Avoid These Three Deadly Sins that Virtually
Every Conference Call Leader Makes

©2011 Bernice Ross and Byron Van Arsdale

Conference calls are normally rated as one of the least efficient and most painful ways for people in organizations to communicate. The reason is simple: until now there was no clear methodology that allowed conference call leaders to quickly spot and then easily correct what went wrong on their calls. Based upon their research dating back to 1997, Bernice Ross and Byron Van Arsdale have identified “Three Deadly Sins” that virtually every conference call leader makes. The three deadly sins are:


  1. Failure to establish clear etiquette at the beginning of the conference call
  2. Hogging the spotlight
  3. Telling rather than engaging

How can you tell if these “Three Deadly Sins” are present on your conference calls?

1. Failure to establish clear etiquette at the beginning of the conference call
Do your calls open with a weather report as you wait for people to join the conference call? Do you have background noise from cell phones or other sources on your call? Do the participants on your call talk over each other? Do you have trouble tracking who is speaking? Each of these behaviors is symptomatic of the fact that you have not established a clear procedure for how your conference calls will be conducted.

To lead a great conference call, you must train your participants to be great participants. For example, one of the quickest ways to eliminate much of the confusion on a conference call is to simply ask the participants to say their name first whenever they speak. To eliminate this deadly sin from your conference calls, you can either create your own guidelines or you can use the detailed list of “Etiquette Guidelines” from No More Lame Conference Calls (Chapter 6).

2. Hogging the spotlight
What percentage of time did you spend talking on the last conference call that you led? If it was more than 50 percent, you are probably hogging the spotlight. This often results from the belief that as the leader, you have to be the expert. The problem with the old-fashioned “expert” model is that participants born in 1965 or later have no use for expertise. They expect to participate in the conversation and to be actively involved in any event they attend.

Conference call leaders who fail to heed this advice often find the calls they lead to be frustrating. Their participants tune out and answer emails, text, or play video games. When the situation is really bad, there will be challenges to the leader’s authority, snarky remarks, and loss of productivity.

The new model today is collaborative. It is this collaborative approach that produces great results from your conference calls and leaves your participants complimenting you with “raves” instead of sniping at you as being “lame.” To make your calls more collaborative, avoid Deadly Sin #3: Telling rather than engaging.

3. Telling rather than engaging
“Telling,” that is talking at your participants, goes hand-in-hand with the expert model. If you are exhausted when you hang up from leading your conference call, it’s clear that you’re working too hard. A great motto to follow is to:

“Let your participants do the work, let your participants do the work, let your participants do the work!”

When you lead a highly engaging, collaborative conference call, both you and your participants will leave the call feeling energized. This energy is what motivates your participants to take action and ultimately to create great results.

One of the best ways to create engagement is to ask great questions. Here are a few simple guidelines on how to ask great questions:

a. Open-ended questions create more engagement than closed-ended questions.
Closed-ended questions can generally be answered with one or two words. The three most common types of closed-ended questions begin with the words, “Who,” “Where,” and “When.” Closed-ended questions produce little, if any real engagement. Nevertheless, closed-ended questions are infinitely superior to the leader droning on for the entire conference call.

b. How to ask a great open-ended question
Open-ended questions produce high levels of engagement. Open-ended questions begin with the words, “How,” “What” or “Why” and usually require a more

detailed answer than closed-ended questions.

Now here is an important caveat. Always ask “How” and “What” questions. Never ask, “Why?”  What is the reason? The word “Why” requires an explanation since it puts the other person on the defensive. Asking a “Why” question is one of the quickest ways to kill the engagement on your conference calls.

c.  Keep it simple
One of the greatest challenges that most leaders face is keeping their questions simple. This means using 7 to 10 words. For example,

“John, what is one tip for overcoming call reluctance?”

Now compare this to a complex question:
“John, you are such a successful cold caller. What do you do to psych yourself up to make 100 calls a day and what are some of the scripts and strategies that you use to get such great results?”

With the complex question, the challenge for John and your participants is to determine which question to answer first.

d. Play to their strengths
When you ask questions on your conference call, do your best to ask a question that taps into the person’s strengths and is relevant to accomplishing the call agenda.

e. Listen!
Once you ask a question, you must fully listen to what is being said. Your role as the leader is to help determine how each person’s input relates to accomplishing the stated goal of the conference call.

Don’t settle for lame when you can play at the top of your game!

If you would like to stand head and shoulders above the thousands of lame conference call leaders, implementing the tips in this report is a great place to start. If you need a clear-cut, systematized approach to improving your conference call leadership, don’t wait:

No More Lame Conference Calls:
The 6 Principles You Need to Lead Great Meetings


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© 2011 Byron Van Arsdale and Bernice Ross
All rights reserved in all media.