Tag Archives: conference calls

When Conference Calls Go Wrong…

21 Jun

If that headline means nothing to you, then you clearly don’t work in business. Or are still in high school. Because otherwise, you know: conference calls are recipes for disaster.

I mean, even a routine weekend call with my parents holding separate extensions in their home usually has at least one snag. (Namely, my dad deciding to take that moment to untwist the cord, which makes a crackling noise, prompting my mom to yell, “John! What the hell are you doing?”)

So take many people, put them on a shared line for 60 minutes and see what happens.

First, there is always THAT PERSON. You know the one. The person who – no matter how long s/he has worked at the company and how many calls s/he has been on – forgets the cardinal rule: Never Put The Call On Hold.

When pushing the HOLD button, that person sends a complex message, kind of like:

  • I’m the most important person on this call, so just cool your heels until I’m back.
  • I don’t know how technology works.
  • Sorry, I have REAL work to do, suckers.

Personally, I believe companies should have some forum where public shaming can occur in the wake of an incident like this. I mean, I’m not advocating disciplining or firing someone. No. But if peers could trash talk him/her for 24 hours without consequence, where a photo could be uploaded for a Dumbass Caption Contest?  Probably pretty effective at putting an end to that behavior.

I will go on record and admit: I have been that person. And I was publicly shamed. And it didn’t happen again. Which might be why I support that method.

You know who else there is? The person who doesn’t know how to mute his line. And who also happens to be related to Darth Vader. Or big on crank calls. Because without fail, there is always one person who breathes into the phone like it’s an oxygen mask, who makes people believe the call will be interrupted at any moment with the words, “Luke. I am your father.”

And if you’ve never heard that guy on your call? Sorry: it’s YOU. Find your mute button.

And yet, I can’t be too hard on him. Because I’ve also had issues with my mute button. I once ran to the bathroom when I thought I was both a) muted and b) on hold. Turns out neither was true. Fortunately, I’m good with improv so I think I successfully played it off as if I were washing dishes. Or owned a horse.

If you’re still not understanding what I’m talking about, watch this as a primer:

So today I was on a series of calls. On one call, to help people understand how excited her team was about something, my friend used a phrase like, “They lept up and squeaked like dolphins.” I appreciated the unique simile – it’s not every day I have to step back and think about what something might’ve looked like. So much better than a meaningless corporate cliché.

About that time in the background you could hear another person exiting their car, given away by the tell-tale beep signaling keys in the ignition. “What is that noise?” one of my colleagues asked.

“Sonar,” I told her. “Someone is approaching the office.”

On another call – one I was leading – I got all wound up and started pulling vocabulary words like I was playing Scrabble. Only in editing the recording did I realize I’d used the word “penultimate” incorrectly. Turns out, it doesn’t mean “the most amazingly awesome thing ever.” In Other Disappointing News, it means: next to last.

As in, that is the penultimate time I ever use that word.

And now for the part I really wish I were making up…

I was on another call today – a smaller call, with only about ten people in attendance. We were working out all aspects of a large program that is set to launch on Monday, so it was a pretty tense call. We were mapping out timelines, confirming action plans, working out worst-case scenarios.

As we wrapped up the call, a lot hung in the balance. Based on how each person leaving that call performed their piece – and any technical bugs they encountered – we would reach a “go” or “no-go” decision the next day. After recapping commitments, I thanked everyone and went to close the call by saying, “I’ll be waiting for your updates with bated breath.”

Except I got a little tongue-tied.

And instead, I closed the call by telling everyone, “I’ll be waiting for your updates with bated breasts.”

Speaking of mental images…

I can’t make this up people. There is actually a website that sells boob hooks.

Jim Vance is my public speaking secret weapon.

8 Sep

I recently switched jobs at my company so I’m now developing and delivering training for our staff. As the daughter of two teachers and a microphone addict, it’s the perfect job for me.

Today was my first opportunity to deliver new training that I designed, in the form of an hour-long interactive call that was part lecture, part Q&A, part interview and part crazy. I had an audience of about 50 people and ample question prompts, so I was expecting it to be ROCKIN’.

Unfortunately, I’d forgotten about the odd dynamic that happens on group calls. Normally talkative people go quiet. Everyone chooses to mute their line. It’s like pulling teeth to get a simple, “No,” when you ask if anyone has a question.

More than once, I found myself calling, “Beuller? Beuller?”

I could understand the silence if I were a robot-like presenter. But I’d like to think I have contagious energy  a pulse and am hilarious a WEE BIT silly. And yet: crickets.

I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve facilitated large group calls for more than ten years and it’s always been the same.

When I was younger, I had an awful go-to joke. For whatever reason, whenever I would “share my screen” and allow people to view my computer, I’d feel compelled to make this crack:

Sure hope I remembered to close the porn!

Let’s just agree, while that can be funny, it’s probably not appropriate for work. Ever. And it only sounds creepier when it’s met with silence. As if people think I might surf porn. At work.

Maybe this is why mustaches are gross.

The only thing worse than that I can think of is the word porno. It’s about ten times worse than the word porn, for the same reason that mustaches are somehow inexplicably worse than goatees.

The good thing to come from today’s call was a reminder of why I haven’t yet worked up the nerve to hit Open Mike Night at the local comedy club. While some of my best dreams involve bringing down the house at the Improv, in reality, I think it might go a bit more like a conference call.

This made me realize: it’s always good to have some kind of secret weapon in your pocket. Something that people won’t be able to turn away from, that will weaken them and bring them to tears (preferably from laughter). Even if it has absolutely nothing to do with your presentation.

Once I had this revelation, I knew what my weapon would be: This clip of Jim Vance.

Please take a minute and watch it.

Just be sure you hit *6 first to mute your line.

Once you’ve closed out of any pornos you’re viewing, that is.
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