Hectic schedules being what they are, it’s not uncommon for non-profit or school auction committees to meet via teleconference. And if you’ve got a group larger than 3 people, your phone’s conference call option might not be an option.
Consider these tips for meeting via phone.
Use a free teleconference service
With free teleconference services available, why not use them?
Having the same number to dial into for each auction committee meeting adds professionalism and order to your planning. And trust me, volunteers are more likely to stay involved in your auction planning if you emit a sense of professionalism and order!
Two services I like are No Cost Conference and Free Conference Call. All your auction committee members will dial the same number and — using an access code unique to you — be on the call with others.
Note: These services are long-distance calls, but my experience is that this doesn’t stop others from participating. I suspect most people either have unlimited calling plans or don’t pay for long-distance.
Send out a reminder
The day before your meeting (and maybe the morning of), send out a meeting reminder. Include the phone number and access code.
Record the call
The beauty of using a teleconference service is that you can record the call for free.
After each meeting, email your entire committee the link to the recording. Those who missed the call can get caught up to speed on their own time.
Establish courtesy rules
Teleconferences are more convenient than in-person meetings, but trickier to run. To avoid problems, establish some rules and announce them at the beginning of each call.
For example, participants might be at home washing dishes, stuck in traffic, or attending a child’s soccer game while dialing into the call. Background noise can become an issue, so as the meeting begins, you might remind everyone to mute themselves out by pressing *7 (or whatever the directions are), unless they have a question.
Additionally, social norms about politeness are harder to sense on a teleconference.
I’ve been on calls of almost 20 people when three people started talking at once. It wasn’t easy for the organizer to just “get louder” and take back control of the meeting! On a phone call, you don’t have visual cues to tell you to “be quiet.”
If it seems workable, you might suggest that no one ask questions or make comments until a designated time.
“During Julie’s committee report,” you might say, “please hold off asking questions until she opens it up for discussion.”
Another option is to “go around the room” to seek input. This is usually best for smaller committees.
When Julie is finished with her report, she might say, “OK. That’s it. Any input / questions from you Ann? No? Ok. Becky, any input / questions from you? Nope? Ok. What about you, Helen? Any input / questions from you?”
It’s tedious, but it gives everyone a chance to weigh in.
Stick to the agenda
Whether you meet in person or on the phone, use an agenda.
Make notations about how much time each committee chair or each subject will be given for discussion … and stick to it.
Blame it on the schedule, if you must. “Jodi, in the interest of time,” you could say, “Could you meet with Deb and confirm the check-out process offline of this call?”
Remember, volunteers are much more likely to participate if they know you are valuing their time.
Got your own ideas? Write them below.
Matthew James says
The green effect of video conferencing is often forgotten. Cost has become an important area, however, time seems to be the biggest issue. Since 9/11, travel times have almost doubled around the nation, and much of that time increase is on the ground, in the terminal.
Businesses are also starting to realize that conferences can be held far more often using video conferencing technology – and still remain cheaper than a single annual in person conference.
Sherry Truhlar says
Teleconferencing is also green, Matthew. But yes, SKype or Facetime could be used. I’ve used Skype to coordinate with a couple of clients.
Lori L. Jacobwith says
Teleconferences are really a great tool to get lots accomplished, keep committees connected and not have to drive to meetings. I use them often and find they are a great tool in staying connected with clients and the team supporting their fundraising.
One tip for teleconferences. Allow the “pace” of the call to unfold in a non-rushed timing. And allow the time for silences for when people are thinking and getting their response ready. I’ve had to learn to “listen” to the silences for who might be wanting to chime in but is shy or unsure of what to say. Since you can’t see their faces it’s important to ask more questions to get input.