5 Ways To Flatten The Covid Conference Call Curve

By: Alex Shattuck

Have you and your team been stuck working at home for the first time? Did you see a spike in Skype, Zoom, FaceTime and other types of conference calls on your calendars? Has the increased call volume remained even as you’ve transitioned back into physical offices? If so, you aren’t alone. If the high volume of calls was your reality before this pandemic- this article is still for you. I’m writing and sharing this advice to those, like myself, who are responsible for taking over calendars. If you are on the receiving end of this you will still benefit from this quick read because it’ll help you decipher a worthy call and an unworthy call. 

So what the heck do I mean when I say “How to flatten the covid conference call curve”? First, I certainly am not trying to take away from the seriousness of the topic of covid-19. I’m simply making a connection for business purposes. So here it is. The goal behind flattening the curve with covid-19 isn’t to simply eliminate this illness because that isn’t possible right now. It is to slow it, limit the exposure so to not overwhelm our healthcare professionals and system. This same mindset can and should be applied to eating up our calendars and our employees calendars with conference calls. Let’s limit the exposure and not overwhelm our teams with calls to the point of hindering their ability to do their jobs. 

I feel there is a balance to be had around conference calls. Again, whether you are on the receiving or delivering end- it is important you understand how to decipher a worthy call from an unworthy call. This deciphering is flattening the conference call curve. Below are 5 ways we can accomplish this: 

  1. Keep Their Focus: 

We must fight for their focus. It starts by the environment our team is in. Are they sheltering in place in their home office or sheltering in place while in their turkey blind (It was just turkey season here in Michigan). Occasionally, calling an audible and switching from your typical conference call to a Zoom video call will keep them honest.

More importantly than trying to control their environment is controlling our content. Are we bringing relevant and useful content to the calls or are we having calls just to say that we did? If we believe the content is call worthy we next need to look at our delivery. Are we just reading bullet points off a PowerPoint or are we using stories to drive home our talking points? The audience will stay focused on the content if we deliver the content through storytelling. Just to drive the importance of this home take a look at the Harvard Business Review’s statistics about what other activities employees do while on our conference calls: 

  • Other work: 65%
  • Sending an email: 63%
  • Eating or making food: 55%
  • Going to the restroom: 47%
  • Texting: 44%
  • Checking social media: 43%
  • Playing video games: 25%
  • Online shopping: 21%
  • Exercising: 9%
  • Taking another phone call: 6%
  1. Increase Odds of Retention:

It doesn’t do any good to take up 30 minutes of our team’s time if they aren’t going to retain the message. Without retention there won’t be continued application, but at the same time, without application there won’t be retention. 

In the Marines, after I’d brief my squad on the mission I’d call on certain individuals to walk us through their understanding of the overall mission and their specific role within the mission. Doing this increased the odds of them retaining what my message was which, ultimately, increases the chances of that mission being executed successfully. 

Having a recap of key information in an immediate follow-up email is important for their future reference. Most likely, many did not take notes, and some that did may have missed some key points. People don’t all learn the same way. Our brains are unique and having a visual to reference will increase retention for those that don’t learn well through just audible sources. 

If you really want to drive home understanding the content, have someone else on the team prepare the content and actually deliver the message. Sometimes the best way to get someone to learn something is to have them teach it. Also, don’t assume you’re the smartest one on your team on every topic. Leverage the knowledge, experiences and skillsets of your team. If you are the smartest one on your team on every topic- you need a new team.

If you are the smartest one on your team on every topic- you need a new team.

  1. Have Application Expectations: 

The rule of thumb is that if you don’t apply something you’ve learned within 72 hours you lose what you learned. Knowing this, we can’t leave it up to chance. If what we are communicating isn’t worth taking immediate action on, we probably shouldn’t be wasting their time with it on a call. Assuming we are on the same page here, and we are only taking up their time if we are delivering relevant content we must then sell them on the WHY. Why is this information important and why must we act on it immediately. Get the team involved in the discussion and allow them to set goals to ensure that the message is immediately applied. 

  1. Leverage Repetition: 

Anyone that has ever mastered anything most likely mastered it by repetition. Elton John-esq Piano player? Repetition. Great free throw shooter? Repetition. While in the Marines I was an Expert Rifleman. How’d I and many others accomplish this??? You guessed it. Repetition. 

Once we see our teams successfully apply what they’ve just learned we can’t sit back and simply pat ourselves on the back. The success of that application will be very short lived if we don’t repeat those activities time and time again. It is only then that they will have truly benefited from sitting in on that conference call. If the application is short lived- we, once again, wasted their time. (And our own)

  1. Understand the Power of Restriction:

Sometimes less is more. If you can communicate what you need to communicate with less calls and less time per call you should do just that. You also don’t need to be consistent with the length of your calls. If you start the day off with a 30 minute call with the team, that’s fine. It’s fine as long as you had 30 minutes of value to deliver. If you only had 15 minutes of value then the call should only be 15 minutes. Let the content dictate the length of the call- don’t let the length of the call dictate the content!

Restricting call time and volume is very powerful. When done properly the team will be excited for conference calls because they know you wouldn’t hold one if it wasn’t worth their time. They also will know that what they are about to sit through will make them more successful in their role. If not done properly, you risk being the boy who cried wolf. When you finally do have a call worth listening to nobody will believe you. 

Let the content dictate the length of the call- don’t let the length of the call dictate the content!

If you like my mission of helping business owners increase profits from the business while spending less time working in the business you’ll need to embrace the changes of technology. By continuing to come back to these 5 tips when preparing to utilize the awesome technology that exists for us you should expect to see more team engagement during your calls and more application of the content after your calls. When this happens, you move further along in your journey in accomplishing this mission of maximizing profit and time. 

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