My First Conference CallPosted: April 6, 2012
I’m fifty years old. Yet I find that there are still so many things to do and see in this world – so many more firsts. In fact, this week I had a first. I participated in my first ever conference call.
Conference calls are a common way of doing business in occupations other than mine. I’ve learned this from listening to people who talk about “dialing in to a meeting”. I’m used to walking into meetings where I can see and distract my friends. Because I’ve never done it, dialing in to a meeting seemed exotic and something to look forward to.
Then, last week, my friend Sally sent me an email asking me to participate in a conference call about a database we are having created for our project. I jumped at the chance. It wasn’t that I thought Sally couldn’t handle the call. I took the opportunity because I wanted to tell people I needed to find some where quiet to work because I had a conference call. I did that, I told people. I felt so…adult!
I received a phone number and a code that would allow me into the meeting. Just before the appointed hour, I called and entered my code. A mechanized voice welcomed me and asked me to speak my name. I did that. I spoke my name with great diction and elocution. The mechanized voice welcomed me again and gave me a list of options. Pressing two for a list of people who were in attendance for the meeting seemed like a good option.
Upon pressing two, I heard the recordings of everyone’s “speak your name” moment. I heard my name in my own voice, then Sally’s, then our friend Don’s. Also present were three men from the software company who, according to their recordings, were Schm, Pierre*, and that noise you make when you clear your throat. We’ll call that last one Mr. Fleming. Why? Because I don’t know how to spell that sound, and calling him Mr. Phlegming would be way over the top.
After my first conference call, I have to say that I am not enamored with the concept.
Conference Calls Are Overrated
I found my first conference call frustrating and disappointing.
Because the visual cues are missing in these “meetings”, no one is quite sure when one person is finished with their point and the next person can have their say. I tend to speak quietly and deliberately. This isn’t a problem for me in a one on one call, nor is it a problem when I’m in a meeting and people can see that I’ve got more to say. In a conference call, a pause is an opening for people to start talking over me. Not good.
My friends point out to me that conference calls are nice because if someone makes you mad, you can hit the mute button, make fun of that person, and then un-mute. I’d contend that what conference calls lack is a mute button for the other participants. In a face to face meeting, I can mute people with my “be quiet before my stare sets your hair on fire” look. You can’t stare in a conference call, or mute the other participants.
I did like that I could text Sally and tell her that it sounded like Pierre was in his bathroom. I did not like that I was not able to see Don trying not to look at me when Schm said that the company had “a dedication to an elaboration of understanding”. I do not like that I’m not really sure if it was Schm or Mr. Fleming who spoke of the dedication to an elaboration of understanding. I couldn’t tell which of them was speaking.
Maybe conference calls work better when all the parties know one another. Of the three software guys – Schm, Mr. Fleming and Pierre, the only one I could identify when he was speaking was Pierre. Pierre sounded exactly like Pierre should sound. Schm and Fleming were pretty much interchangeable.
Thanks Everyone, Let’s Wrap This Meeting Up
Now I’ve had my first conference call experience. I expect to have another soon. In the interim, here are everyone’s assigned tasks:
Pierre, see if you can find your way out of the bathroom before the next meeting.
Schm, you find a way to explain what SQL is. Alternatively, you may move toward making decisions about SQL without my input.
Mr. Fleming, you develop a button that I will call the “Dude, shut up” button. I’ll work on the logo for the button.
All three of you should work toward becoming more elaborate in your understanding of me. Not interrupting me would be a great first step.
Thank you everyone, that was a productive session.
* Pierre is the only real name that appears in this post