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7 tips for successfully working with your conference call operator

John Lovell

7 top tips for successfully working with your conference call operator – from operators with tens of thousands of calls’ experience.

Organizations have long relied on teleconferencing for cost-effective, convenient, and accessible internal and external communications, tapping operators to provide polish and professionalism when stakes are high. So, if an operator is the secret to teleconference success, is there a secret to selecting and working with an operator? 7 of them, to be precise – compiled by our team of professional operators based on tens of thousands of calls.  

Opt for the right conference call operator

It’s just a teleconference… but making it look that simple requires specific skills on the part of an operator. Start by selecting a provider experienced with high-stakes communications and in working with high-profile executives. (Hint: Make sure the provider speaks your language. If terms like 10-Q or embargo or public comment period are part of your daily vocabulary but elicit a blank stare from a potential provider, it’s worth digging deeper to make sure their experience aligns with your needs.)

As you work through your first dry run, look beyond your operator’s technology expertise. Is he a good listener? Is she a confident communicator? Is she unflappable? Does he offer creative solutions? Teleconferences, after all, are presented by people, which introduces the possibility of human error. If your CFO’s cell coverage is spotty or the Secretary accidentally disconnects, your operator must solve the problem quickly while also communicating clearly and confidently with your executives and audience.

Test your technology

Before your call and with your operator, identify and test all equipment to be used, including telephones, microphones, speakers, boards, and any other audio equipment. Are technical contingency plans required? (Would backup equipment, a secondary bridge, or simply some extra mic batteries be a good idea?) Your conference call operator should provide guidance in these areas.

Present your plan – and then provide any requested clarification

You have a clear picture of your speakers, audience, VIPs, content, planned interaction, and what you want to achieve. Sharing this information – as early as possible – with your operator will allow him/her to prepare for success. Whether by advance email or during the pre-conference, keep an eye or ear out for questions your operator poses. If he asks for a speaker’s title or name pronunciation, he’s working to ensure a seamless introduction to your call. If she asks whether you’re comfortable with a disruptive speaker line being muted, she’s trying to prevent surprises.

Talk about tone

Professional communicators are sensitive to the nuanced tone that best matches the message. Please remember to share that information with your conference call operator. As service professionals, operators come to calls with poise and a positive attitude. If your message requires they participate in the company cheer (true story) you’re starting on the right foot. But if you’re announcing a reorganization, for example, you might ask your operator to adopt a more reserved tone.

Be early for excellence

Arriving early for your call is the first step. Your conference call operator will assess and recommend improvements for each speaker’s individual audio – whether that’s switching to a headset or relocating to a quiet space. Dial-out to speakers as needed. Remind each speaker to mute when not speaking. Together, you’ll do a final review of run-of-show, making sure everyone is working from the same agenda and logistics plan. (Tip: Lateness happens. If you’re joining late as a speaker, immediately mute your telephone to avoid disruption.)

Delegate for a drama-free call

The conference call operator is your operator. She or he is there to execute the call according to your plan, on-topic, and on-time. Whether that means limiting an analyst to a single question or holding a member of the public to the allowed two-minute comment, trust your operator to enforce the rules you laid out in your call plan. As for the technology – delegate any worry about it. Your operator will monitor and take any needed action in real-time, freeing you to focus on your message and audience.

Communicate to and through the conclusion of your call

While teleconferencing is a legacy technology, committed providers have modernized with easy-to-use web-based applications. Call visualization should enable you to see a key journalist, lobbyist, community activist, investor or other stakeholder connect. A drag-and-drop feature should enable you to address the questions you want, in the sequence you want them. An integrated chat should enable you to remain in real-time communication with your operator as the call evolves. Using these tools will keep you and you operator on the same page – completing a successful call.

Whether you’re hosting a media briefing, All Hands announcement, IR call, citizen engagement, or crisis communication, these simple strategies will help your conference call operator help you seamlessly execute it.