How To Ruin Conference Calls

03/20/2015 09:44 am ET | Updated May 20, 2015
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Conference calls, web meetings and screen shares. We all love them. We all use them. We also all know that at least 20 percent of all conference calls and virtual meetings are a total waste of time and money. All because the following characters below ruin them:

The Announcer.The call host who sets the tone for the event and gets the call going before the main event arrives. They ramble pleasantries and ask "who just joined?" Millions of times... all they really should do is this.

The Main Event. The person that either requested the call or the highest ranking team member on it. Unfortunately everyone is on time for the call except them. They are also usually the last one added to the call on purpose.

The Small Talk Specialist. The person that is the first person on the call and life of the party before The Main Event arrives. They warm up the crowd by finding out everyone's geographic location and provides the all-important weather update from wherever they are at. Depending on time we may also get a panel discussion about respective sports teams going as well. These are the most vital 12 minutes of the call. Particularly because the Internet, social media, radio, newspapers and 24 hour weather channels don't disclose weather and sports news in other cities for you.

The GoToMeeting/WebEx/TeamViewer/Skype/Join.Me Expert. This tech wizard's only real value to the call is to make sure everyone gets logged in. While the Small Talk Specialist gives traffic updates the web meeting hero is either experiencing email diarrhea with the tons of 'resend me the meeting details' notes flooding their toilet-bowl of an inbox... or they are inflicting email diarrhea like bad curry and frantically sending out the details to everyone on the call. Not to be outdone they also light up the phones troubleshooting VPs on how to access the web meeting on their tablet from the beach. Once everyone is in they go on mute and head back over to creeping walls on Facebook. These are a wild four minutes that are over before they start. Kind of like the Chevy Chase Show.

The Screen Jacker. The person who midway through the call goes rogue and requests the host for controls to present their perspective that they prepared in advance. Little do the rest of the call attendees know that this diabolical middle management mercenary premeditated the assault with the intern coordinating the meeting over lunch two days earlier. Who knew a free taco salad could cause so much damage?

The Screen Clipper. This little rat pays no attention to what's being presented and squarely focuses all attention away from the PowerPoint slide or web browser. They are interested in desktop backgrounds, browser favorites and other opened tabs. Of course there is just too much information to consume in a short time so they just take a screen grab and save for night time reviewing later on. After all...these people were hired for their attention to detail.

The Journalist. The guy who treats every call like he's at a press conference. Before he (yes, let's be sexist... this is always a guy) makes a comment he says "hey guys Mike here" and then launches into a 182-word question. Followed by multiple follow up questions. Let's not be fooled. The journalist doesn't really do any actual work. They just scrutinize the work being done or discuss the events while they are happening. They sound important, but really aren't.

The Bluetoother. This is really the most loved person on the call. They're driving with the top down in their car and, being astutely concerned for safety and strong advocates against texting and driving, have our call on Bluetooth. Or, they left the office early on a family road trip and are taking this last call from the road. The aptly yelled toddler screams 'are we there yet!?' Remixed with the host's review of the agenda resonate both with the driver and the attendees grinding their way through this late-in-the-day snoozer.

The Intended Muter. The person who should be on mute and thinks they are, but aren't. To make matters worse they are telecommuting from a shooting range. Unfortunately they are also the call host so other attendees can't do anything about it. This means they have to review useless information set to the original score of American Sniper.

The Unintended Muter. The person who treats every call as an opportunity to give a sermon on whatever the topic of the day is. To make matters worse they never listen to anyone and just keep talking about strategic synergies and channel disconnects to themselves. This is quite amusing to watch for others in the office and on the call. They have the rare privilege to know that the person's on mute, but can't bear to tell them since they also see the person standing up, speaking with their hands and walking around like they're giving a TED talk. This makes it impossible for The Unintended Muter to see the 228 emails or chat messages coming to them saying to take their mic off mute.

Gandalf. The person on the call who never contributes anything and gets booted off the call once they are ready to contribute. Then, interrupts a short time later and comes back in. Now the entire call has to get in a DeLorean and take their train of thought back in time to 20 minutes ago so Gandalf can make their amazing comment. Then, in true Gandalf fashion, this person disappears for another solid 19 minutes and is ready to talk again...but of course magically disappears again! Just when their input would be most useful.

Conference calls and remote meetings are great ways to get things done. These are just some of the idiots that probably derail your conference calls and turn them into nothing more than water-cooler chit chat.

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