s about, you have a problem. It’s a waste of valuable employee time that could be better spent delivering other work. Before scheduling a call or a meeting, prepare a clear agenda to help drive the conversation. Here at March we produce weekly agendas for both client calls and internal meetings to maximize efficiency and keep our discussions on track.

Set Goals

Don’t just “meet to meet,” as they say. If you’re leaving meetings not knowing what your team has accomplished, you may need to revisit your strategy. When that weekly internal team meeting rolls around, there should always be a well-defined purpose to what’s being checked off that list. The key is to clarify what your team wants to get out of the meeting: do we need to brainstorm some new ideas for an upcoming launch, produce genuinely useful content for the SEO strategy, or touch on the media outreach strategy around some recent news? Make sure there are clear goals in place before you kick off.

Assign Tasks

Picture your last meeting or conference call: one or two people leading the conversation, while the remaining participants listen quietly behind the mute button.

A simple method of improving engagement is to assign discussion topics and tasks to individuals before the meeting begins. Everyone knows they’ll be expected to contribute and lead a portion of the conversation, and thus, you’ll have the undivided attention of all participants.


This post was first published by Caroline Legg on March Communications’ blog PR Nonsense.