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This Hilarious Video Shows Why Conference Calls Are So, So Terrible

Conference calls are great if you want to surreptitiously catch up on email, less great if you're trying to make a decision. Why?

Conference calls can be excruciating. If you're the first one in, you have to make the most awkward of small talk—yes, it sure is cold—and if you're last then you're a jerk. They're like meetings, only worse.

This recent (and massively popular) video from comedians Tripp and Tyler perfectly encapsulates our pain.

State your name.

But why are conference calls so full of um, uhs, and interruptions and so free of productive conversation?

The first thing we should think about is the way that technology shapes our behavior. When people communicate face to face, there's a whole bunch of information being transferred that isn't even verbal. The way you hold your body shapes your confidence, your eye contact indicates whether you look careless, creepy, or cool.

But when we're not in person, we lose all those bonus parts of communication: text messages get weird because we don't know how to deal with the pauses of "fingered speech," emails get offensive when brevity is taken as thoughtlessness, and we're all relearning how to actually talk on the phone calls.

Making the conference calls less cringe-worthy

Sitting on the line listening to your colleagues platitudes while you play Words With Friends is a terrible way to spend everybody's time. But there is hope, so long as we clean up our conference call hygiene.

1. Do the homework. Make sure everyone's read the materials beforehand.

2. Email an agenda beforehand. Like oDesk blogger Erica Benton says, they help everyone mentally prepare.

3. Keep everybody's info in one place. If you need to reach someone via gchat or landline, make sure you've got it collected beforehand, says business coach Dave Navarro.

Readers: How do you deal with conference calls? Tell us in the comments. We'll be on mute til then.

Hat tip: Seth's Blog

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  • Ben Flor

    As someone who takes conference calls from my cell phone, I found the standard mute button incapable of assuring only intentional communication. Therefore, I developed an Android app that defaults the phone to mute during calls. It features a patent pending 'hold-to-talk' button. It's free and has no advertising. Download Muted today and help spread the word!

  • Linda Luke

    Great video, as it is so true. The best calls I've experienced have leadership carefully outline rules of engagement. More of a classroom style works best, and it's very effective.

    1. Conference leader requests all to mute on their end, with double mute option- before the meeting.
    2. All lines are muted at the start of the meeting.
    3. Participants must request interjection via "raise hand", or a comment time is opened with permissions - so critical decision-makers have input time.
    4. Webinar platforms are used for most effective interactions and record of attendance. Attendees can be called on at random.
  • I've been on that call SO many times. I'm sad that technology hasn't given us anything better than the conference call. Especially with so many people telecommuting. Video conferencing tech feels so far away. Until then, any tips are helpful. PS- The barking dog and wind tunnel made me laugh out loud.