You have planned a conference call, and it’s a biggie.  There’s plenty of information to relay to your team, and they need to remember what you have to say.  That’s the challenge.

Let’s accept it, conference calls, like most telephone conversations, are neither exciting nor memorable events.  It can be hard for participants to fully absorb the information, and even harder for them to retain it. Research into human communication styles suggests that it is a lot easier for adults to remember information when it’s presented to them in more than one way.  People remember only about 20 percent of what they hear, 50 percent of what they see and hear, and 80 percent of what they see, hear and do.

As a conference call host, your challenge is to think of ways to put new dimensions to the conference call.  With that, you will you be able to pique your group’s interest and increase the amount of information they retain.

Steps to Building a Better Conference Call:

Step One:  Check Your Level
Listen to the level and quality of your sound.  If some participants can’t hear, or can’t be heard, then it’s not going to be a fruitful call.  At the beginning of the call, do a quick roll call and use it as an opportunity to have every participant verify that the call is clear and easily heard.  Any problems can be caught immediately, fixed quickly, and no one will be left out.

Step Two:  Speak Clearly and Slowly
Without having visual hints to help them follow along, listeners can easily misinterpret words that are slurred, or skip over words that are buried in swiftly moving sentences.  Use a fairly simple vocabulary.  A more complex vocabulary tends to slow the listeners’ abilities to process your words; as a result, they may easily lose the words that immediately follow the “big” terms.

Step Three:  Provide Reading Materials
Written handouts should be given in advance of the audio conference call whenever possible.  Giving the participants an outline of some sort to follow along with will give them the opportunity to “see” your presentation, as well as hear it.  The retention rate will increase substantially.

Step Four:  Create Visual Language
Try to include rich visual language in your discussion.  In other words, use anecdotes and descriptions wherever possible.  Incorporate examples into your oral presentation.  Create the illusion that the participants are seeing some of the material, and you will be able to add to their information retention.

Step Five:  Paint a Picture of Your Product
It is ideal that every person taking part in your conference call will have received a sample of your product, or at least a picture of your product.  Otherwise, you’ll have to describe the item in great detail.  It’s not enough to simply say, “Here is the new Z-model DVD player.”  Instead, use descriptive and action words to create interest in the product.  “The new Z-model DVD player is expected to do well. Let me tell you a little more about it.  The shape is designed to conjure up the image of a 1950’s era alien spaceship, with coloring that shifts between lustrous black and silver as you move around it . . .” With words, you are helping the participants to paint a picture in their minds.  When done correctly, an audio conference call can be visually stimulating.

Step Six:  Create Action
Request your participants to do small acts.  For example, you can highlight an important point by suggesting that they write it down on their handout, and then repeat the information out loud.  It’s a basic exercise, but the very act of moving their hand to write down the point stimulates a different part of the brain.  With both the left side and the right side of the brain in working order, you’ve doubled their chances of remembering your point.    Pause during your presentation to ask participants how they can use your ideas in their everyday tasks.  By putting the information in a context they deal with everyday, you’re giving them a more “hands-on” point of view.

Audio conference calls are basic facts of business life, but they are not always the best choices for communicating new information.  Try these tips to bring a new dimension to your conference call, and you can increase the retention and, ultimately, the overall success of your efforts.

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