I Hate Conference Calls

You hate them? I hate them more.

The good news is you get to go outside…

but the bad news is you have to do a confernce call.

I’m in Vegas.  There are planes flying overhead, I can’t hear a freakin’ thing.  It doesn’t seem to matter.

The call is over, so this isn’t really live blogging anymore.  I feel guilty about that, because I like to actually do 10% of the crap I set out to do, which is about a thousand times better than the average conference call acomplishment rate.

I am constantly baffeled by the same things — how can people be late for calls?  What are we supposted to do while we wait?  Make a pizza?

Objectives for the Call

I think when you’re on a call you need to have a few objectives.  These goals, of course, are not things that you are trying  to get accomplished on the call itself (which would be nothing, nada, zip, etc.).  Rather, consider  a list of things you’re going to accomplish on other projects while the call is going on.

I think to be fair to yourself you need different levels of goals, say 3 levels.

  1. Easy-as-pie.  These items would be things you’re going to get done during the call even if you have to participate.  They could be things like clip your nails, clean your home office, watch re-runs of The Office, write in your blog, etc.
  2. Goals.  These are things you are expecting to get done, but have a certain risk, implicit in their execution, that you’ll get busted for not paying attention.  These goals could consist of things like writing a proposal for another project, home schooling the kids, playing a video game, shopping online for your anniversary, etc.
  3. Stretch Goals.  Now this is where things get interesting.  These are things that risk a total blow up by your client on your call, screaming “How much to I have to pay you to get you to pay attention?”.  Things in this category could be things like mowing the lawn, changing the oil in your car, getting your haircut (with shampoo), and the crown jewel of stretch goals:  doing two conference calls at once.  The risks here, clearly, are great, but so are the rewards.  You have the potential of actually accomplishing something during the call, which would be almost like you weren’t on a call at all.

Gender Gap…

I am the only male on this conference call.  It doesn’t help.  I would suggest that the misery of conference calls are not gender-specific.

This is a dreaded combination — some people are on their landlines, some people are on their cells and some are sitting in what sounds like a very very large conference room with a speaker-phone, built, I imagine, in the late 70s.

The only problem is that when someone tells a joke in the conference room they explode in laughter which is sounds like a horrific scream in my ear.  Like someone is killing a cat.  Quickly, but killing nonetheless.

I love when the English say “reckon”.

We are 15 minutes into the call.  This is the saddest part.  I think we all go into calls saying “ok, here goes an hour which I’ll never get back,” and you sort of cross that hour out of your productive life, a time in which you’ll get nothing (but some blogging) done.  Then, maybe 3 minutes into the call, things are moving quickly and you think “man, maybe I can get out of this in 10 minutes.”  But NOOOOOOO!  It’s not going to happen.  After 10 minutes you realize that there is no way thing little gem isn’t going to go long.

OK, now this is cooler than usual…

I am on a conference call with Felix Grucci.  I am star struck.  Wait, how can people at the center of spectacle entertainment do a conference call?  Heart breaking.

Could it be? It’s my first call from a Starbucks!

photo-116.jpgI can’t believe it, but even in my nomadic office life, I’m now doing a call from a Starbucks. I would like to note a few things…

  • It is so freakin loud in here I can’t hear a thing. I wonder if that really matters?
  • I have a noise canceling headset so people can hear me, so I feel I’m at a major disadvantage.

I think this is one of those calls when they are looking for a victim. I feel, because we’re all on a call, we are indeed victims, all of us. We all suffer. We all bleed. Search for victim is over.

Multitasking Take 2

Fish in a barrel

I’ve got a new pet peeve…

“Hey, we’re setting up a call for Tuesday at 2pm, are you available?”

“No, alas, I’m not.”

“When are you available?”

OK, I realize that it’s not a perfect world, and human communication is inherently flawed, but how can anyone answer that question?  “Oh, right, here’s my complete schedule in perpetuity!  I hope, looking forward, that you can find a time for us to have a conference call!!! That’s a dream come true!”

Or even worse, if you say “I’m never available,” then you’ve played your hand, you’ve revealed that you hate conference calls, or even worse, maybe you were too busy to take on the project in the first place.  Then you really look like a winner.

But maybe it’s all in my head.  If you said “I’m sorry, I can never do a call,” would you really get fired?  Would they say “Man, we love that nitwit, but we can’t use him anymore, he can never make the conference calls.  And he makes fun of us on his blog.  What a freakin’ jerk.”

Welcome to Phoenix! Your call begins at 9am.

 photo-120.jpgThis is a good one.  People are screaming at each other.  I love this stuff.

Aborted Call…

Multitasking and failure

I tried multitasking. I failed. I had to hang up. I wonder if anyone has noticed?

OnsiteOK, this one kind of caught me by surprise. A colleague, rather than a client, suggested that we have a call. FFS. This is killing me. They are talking about moving a show from one venue to another. They aren’t sure they are going to do it, they are just talking about it. Then, they want to talk about budget — but they don’t have any drawings.

4:09 PM — the call is starting with a “5 or 10 minute discussion” about the possible venue change.

Sometimes I think people from the west coast speak a different language.

It’s only me and the technical director on the phone, everyone else is at the production company’s office.

4:15 PM — I’m dying here. It’s only been 7 minutes. I feel my life passing before me. They are talking about where they are going to store the lifts. Here we go, now they’re talking about dumpster pickup. I gotta start billing hourly for this. Like $1,000 an hour.

4:18 PM — ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

4:19 PM — I spoke.

4:22 PM — So someone had to run to their cell phone, so we all had to hang up and they’re going to call us back. This conference call is held together by THREE WAY CALLING. How pathetic is that?

4:27 PM — We’re back on.

4:36 PM — I just spoke, a lot.  I liked talking.  The sound of my own voice was addictive, and made me want to talk more.  I kept talking.  I said the same thing two different ways.  I didn’t wait for the comments of others.  Help.  I have become the prototypical conference call participant.  I hate myself.  Maybe I should talk about that on the conference call.  That would make everyone comfortable.

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