5 Ways to Keep Conference Call Overload from Killing Your Productivity

conference call overload

Do you have certain days of the week that are simply chock full of conference calls? Do you find yourself having conference calls to plan for other conference calls — or new calls that spin off from your existing conference calls?

If so, conference call overload is probably killing the productivity of you and your team. Here are five ways to help fight back.

1) Batch Conference Calls on Specific Days

Certainty breeds productivity. It removes stress and allows us to focus on our daily priorities.

Nothing creates uncertainty like a mishmash of conference calls scheduled at odd times throughout the week.  As such, I’ve done my best to “batch” conference calls on two days: Monday and Friday.

Now, that makes Monday and Friday two of my least favorite days of the week, but the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Most importantly, it leaves Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday largely free to focus on getting actual work done.

Do “emergency” calls come up that force me to have calls on the other days of the week? Of course.  But that is so much more manageable since I’ve batched my “standing” calls on Monday and Friday.

2) Avoid “Standing Conference Calls” Just to Have Them

We all have “standing” conference calls — those calls that happen every week at the same day and time to report progress or updates on key projects.  While some of these meetings are very necessary, there are many that occur just because the call is on the schedule every week.

There’s nothing that says you can’t cancel a call if there’s nothing pressing to report. Everyone would be just as happy to have that extra time back to work on actually being productive.

Don’t be afraid to cancel calls.

3) Have a Specific Agenda for Each Call

Sometimes calls happen to address a very specific topic. But in the case of many “standing” calls (see above), the calls occur without any specific agenda or any discussion points. I find that having very specific, very detailed discussion points allows the call to stay focused and move quicker.

This sounds like a simple principle — but we all know that there are many, many calls in which we participate where there is no clear agenda. Total waste of time.

Set a new policy: No agenda, no call.

4) Don’t Have a Conference Call When an Email Will Do

My personal feeling is that the best conference call is no conference call. I just think that well-written, focused, specific emails can replace most conference calls and keep everyone more productive.

Of course, there are times when a quick one-on-one call to get a question answered or seek clarity on an issue is better than an email. But I also have been victim to many, many conference calls that could’ve been resolved with a single email.

As long as your emails are succinct and clear, they are so much more efficient than conference calls. Do you ever notice that conference calls scheduled for 30 minutes rarely go less than 30 minutes?  That’s because people are usually a few minutes late getting on the call, which is then followed by a few minutes spent on smalltalk, followed by a conference call that is twenty minutes longer than it should be, thanks to gratuitous comments from those who come to the calls solely to demonstrate how smart they are (without any real productive comments to add to the conversation.)

Email cuts out that waste and allows you to get back to being productive.

My personal feeling is that the best conference call is no conference call. I just think that well-written, focused, specific emails can replace most conference calls and keep everyone more productive.

Of course, there are times when a quick one-on-one call to get a question answered or seek clarity on an issue is better than an email. But I also have been victim to many, many conference calls that could’ve been resolved with a single email.

5) Don’t Let Your Conference Call Spawn New Conference Calls

There are some folks who just love to address questions on conference calls by suggesting or scheduling new conference calls to address those questions. Thanks, but no thanks.

See point 2 (above) about having a specific agenda and discussion points? This will help you stay on track. Resolve questions right away, if you can. If there is something that needs further investigation after the call, that’s fine. Chances are (see point 4 above) you can resolve it via email and report back to the group via email.

No need for your existing conference calls to spawn new conference calls (which could, in turn, spawn additional conference calls). A neverending cycle of conference calls. You may laugh, but I’ve lived through this experience. Unproductive.

Certainly there are additional ways to conquer conference call overload but, as you can tell, I think the best way is just to avoid them.

What are your thoughts? Any tips or tricks to avoiding conference call overload? Please share them in the comments!

One Reply to “5 Ways to Keep Conference Call Overload from Killing Your Productivity”

  1. “Set a new policy: No agenda, no call.” Yes!! Great advice. My UK colleagues can never believe our phone bills in the US; conference calls become a self-perpetuating culture.

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