How to multitask during a conference call

  1. Hope they say your name before they ask you a question. If they don’t, be completely honest and say “Sorry. I wasn’t paying attention.”
  2. Set your audible “keyword” filter. Me, whenever the words: “web” “blog” “online” and “interactive” come across, I start paying attention.
  3. Don’t watch funny video clips or anything with an audio track.
  4. Use a headset so you don’t nuke your neck.
  5. Don’t jump into the conversation unless you really need to. You usually will be restating a point that you weren’t listening to. Answer questions only.
  6. Use instant messaging to other participants to get caught up if you lose the thread.
  7. Hit mute if you need to visit the bathroom.
  8. Have no dogs in the room with you. They will always bark when you go off of mute.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

0 thoughts on “How to multitask during a conference call”

  1. Also avoid what my coworkers and I call a “Ken Banks” – pretend the mic is on at all times…

    Ken is legendary for having made the comment during a company wide telecon “I don’t know why they’re wasting my time in this damned meeting. I’ve got better things to be doing.” He forgot to mute. The CEO was not amused, but luckily, he said what we all thought, and she was gone shortly thereafter. Ken, luckily for us, is still with us 3 years later.

    Lesson: pretend the mic is a loaded gun pointed at the head of your career – it is always loaded!

  2. A humourous, and bitingly true view of corp America.

    On a related thread, I’ve heard there is a new “Laptops closed” policy in meetings, though I’ve not seen it enforced where I work. (obviously remote persons excluded) While instant messaging can offer the ability to get needed real time information for participants in meetings, along with use of the web, or connectivity to teamrooms and databases, do you think the availability of this technology has become more of a distraction and hindrance, than a boon to meeting effeciency and productivity? If you were to compare the tone and productivity of a meeting from the late 80’s to one now, do you think the participants are more or less focused? Are we now more or less prepared and well briefed on the matters we are discussing and making decision for? Does technology such as instant messaging, which enables silent collaberation or back chanel plotting amongst partcipants improve or detract from the ethics and integrity of the proceedings? I cast no judgement in my comments, as I have used and mis-used these technologies for my own personal agenda and survival, argueably not as well as I need to.

  3. Good points. While we are supposed to be honoring a laptop closed policy in meetings, enforcement is lax. I’ve heard of a check-it-at-the-door policy in some companies for crackberries, treos, laptops but it seems extreme.

    Instant messaging is vital in meetings with third-parties, particularly during negotiations, but among colleagues it is a backchannel pain in the neck.

  4. I think 70% of meetings are a waste of time. More and more I see myself pushed into meetings set up by “meeting lovers” where the same two or three things are said over and over again, as if by repetition they: A. Became true or B. Will happen. I become increasingly frustrated about meetings that are scheduled weekly over 4 mmonths and I have to listen the same things over and over agian.

    On the other hand there are a couple of meetings that are worth attending: whenever decisions are taken or when ideas are really discussed (something very rare). “Informative” meetings are somewhat useful, every now and then and if I know nothing about the subject.

    I do believe most things can be solved with Instant Messaging, Emails and short calls.

    Meetings are overated.

    As for Multitasking I only do so when meetings belong to the useless 70%, when I’m required to participate or I’m really interested in the subject (and believe something might actually happen) I only use the ThinkPad to take notes (I haven’t used pen and paper for far too long), watch presentations or whatever material I think might be relevant.

  5. To pass the time on marathon calls, we used to play ‘buzzword bingo’. Every company has it’s own language/buzzwords, so we’d play to pass the time. The’mute button’ point above is well taken. In otherwords, don’t giggle when you get bingo.

  6. Soon enough, everyone’s going to be stuck on video conferencing…where everyone can be seen, remote or not! Unless you’re taking a call from a place where you have no connectivity, or no laptop…for example, a bar.

  7. My good friend Hemant, one of the most efficient project managers I know, has been known to implement “put it in the box at the door” policy if he’s got crackberry addicted execs in his meetings. He’s had many comments from other team members about how meeting productivity soared once the offending devices were removed and the execs were made to focus on the matter at hand.

    Video conferencing…I use Webex alot – several hours a week, and had forgotten I had a webcam attached to my machine. In one meeting, I was reminded that i had the webcam on. Which means it had been on for every meeting for the past couple months, and I’d been unaware. I guess no one clicked the “video” tab…

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