Another great post from @MeetingBoy… can’t wait to see your suggestions.
Even when conference calls aren’t a total waste of time, there’s still two problems that always come up. I have some ideas for how to solve them, but I’d like your suggestions for how to solve them without resorting to violence.
(Trust me, I’ve got that option covered.)
1. Who’s turn is it?
Because people can’t see each other on conference calls, and because many phones will mute people until the other person stops talking, it becomes very difficult to get someone to yield the floor. Shout all you want, they keep talking. Of course that one time you wheel out a string of expletives is the one time your boss actually comes to a point.
Or then there’s that awkward dance where two people try to talk at the same time, realize their mistake and stop, then when the other person stops too, they both start talking again. Sound familiar?
There’s no Roberts Rules of Order for conference calls. Which is crazy because every society has found ways to keep people from interrupting. Hell, even in The Lord of the Flies they had the conch.
In an attempt to stop this sort of thing on calls I’ve run, I’ve texted people to “SHUT THE HELL UP! We got it.” This helps less than I’d hoped– poor cell coverage and the unlikelihood someone will check their phone when they are talking have rendered it moot.
And of course no one has yet to invent a phone that allows the moderator to mute other people. [NOTE TO INVENTORS: If you’re working on this, please also add a second button that allows the moderator to apply electrical shocks to other people on the call. I’d pay a million dollars for a phone that does that– it would be like playing God!]
How can this be solved? join.me has suggested that if you use their product, then the moderator could tell people whose turn it is via chat. I haven’t seen this attempted, but it might work. What else?
2. Who’s talking?
On every conference call where people don’t know each other well, at some point people get confused about who’s talking. Who just requested that– Ted or Barry? Which one is Kristi and which one is Lisa– 3 minutes after they’ve introduced themselves I’ve lost it. And once you’ve lost track of which voice is which, then forget about it– you’re lost. And then there’s nothing you can do, unless you want to always be asking “Who was that? Can you guys identify yourselves each time, because I happen to be an idiot.”
Maybe the guys who made the Shazam app are working on an app that will identify people’s voices on conference calls. Otherwise, on the next call, I’m going to demand that:
1. Kristi speak in a southern accent
2. Lisa speak Valley Girl
3. Debbie speak like a Russian prostitute in a cheesy action movie
4. Heather do her Snooki impression
5. Stacey talk just like the sheriff in Fargo
6. Melody use baby talk
7. Maggie pretend she’s a late night FM deejay
8. Lewis use a duck voice
9. Don use a Barry White voice
10. Steve use falsetto
11. Robert pretend he’s auditioning for another adaptation of Pride and Prejudice
12. and of course I get to speak normally
Sure, it might sound extreme, but it will work. Unless, of course, people break character -then we’re back at square one.
Another suggestion I got on my brainstorm was that rather than have to identify yourself each time, people will each be assigned a funny word they must use to start each sentence. For example, Mike will always say “crikey!”, Robert will start each sentence with “back in my day”, Steve will start by laughing at his own joke (no change required), and Don will start everything “well, I may be an ass, but…” Of course Lewis will start each sentence by saying “Can you repeat that?” because he never listens when other people talk already. And we’ll still know Jason because he rambles and rarely makes a point. And Kevin will start everything with “My call dropped. What did I miss?” just like always.
One final thought– maybe this is the one time that the bad connections are actually useful:
1. Monica is on the choppy cellphone
2. Ana sounds like Darth Vader because she won’t hold the phone away from her face
3. Corinna is stuck on VOIP and sounds like she’s in an echo chamber
4. Aishwarya is on an annoying delay from India
Of course for this to work everyone has to have a different crappy connection.
What other suggestions do you have for solving these problems? And let’s try to answer other than suggesting video conferencing, which obviously lets people use visual cues– as long as those cues aren’t lost to the choppy video relay. How do you solve these problems on regular conference calls?