Pre-meeting planning

Key to the effective management of any conference call is the planning that goes on in advance of the meeting and the easiest way to plan effectively for any virtual meeting is to ask yourself the following 4 very simple questions:

Why am I calling the meeting?
You need to be clear in your own mind why the meeting is going to take place. If you are not clear of the purpose of the meeting, then it is unlikely that anybody else will be convinced of the need for it either.

Is a conference call the best way to achieve the goal you have set yourself or might the goal be achieved through a different method? Try to put yourself in the shoes of the other attendees. Will they see a point to the meeting and will they understand its objectives?

Who should be invited?

Meetings can only be truly effective when you have the necessary attendees present. Think hard about who exactly needs to be invited. Do not fail to achieve your aims because you realize during the meeting that a vital participant is missing.

Is it obvious which participants need to be invited? Think laterally about this and don’t let the meeting collapse by failing to think slightly outside the core team (as they often do).

If the meeting is a decision-making meeting, ensure that all the key people are invited well in advance to ensure they do not have other diary commitments but be very careful about playing ‘politics’ by deciding not to invite somebody you feel is a difficult character – this can often lead to problems in the future.

If you need to invite people from outside the normal circle of attendees, you need to think about invitees well in advance of the meeting – not just 30 minutes before it begins.

When is the best time for the meeting?
The timing of a meeting is often crucial in a virtual scenario for a number of reasons and the answer to this question is never really as simple as may appear initially. In a virtual, multi-cultural environment, the following issues need to be considered:

Each country has a multitude of public holidays and feast days. Make sure that the meeting is not called when some of the participants expect to be at home with their families.

The time of day in which the meeting is held can be a source of great irritation in virtual teams which span the globe. Do not always hold the meeting at a time which is convenient for you – spread the start time of regular meetings around the day so that everybody is inconvenienced on some occasions.

Make sure you don’t call meetings at a time which coincides with a colleague’s busiest time of the day/week/month.

Where should I hold the meeting?

Although the answer to this question may seem obvious – or may indeed be completely irrelevant if there are no alternatives – it is good to think a little about the issues surrounding choice of venue:

Are some of your teleconferencing rooms better than others - do some teleconferencing rooms suffer from road noise or other minor irritations for example and is the room big enough for the number of delegates I intend to invite?

Might some people need to sit so far from the telephone equipment that they may struggle to be heard by remote colleagues and if so how long in advance do I need to book the meeting room with the best equipment to ensure that I can book the best available space?

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