How to start conference call meetings on time!

If you work in an environment where the majority of your meetings are via conference call, you find there is always a delay in getting the meeting started because there is a reminder sent out via email 5 minutes before the meeting and then if that reminder is snoozed, the next reminder comes at the time the meeting is scheduled to begin.  Leaving to call in at that point would make you late.  So if you are chairing the meeting, you wind up penalizing those who came prepared to start at the start time while waiting for the stragglers.

Here are some of my suggestions for starting meetings on time!

1) Plan for it. Put the arrival time on the agenda. For example, for a meeting scheduled to start at 9:00 AM, you could put “8:50 AM – – – Arrive at the Meeting” at the top of the agenda. An arrival time is useful because it allows everyone time to socialize, obtain coffee, or organize materials before the meeting. It also ensures everyone is present at the scheduled starting time.

2) Set an example. Dial in to meetings you schedule before they are scheduled to start.  Use this time to chat with the early birds and allow them to ask questions prior to the meeting that thy may be afraid to ask in a big group.  And you can greet the attendees as they arrive. This helps you appear in control of the meeting process from the beginning. And of course, arrive at everyone else’s meetings on time.

3) Make it easy. Schedule your meetings to begin at odd times, such as 9:10 AM. This allows everyone who was in a one-hour meeting that began at 8:00 AM to run to the bathroom, check their email and put out any fires before jumping on your call.  Similarly, end your meetings at least ten minutes before the next hour so that the attendees have time to do the same before their next meeting.

4) Promote punctuality. Send a memo or an email stressing the importance of arriving on time. Call key attendees to remind them about the starting time for the meeting.  Try to find some reason to be on time, such as asking a senior level executive to make an opening remark, then allowing them to drop off the call, because they are busy, and it sets the tone from the top.

5) Expect promptness. If the meeting is for your team only, you can tell people that they are expected to be on time and tie it into their performance appraisls, or ask your manager to stress it from one level above.  Similarly, arrive on time to demonstrate your commitment.

6) Be realistic. Realize that some people are beyond coaching because of their attitude or relationship with you. Also, recognize that it is impossible to guarantee that everyone will always arrive on time at every meeting. There will always be emergencies, surprises, and those few who refuse to cooperate.

To make this approach the norm you need buy-in from senior management. 

Good luck!