One of the many things I’m grateful for in most of my work is that I am rarely on a conference call. It’s also one of those things that while I understand their necessity at times, in hearing most people talk about them, they generally seem to be some of the least productive uses of people’s time, ever.
I recall one conference call I was a part of. It was five other people when I was doing some contracted, iPhone development. The client was very nice, and we set up a conference call to get things started and filter ideas between the other people in the company who needed to be involved. I wasn’t the one leading the call, which was my first mistake, and there wasn’t a set agenda, which was another mistake. The call quickly shifted from some thoughts about the design of the app, to other company business that I didn’t really need to be on the call for, back to some iPhone stuff, back to company stuff, and about an hour later I realized that conference calls are generally a waste of time.
I say this not only with my own experience on, well, that one conference call, but in listening to stories of, and being in an office of various people on, the conference call. Generally there is the “I have a conference call at 2PM,” followed by joining the conference call, followed by waiting for everyone to join the conference call, followed by deciding if the conference call can proceed without one of the people, I’ll call him Mike, who was also supposed to be on the conference call but didn’t seem to call in.
As the conference call continues, the leader of the call will talk about what is supposed to be discussed, and in general everyone on the call will now put their phone on speakerphone and mute so they can go about trying to do other things while listening if something they are involved in finally comes up. Out of the corner of their not paying attention they will hear something they are supposed to chime in on, take said phone off mute, ask “I didn’t catch what you just said. Can you repeat the question?”, the question gets repeated, said person answers their question with another question for a different person, that person chimes in “I didn’t catch what you just said. Can you repeat the question?”, to which that person is now doubly-perplexed because they weren’t paying attention to any of the conversation prior to the question directed at them because they were elbow deep in reviews of material, thickness, and the sweat absorption of warm socks they are thinking of buying on Amazon, liking a dog video on Facebook, helping Mario rescue Princess Toadstool, or simply doodling, as one person near and dear to me is known to do.
An answer is finally given, only now there is a signal “Mike has joined the call.”
“Hi Mike!”, “Hello Mike.”, “Glad you could make it, Mike!”, and Mike’s “Sorry I’m late. Can someone fill me in on what I missed?” The sound of muteness occurs as a synopsis is given to Mike which is somehow actually longer than the call has been so far, Mike asks a question, and a “Can you repeat the question?” reverberates on everyone’s speakerphones.
This cycle repeats until a conversation that should probably have taken ten minutes has now surpassed an hour and a half, but at least socks were purchased, Princess Toadstool is saved, and some awesome doodles were created.
We’re not done, though, as the follow-up conference call is set for one week to give updates no one will have because they weren’t really paying attention to what they were supposed to do on this conference call.
At least there will be more doodles, thankfully not by me.
That’s it for this one! L8R!!