The Dreaded Conference Call

By Chuck Sink | January 5, 2016

Remote electronic conferencing has not advanced as far as technology could potentially take it. While high end telepresence systems are impressive, they’re outside the feasible cost range for small businesses – still!

Most of us are stuck with browser based online meeting tools with often cumbersome and buggy conference call hookups by phone. Screen sharing is good, but only when the Internet speed is keeping up in all locations and synced on the various screens of all meeting attendees. In a recent online meeting, a vendor and I had screens several seconds to a minute apart. We basically had to punt and just have her walk me through several tasks “blind.” The meeting took more time and accomplished less as a result.

Generally speaking, the larger the group, the less productive the conference call. If there are only 3 or 4 people on a call, then everyone can keep track of who’s who and remain engaged in the disussion. Go beyond 6 or 7 attendees and it starts to become a confusing if not embarrassing free for all.

Exhibit A is a dramatization of a typical corporate meeting via conference call. I love this video because I have exprienced every single one of these conference call fails in my career. Roll it…


Okay, so what’s the solution to having more productive remote meetings and conference calls? I would start with scheduling fewer of them and consider intelligent alternatives. A group email by a skilled manager can often accomplish more than an hour of production time spent by a dozen semi-engaged professionals.

Could a project management system accomphish more by allowing each team member focused and transparent collaboration in the cloud? In my experience, yes. I was on a big project team with Xfinity as the client. All of us on the project (about 2 dozen people); agency, contractors and client shared workflows and documentation transparenly, seamlessly and collaboratively – with timely cooperation by every member. We reserved conference calls only for high level discussion with a few key players. The rest was all done on Basecamp. Every communcation and bit of production could be tracked, accounted for and acted on!

Before you schedule your next conference call, consider the technology glitches and communication limitations. Most importantly, consider the experience of the attendees. Will it be meaningful, engaging and productive, or will everyone be relieved when it’s over?

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