Business Management

Rant: The Agony of Conference Calls

The conference call; it’s not something you look forward to is it? Different versions of calendar invitations, different time zones and people with ‘different’ levels of intelligence make it a minor miracle that people actually congregate in the first place, although there are always laggards who join late and others that somehow just don’t make it. And then there are the issues of line quality, figuring how who’s talking, talking over each other, not knowing why you’re there and, oh, so much more...


DISEMBODIED VOICE: If you are the moderator, select 1, if you are a participant, select 2. Beep! You are the first person to join the conference. At the tone, say your name and press the hash key.

DAVID: Hullo is there anybody there? Has anybody else joined the call? Sorry I’m a bit late but I was having problems dialling in…

Three minutes pass.

DISEMBODIED VOICE: Jenny has joined the call.

JENNY: Hello…

DAVID: Hello, Jenny.

JENNY: Who is that?

DAVID: David.

JENNY: Oh hello, David. Have we met before?

DAVID: Yes, at the all-up meeting. I’m the one who spilt the coffee. I had a broken nose and my arm in a sling from a ski-ing accident.

JENNY (uncertainly): Oh yes, I think I remember you.

DAVID: I think we’re waiting on a few others. I’ll go on silent until then.


A minute passes

DISEMBODIED VOICE : ROBERT has joined the call.

ROBERT: Hello.

JENNY: Hello.

ROBERT: Who’s that?

JENNY: Jenny.

ROBERT: Hi Jenny


ROBERT: Sorry. I was late. The main dial-in wasn’t working and then I had to find my call credentials. Is there anybody else on the line?

JENNY: That’s OK. David is on.

ROBERT: Hello David. Did you guys get the PowerPoint?

JENNY: Er, which one was that?

ROBERT: I sent it out with the calendar invite but maybe I didn’t attach it to the late invites… have you got it, David? David? Are you on the line?

DAVID: Sorry, I was on mute. Yes, I’ve got it. I was working on it last night and I think we’ve got a great plan coming together and the graphics are nice. Jenny, I can mail it to you now.

ROBERT: Don’t worry. I worked on it last night so it’s very different anyway.


ROBERT: Now where have Frank, Lucy and the Davids got to?

DAVID: Er, I’m David.

ROBERT: Sorry, I mean the other Davids. David Roberts and David Robertson. Let me drop them an IM.

Silence ensues once more.

ROBERT: Oh we’ll just have to go ahead without them. I’m getting two ‘out-of-offices’ and one ‘Busy’. As you haven’t seen the deck, I’ll share screens with you. Have you got SplitMyScreen on your computers? No, I can IM the link to you. It only takes a second to set up... You should have it now.

JENNY: Oh it’s asking me to load Java first… Now it’s saying I have to disable the pop-up blocker. Where do I do that?

A dog barks, loudly

ROBERT: Down boy, down! Sorry, calling in from home and the dog doesn’t like me using the phone.

DAVID: I’m dialling in on a mobile. Will ShareMyScreen work on that?

ROBERT: I’ll tell you what. I’ll mail it to you instead.


ROBERT: Sorry, what’s that?

DAVID and JENNY: Oh, after you Jenny/You go first.

A dog barks repeatedly and a baby cries

DAVID and JENNY: (Muffled sound)

ROBERT: Have you got the deck now?

JENNY: Oh it’s telling me that the file’s too big.

ROBERT: Have you got BigFileSorted on your computer?


ROBERT: Look, let’s cut to the chase. What I really need is feedback. What did you think of the input from Frankfurt. Personally, I…

ROBERT’s voice sounds like a Dalek

DAVID: You’re breaking up…

ROBERT: Is that better? It’s the WiFi that I’m using for…

ROBERT’s voice sounds like an assault rifle. There are intermittent popping noises.

JENNY: I’m not hearing you very clearly but what was that about Frankfurt?

ROBERT: Is that better? Can you hear me?

JENNY and DAVID (together): Yes, that’s much better/It’s a bit better.

ROBERT: I’m talking about the revisions Hans-Peter put in the shared document.

JENNY: I don’t really know anybody in Frankfurt. I’m in the Slough sales team…

ROBERT: Ah my fault, I think I’ve invited the wrong Jenny. Is that Jenny Falconer?

JENNY: No, Jenny Wren.

ROBERT: I think the autocomplete just popped your name in and I accepted it. I’m sorry, you’d better drop off.

JENNY: OK, no problem.

DAVID: Bye, Jenny.

DISEMBODIED VOICE : Jenny has left the call.

DAVID: Robert, I don’t think I’ve seen that document that Hans-Peter edited.

ROBERT: But it’s on the share…

DISEMBODIED VOICE:  Robert has left the call … Robert has joined the call.

ROBERT: Sorry, I dropped off for a second. Do you have the share, you said…

DAVID: I don’t have permissions for that on my phone. I can get out my laptop and see if I can get it on there.

ROBERT: Look, let’s leave it. I have another meeting on the hour and it’s only a few minutes away.

DAVID: OK then.

ROBERT: I’ll send you a calendar invite and we can try again tomorrow.

DAVID: OK, Robert. Have a great weekend.

ROBERT: (muffled then a high-pitched squeal)

DAVID:  OK then.

DISEMBODIED VOICE:  Jenny has left the call. Lucy has joined the call.

LUCY: Hello, am I too early? Is there anybody else here?

DISEMBODIED VOICE:  David has joined the call

DAVID ROBERTS: Hello, this is Dave. Is this the call Robert organised? I’m a bit confused…

LUCY: Oh hi, Dave. It’s Lucy. Do you know what this call is about? I had two times for it and I only just noticed now when it popped up that it’s not about the show…

DAVID ROBERTS: I’m really not sure myself. Let’s give it a minute and see if anybody joins. I have another concall in half an hour so it would be perfect for me if this one… (muffled)

LUCY: Agreed. I’m going to go mute and see what happens. Oh, by the way, are we waiting for Godot from the French office?

DAVID ROBERTS: Yes, I rather think we are…













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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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