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WHAT HAPPENS DURING A REAL CONFERENCE CALL

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“So it looks like it’s going to rain to—” 

“Actually I’m just going to put you on hold.”

It’s a Tuesday morning and it’s just the Senior Director and me from another company on a conference call. We’ve already exchanged the “Hi how are yous? I’m good thanks,” so now we’re sitting in awkward silence. 

Actually, I’m sitting in awkward silence because he just put me on hold and Samantha, the organizer of the call has temporarily disappeared.

I scroll through my Instagram feed and wait for others to trickle in. 

According to InterCall, the largest conference call company in the world, I’m not alone when it comes to scrolling through my social media account during a call meeting. 

In fact, 43% of the respondents from a survey did so as well, and others did…well other stuff.

After a few minutes of scrolling through pictures of perfect looking avocado and toast, the automatic voice lady reels me back in.

“James has now joined the call,”  she announces.

“Elaine has now joined the call.”

“Tony has now joined the call.”

Samantha finally takes the lead. We’ve exchanged plenty of emails over the past 6 months but have never met. Based on the sound of her voice (a bit nasally and high pitched), I picture her in her early 30s with perfectly straightened hair, manicured gel nails and wears pencil skirts with a leotard. 

You know the type. 

“I hope everyone is doing well. We’re still waiting on a few people but let’s beg —”

“Mark has now joined the call.”

“Lindsay has now joined the call.”

Silence. 

“Hi, Mark and Lindsay. We’re just about to begin. Maybe we can start with the upda —” 

“Robert has now joined the call”

Silence again.

Sorry everyone I’m late, I couldn’t find the right number to call in,” says Robert. 

Even more silence. 

“Okay, I think that’s everyone. Let’s begin with your updates, James,” says Samantha. 

James starts speaking and naturally I open a few different browsers on my computer, check my email and glance at my calendar – you know the drill.

I’m also not exactly sure why we have these monthly update calls since we already send Samantha our individual weekly updates. She then proceeds to email everyone a compilation of our updates and schedules these mandatory calls.

So now we’re pretty much updating our updates. 

As the call progresses…

Someone else is now speaking and my attention is starting to fade even more so. I gently press the mute button and my left hand is now loosely holding the phone while it balances over my shoulder. 

“I can’t wait for lunch, just one more hour and I can warm up my leftover Thai food!”

“Hey, I wonder if there are still chocolate truffles left in the kitchen.”

“I really should workout tonight. I just have to make sure I eat something befo—”

“Vanessa, can we get your input on this?” Samantha cuts through my thoughts. 

“Vanessa? Vanessaaa?”

I frantically try to press the unmute button and I have no idea what she is referring to. 

Something about the latest numbers on the spreadsheet?

My mind may have been elsewhere but at least I’m still in the office. Come to think of it, what else could everyone be hiding behind that mute button? A 2014 survey by the West Corporation uncovered some strange and wonderful admissions of where people had joined calls from.

  • A truck stop bathroom 
  • McDonald’s Playplace
  • The closet of a friend’s house during a party
  • The beach… the caller had to keep her tablet up so that her bikini didn’t show
  • Behind a church during a wedding rehearsal 
  • The racetrack 
  • Chasing a dog down the street because she got out of the house
  • Disney World fitting room while trying on clothes

Umm Disney World? 

Anyways, I go on for about a minute, a little unsure of the question, but confidence is key so I just push through. 

After I’m done, I pause, and then…quiet.

Why is no one speaking???

A pregnant pause later, Samantha thanks me for my input and asks everyone for their thoughts. 

No one speaks for about 10 seconds and then, of course, everyone jumps in at once.  

“Yes well, I have to agree, those strate—”

“Actually I think that there might be some issues—”

“It seems that the numbers—”

I stick through the rest of the call, wishing I could disappear. Actually, that same survey found that:  

  • 39% of the respondents have dropped off without announcing it 
  • 27% fell asleep
  • 5% said they’ve had a friend take over

Is there anything more satisfying than secretly leaving early? Hehe. 

Except sometimes the conference system announces your name when you hang up. I learned that lesson the hard way.

The next time you’re muddling through a Tuesday morning conference call, know that you’re not alone. Whether you’re sitting through awkward silences, off daydreaming, or waiting in line at Disney World, conference call trip-ups are common. 

With a little strategy, however, you can turn these calls into a useful part of your work, so check out our seven tips for productive conference calls

So which conference call faux-pas are you guilty of?

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