David Grady, in the annual Citizen’s Bank Employee Talent Show, performed an excellent comedy routine about a conference call gone horribly wrong.

By incorporating the best practices within this article, you can keep chaos at bay and have productive calls.

Have an agenda for your call. When sending out the invitation for your call, include an agenda and request that attendees send you any additions or changes no later than a day or two prior to your call.  A day before your call, send out a finalized agenda, then stick to it while leading the call.  To make the call more productive, put higher priority items at the top.  If there are items that will require a lot of discussion, consider reducing the number of items on your agenda so that you are sure to cover everything.

Appoint a “Scribe.” The role of the scribe includes handling the roll call (if the attendee list is small enough) and taking minutes for the duration of the call.  Empower them to stop the conversation to ask for clarification so that the minutes are accurate.  After the call, the scribe should send the minutes to all participants and ask for changes or clarification.  Once all corrections have been received, they should end out final minutes or post them in the appropriate document repository.

Ask participants to keep their phones on mute. This will ensure that background noise and unintended interruptions are kept to a minimum.

If you have a large call or are recording it for use later, such as in a training session, consider turning off entry and exit tones. This will allow you to proceed with the call without the distraction of the beeps or other tones.  Also, ensure that attendees understand that there is no need to announce their presence.  You could put this in the agenda that gets sent prior to the call.

Finally, remember to start and end your call on time! Attendees will appreciate your promptness and will eventually be on time for your calls.

By implementing these best practices, your calls will be productive and interruptions will be minimized.

Check out these great books for effective classes/seminars, conference calls, and meetings.

Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable…About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business (J-B Lencioni Series)

Methods for Effective Teaching: Meeting the Needs of All Students (5th Edition)

Creating Effective Groups: The Art of Small Group Communication, Second Edition