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.
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.
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.