As the boss in a contract work relationship, it's your responsibility to keep the regular conference calls with your team on time and on track. Respect your contractor's time and clearly communicate your expectations for these calls to keep your relationship with them both productive and successful.
Here's some easy advice to keep your team's conference calls on track:
1. Email an agenda before the call. A day before the call, write an email to your contractors listing discussion topics. For example: 1) Status of the new logo, 2) Ideas for the chat room icon ... This agenda reminds your team of the call and allows them to mentally prepare to offer specific data or ideas.
2. Create a detailed outline before the call. Take that simple agenda and turn it into a detailed document for yourself. Write down specific questions to ask and leave blank spaces for notes during the call. Working your way down your agenda will keep the call focused and productive.
3. Prepare details for discussion. Gather any data ahead of time and put it in your outline, so you don't have to scramble during the call looking for things online or opening files.
4. Start the call on time. A few minutes of chit chat can build your relationship with your freelancers. However, make sure you dial-in on time, start on time, and don't spend more than five minutes waiting for late attendees.
5. Record the call, if you can. A lot of conference call lines have the technology to record calls, so you can download the audio to your computer later, and it's not a bad idea to get into the habit of recording conference calls with contractors. If you go this route, be sure to inform attendees to the call that a recording is being made, and offer them access to the file for their own records.
6. Take notes during the call. Don't rely on technology too much -- recording snafus happen more often than anyone would like. Taking notes in your agenda is one way to be sure important discussions aren't forgotten. (Save your neck and use a headset for calls, so you can type/write.) If it's tough for you to manage the call and take notes, you may want to have a contractor or assistant take notes to share with all attendees.
7. Don't put your team on hold. If you can, ignore everything else during conference calls -- this includes your secretary, your coworker, and that text from your spouse. Distractions can be costly, and maintaing your focus on the call will keep the conversation on track.
8. Wrap up the call on time. Conference calls have a start time and an end time, and you should abide by both. If the discussion is far from over, but the scheduled time is up, ask your contractors if they are able to stay on the line for a few more minutes before continuing.
9. Send out a summary. Take the most important details from your completed outline, your notes or your audio recording and send them to all attendees. What to include: deadlines, action items and any decisions made during the call. This effectively gives you and your team a clear to-do list, and can be the jumping off point for the agenda for your next productive conference call.
Tell us: What are your best/worst conference call habits? What have you learned over the years about keeping conference calls productive?