I personally hate conference calls. Actually, I dislike all meetings, mainly because I abhor most people and would prefer to be left alone to work in complete, lonely silence. But conference calls are the worst of the worst when it comes to meetings. After forty-five minutes of people talking over each other, I generally hang up and say to myself, “Well, there’s three-quarters of an hour I just wasted and can’t get back.”
But the thing about it is, conference calls don’t have to be a complete waste of time — if people would just follow some simple rules.
A while back, one of my friends didn’t announce that she had joined a conference call – and then listened to her coworkers talk shit about her for like 10 minutes about how she was never on time and sometimes just didn’t show up for calls. While not announcing yourself is a great way to hear gossip – about you or someone else – you don’t want to get that rep, particularly if you are attending and just not saying much.
Pause Before You Speak
One of the reasons conference calls are so inefficient is that at least 25% of them are spent with people talking over each other and then going “You go,” “No, you go,” and then speaking over each other all over again. It’s like a school dance where the boys don’t know how to lead and the girls don’t know how to follow, so everyone just winds up getting their toes stepped on. So if you are going to leap into a conversation when there is a quick pause, take a breath before you open your mouth, in case anyone else is going to offer up a thought.
Say Your Name When You Talk
One of my giant pet-peeves with conference calls is that I have no idea who the hell is saying what. I’ll take notes and write down that “Bob from accounting said…” when it was really Steve from IT. So for everyone’s sake, preface all of your conference call comments with “Hey, this is Mike and…” Not only will this help everyone that’s trying to keep track, it means that stupid Bob won’t get credit for your awesome idea of an in-office beer cart on Fridays. Which I fully support, BTW.
Use a Landline
What is this, 1982? A freaking landline? Who the hell has one of those? Those of us who don’t want to be the asshole that beeps into the conference call thirteen times because our shitty cell service keeps dropping the call, that’s who. So I don’t care if you have to drive over to your Nana’s to use her 1945 rotary phone, but call in from a phone that is actually wired to a network, for the love of God.
Unless You Are In A Soundproof Booth, Mute Yourself
Some insensitive moron scheduled me for a conference call at 12:30 p.m. yesterday – right smack dab in the middle of lunch time. Given that the rest of the day was filled with (pointless) in-person meetings, I had no choice but to chew-and-chat. As I tried to munch on my Skinnypop as quietly as possible while answering questions about last quarter’s numbers, some asshat who was clearly working from home didn’t mute him/herself, which created a call soundtrack of a cacophony of children screaming and pots banging. So here I am being all considerate trying not to chew in people’s ears and this moron is making me listen to their 3 year old whine for more fruit snacks? Aw hell no – I totally shamed them into muting with a simple “Hey, there’s a lot of background noise from someone, can you please mute?” ‘Cause I’m a bitch like that. But I shouldn’t have had to ask – muting should be common sense.
Do NOT Put The Call On Speaker
I appreciate your effort to multi-task, I really do. Listening to a conference call on speaker while trying to get other things done is totally cool – if you are working at home or you have an office with a door. Lord knows I’ve managed to put away laundry and cook bacon while listening to a conference call during my all-too-rare work-at-home days. But doing this if you sit in a cubicle is just a sign of complete lack of respect for your coworkers who don’t give a shit about random dude’s thoughts on random stuff. So pick up the damn receiver – or get one of those headsets that looks like you should be calling the plays on the sideline. You’ll look like a moron, but at least your coworkers won’t hate you..
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