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Conference Call Technology Tips for Clinical Trial Managers (CTMs)

by | Sep 6, 2023 | Clinical Trial Managers, Tips for Research Professionals | 0 comments

New Clinical Trial Managers (CTMs) are often surprised at how much of the day is spent in meetings. Most CTMs are in meetings at least 50% of the time.

Technology remains a consistent challenge despite all the time spent in virtual meetings. Between the various systems you use as a CTM to carry out your job responsibilities and the conference call platforms used for the majority of your meetings, there is a lot to know – and a lot of room for error.

Here’s an example of technology causing an avoidable issue:

As the CTM, you host and plan CRA Team Meetings. This month, you invite Data Management (DM) to present. You typically use Zoom, but there is a glitch, so you send a last-minute invite through WebEx. 

It’s time for DM to present. Unfortunately, you aren’t familiar with WebEx and can’t figure out how to make the guest speaker a presenter and enable them to share their slides. You eventually make it work, but the technology issue took too much time, and now there isn’t time for other important agenda items.

Can you relate? You likely have your own technology-induced meeting fails. 

To successfully get through your hours of conference calls, you need to be well-versed on all platforms, prepared with agendas and slide decks, and equipped with a backup plan. You can ensure this happens by being early for your meetings and having technology accessories readily available.

We created a list of Technology Tips for CTMs that will help you get through (most of) your virtual meetings without a hitch. 

Remember, your goal is to create a seamless session for your attendees!

Technology Tip 1: Learn to navigate all conference call platforms efficiently. 

Each meeting platform is different. Knowing how to navigate one will not necessarily mean you can easily navigate the other platforms. 

The three main conference call systems are MS Teams, Zoom, and WebEx. You will likely have one you use more than the others – and choose for the meetings you schedule.

Spend the most time learning to navigate the system you use the most. First, watch the free training videos they provide. Then, take it further and search YouTube for the most watched training videos. 

Don’t stop there! Take the opportunity to be proactive instead of reactive!

Learn how to navigate the other conference call systems to prepare you for virtual meetings on any platform. 

PRO TIP: Using the app on your phone for a meeting differs from a desktop, so learn how to sail through both options if you have to switch to your phone during a meeting glitch quickly. 

Technology Tip 2: Schedule time on your calendar to practice the meeting platform before the meeting.

Practice, Practice, Practice! 

When technology is involved, there is no such thing as “perfect.” Instead, practice will help you become better, more comfortable, and more prepared. 

Your practice session should include the following:

  • Adding a co-host
  • Sharing your entire screen
  • Sharing your presentation
  • Recording the meeting (if allowed by your company)
  • Muting the participants
  • Saving the chat
  • Moving people to breakout rooms (if desired)
  • Renaming yourself

Glitches happen. Zoom updates seem only to be needed when you’re running late! A presenter’s sound may fade in and out. Someone may forget they aren’t on mute. These are issues that you can’t control. 

Focus on what you can control: your knowledge of the meeting platforms and the different features you’ve practiced to prepare for your meeting. 

Your pre-work and preparation will save you stress, time, and embarrassment. Plus, it goes back to your goal of creating a seamless session for your meeting attendees.

PRO TIP: Practice with a colleague. Ask a colleague if they would be your “guest attendee” and practice adding them as a co-host, sharing your screen or slides, or moving them to a breakout room a couple of days before a meeting. This will give you an extra confidence boost to do it seamlessly. 

Technology Tip 3: Log in early so you are ready to start the meeting on time.

Have you ever logged in to a meeting right on time or a little late and received a notification that an update is required? Unfortunately, these updates often lead to a computer restart, which takes even more time. 

As CTMs, our meetings are often back-to-back. We leave one meeting and immediately join the next conference call. That’s just the nature of the job!

But, when you can, especially for critical meetings you are running or a presenter, block time on your calendar so you can sign on 5-10 minutes early.

Logging in a few minutes before the meeting begins allows for updates, adding co-hosts, preparing what you want to share on your screen, etc. 

Plus, starting and concluding meetings on time is always appreciated among busy Clinical Research Professionals. 

Technology Tip 4: Devise a backup plan.

Just like we develop mitigation strategies for other parts of our job (i.e., when recruitment or retention efforts aren’t working), it’s also good to have backup plans for conference calls. 

Here are some examples:

  • If the conference call system isn’t working on my desktop, I have the app on my phone.
  • If screen sharing is unavailable, I will email my slides to the meeting participants so they can view them while I present. Another option is to discuss the presentation and email the slide deck when the meeting concludes.
  • If my microphone isn’t working, I will make someone else the host, leave the meeting, and sign back in again. 
  • If an attendee forgets they are on a conference call and proceeds to order lunch in a busy sandwich shop, I will quickly “Mute” their line so we can continue our group conversation.

What other technical issues have you dealt with, and what is your backup plan?

Technology Tip 5: Be prepared with any technology accessories you may need.

How often do you leave your charger in another room or forget to charge your earbuds? 

Do you have special lighting or a microphone that you like to use? 

If you can’t keep all your conference call accessories in one place, keep a checklist on your computer and review the items at the start of your day or before your first meeting. 

Here are some helpful tips for your technology accessories:

  • Have multiple chargers so you always have at least one charger in your office, car, computer bag, etc.
  • Invest in a charging station to charge your phone, watch, earbuds, iPad, etc., overnight so everything is ready to go in the morning.
  • Schedule your important presentations for when you’ll be in your office, and you can use your lighting and other setup accessories without moving them around.

What are your favorite accessories to use for virtual meetings?

New Clinical Trial Managers face the challenge of spending most of their time in meetings and learning many new systems and platforms to carry out job responsibilities.

The Technology Tips for CTMs discussed in the article are intended for conference call platforms. However, the points about learning to navigate and practice can be applied to all systems you use for your role.

Remember, your goal is to create a seamless session for your attendees!

If you are an aspiring CTM, you can learn the call platforms and add them to your resume. In addition, you can do many other things to help you stand out as a qualified candidate. Click here for a free downloadable guide about Transitioning to the CTM Role.

Technology for Clinical Trial Managers is a topic in the ClinEssentials CTM Training Course for new and future CTMs. The course takes an in-depth look at a CTM’s responsibilities from Study Initiation to Study Close-Out, communication, working with teams, resume reviews, salary negotiation, and much more. Click here to register for the CTM Training Course.

Tiffany Ashton, MAS, CCRA, has over twenty years of experience as a Clinical Research Professional. Tiffany is the Director of Operations for ClinEssentials, a consultant in the Clinical Trial Manager role, and the expert instructor for the CTM Training Course.

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