5 reasons why we hate conference calls

Businesspeople Sharing Conference Phone

Conference calls are the bane of my life and if you are reading this I’m guessing maybe yours too? They have become so clichéd that spoof versions are being produced by resourceful comedians – check out the genius A Conference Call in Real Life which has almost 14 million hits on YouTube.

5 reasons why we hate conference callsThe much maligned conference call has become a necessary evil in the modern workplace, particularly if you work in a global organisation. So maybe it is our familiarity with concalls that has created so much contempt? Or is it simply because they are becoming increasingly irritating because the same annoyances occur in almost every call? And that’s why I decided to compile a little listicle of my very own top 5 concall aversions…

1. The ‘Mute’ Point – which is not a moot point (see what I did there?) in my humble opinion… it doesn’t seem to matter how many times people have been on a conference call, or how many times they are reminded at the start of them there is always at least one person who ignores the etiquette of muting their phone whilst other people are speaking. Then just to compound the problem, they are also the ones who decide it’s the perfect opportunity to chow down on some corn chips. And there is nothing we like better than listening intently to someone shovel down their Dorito’s and dips. Said no-one. Ever.

5 reasons why we hate conference calls2. The ‘Baskervilles’ Syndrome – linked to the above, we have all witnessed the errant pooch who never so much as whimpers when someone is breaking into your home but at the merest sign of you lifting a handset to your ear turns into the Hound of the Baskervilles. Lumped into the same category go all children who haven’t uttered a syllable all day but suddenly decide that the commencement of your early evening Webex is the perfect time to start a heated debate with their sibling about the merits (or not) of Justin Bieber’s new single…

5 reasons why we hate conference calls3. The Twilight Zone – particularly prevalent if you work in Asia and have to attend Global concalls. To accommodate all the regions, the only time that works for the guys in APAC is at night. Just what you need after a long hard day at the coal face. At least the team in the US are freshly rested and in EMEA it’s right in the middle of their working day. Throw in a dash of jetlag after a long trip and I am embarrassed to admit that I once fell asleep during one such call (don’t judge, according to research 27% of us have done the same). Now, that wouldn’t have been quite so bad if I had remembered rule number 1 and muted my phone (I didn’t say I was innocent of these concall crimes did I ?). Waking up at the desk in my hotel room still clutching my phone in my sweaty palm was pretty bad in itself. Much worse though was the gleeful email from one of my colleagues informing me that they had all heard the dull thud of my head hitting the table followed a brief groan and an hour or so of (not so) gentle snoring…

5 reasons why we hate conference calls4. The Feedback Phenomenon – now, as a self confessed hard rock aficionado I am rather partial to listening to the likes of Eddie Van Halen making his guitar wail by pointing his pickups in the direction of a stack of smoking Marshalls. On a conference call though? Not so much. And as good as your latest Panasonic DECT office phone may be, put it too close to the concall speaker it still won’t quite encapsulate the same spine-tingling feedback feel as EvH belting out Eruption.

5 reasons why we hate conference calls5. The Time Thief – I have a (admittedly, less than robust) theory that conference calls create some kind of wormhole in the space time continuum which basically means that no matter how long a call is scheduled for, it will inevitably take at least twice as long. Your Outlook says it will last for 30 minutes? Never. In concall parlance that really means at least an hour. Why? Because inevitably there will be at least one person who joins late. Then they feel compelled to apologise and proceed (unprompted) to tell everyone why. Which eats up more time. And if they joined less than 5 minutes late the speaker will most likely offer to begin again. And then after a few minutes someone else will join late. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Factor in all the other delays (people talking over each other, participants dropping out of the call, dialling back in, apologising and explaining that they are half way up a palm tree to get a signal etc.etc.) then it’s no wonder that they never run to the allotted time.

5 reasons why we hate conference callsSo there you have it, my top 5 pet peeves with concalls. Do any of them resonate with you? And more importantly, have you got any more that you would like to add to the collection?

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Steve Blakeman is Managing Director - Global Accounts for OMD based in London / Paris. He was named by LinkedIn as a Top 10 Writer for Marketing & Social for 2015 (Top Voices) and also 'Agency Publisher of the Year' for EMEA. Please follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter