The Curse of the Conference Call

Thursday, July 31st, 2014 by Simon Morton

Regular readers will know that we often talk about the Presentation Landscape and try to help our readers understand that presenting isn’t all about standing in front of an audience with a carefully prepared deck.

The best communicators understand that every business interaction is a presentation; even sharing new ideas informally can be more done more effectively if you apply some presentation best practice.

Before you dismiss that as unnecessary advice think about a child trying to persuade a parent to get them a puppy by arguing that it will help them be more responsible and get more exercise. These are not the reasons the child wants the puppy (those are mostly to do with cuteness), but they are the reasons they think their parents (the audience) will want to hear and will (please, please, please) respond to.

Childhood puppy requests should always be listened to with a huge amount of scepticism and it’s important that solid terms are negotiated before a parent even thinks about giving in, which tells us two more important things. Firstly that we have an inherent instinct to communicate in ways that will best engage our audience and secondly that even when we’re not doing business we’re using the same kind of skills and instincts.

So, presenting less formally or presenting without slides is easy because we can trust our instincts and rely on our natural ability to connect and negotiate.

Unfortunately this whole theory seems to fall flat on its face when it comes to conference calls.

It seems that once the people you are trying to communicate with are more than a few feet away all the things we know about engaging and negotiating are thrown out of the window.

Getting a conference call right is about understanding that it is part of the Presentation Landscape and not just an easy excuse to look busy. Rising to the challenge involves all the key presenting skills – know your story – know your audience – be clear with your messaging – make your call to action transparent and concise.

There are no revelations here, yet so many conference calls fail to achieve anything other than inactivity, annoying snapshots of people’s personal lives and uncomfortable silences. Unfortunately this is because they can easily fall into the same ‘no need to bother, it isn’t really important’ abyss that is also often home to Internal Presentations and without help, that’s where they’ll stay.

The clip below is both amusing and toe-curlingly uncomfortable to watch, but the sad thing is that at least some parts of it will ring true with anyone who has ever been on a conference call…

How we do business today means that conference calls are a necessity and businesses that work to understand where they sit in the Presentation Landscape and address the challenges they present will be better placed to take advantage of the opportunities they bring.

If you’d like to know how the creation of a great presentation can be beneficial to all your business communication simply download our free Sales Enablement Whitepaper or give us a call.

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