A simple trick for improving phone meetings
Create a single frame video conference using a peopleclock
I discovered this very simple technique in an article in the Harvard Business Review, Can Absence Make a Team Grow Stronger. One of the problems of audio-only conferences is keeping concentration when you lack any visual stimuli.
It is also aggravated if you have never met some of the people on the call or know what they look like - you can't "put a face to the voice".
The technique is simply to create a single A4 page with a small photo of everyone in the call each located at a different time on the clock.
In other words - a Peopleclock.
Everybody keeps this peopleclock visible (either on their screen or via a hard copy print-out) for the duration of the call.
So when a participant speaks either for the first time or when they have not contributed for a bit they just say "Its Ken here at 3 oclock" or "This is Joe at 9 o'clock".
You would be amazed at how just glancing at the speakers picture as they talk can bring more life into the call and makes it easier to avoid your mind wandering.
Its like a single frame video conference - very simple, very cheap, very low-tech, no software downloads or web-cams required - but actually very effective.
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A crowd draws a crowd but you need to be fit too. Distinguished Physicist Albert Laszlo Barabasi in his excellent book "Linked - the New Science of Networks" lets us into the secret of how any kind of network grows.