“When I’m leading a conference call, I know that there are people reading their email, working on memos and not paying attention. Are there any tricks to making people paying pay closer attention?”

We get that question a lot. Here’s our answer. Yes. There is a trick to making people pay more attention. You need to be more engaging.

It’s not the listener’s fault that your calls feel like a waste of time.

When people ask how to make people pay attention on conference calls, they’re usually asking it with some sense of exasperation.

They feel like business world has somehow contracted Attention Deficit Disorder.  Technology has somehow turned the business world into a bunch of boorish children who can’t sit still and pay attention.

But if people aren’t paying attention on your conference calls, it’s your fault.  It’s your job to keep them engaged.

You keep them engaged in four ways.

1. Start the call by stating a simple benefit for paying attention.  “During this call, I’d like to discuss how we can keep our customers despite the current price increase.” Make sure that the payoff for paying attention is clear.

2. Lay out a short and focused agenda. “During this call, I want to discuss three things:  why we’re losing customers, what we can do about it, and what is our timeline for fixing the problem.” If you give people a strong sense of what to expect, they will be more engaged because they know that the call won’t go on forever.

3. Ask people questions and let them respond. Interactive is always better.  Conference call participants have a right to contribute. One-sided presentations multiply the chance of people tuning out.

4. Be excited. Put a mirror on your desk. Do you look engaging as you speak? That facial animation will show up in your voice and keep people engaged. Your listeners can hear your smile.

Next time you have a conference call, remember that it’s the call leader’s job to keep everyone engaged.  And if they’re not paying attention, it’s not the fault of the listeners.

Speechworks is a communication and selling skills coaching firm. We teach professionals how to craft and deliver complex messages in a simple, persuasive manner. Since 1986, through workshops and one-on-one instruction, we have helped countless individuals become better presenters and communicators. You can reach us at 404.266.0888, speech@speechworks.net or on the web at www.speechworks.net

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