Friday, December 6, 2019

Conference Call Etiquette

One thing I'm sure of - the high pitched screech was not part of the call.

I'm on a 15 person Advisory Committee, which convened this afternoon via a conference call.  Dialing in was simple, so was entering the pin code.  The automated voice welcomed me, told me that there were more than 4 people on the call, and asked me to mute my phone.

That required some searching, since I replaced my land lines last month.  I examined the handset, found the word MUTE and managed to figure out which button to push.  I pushed, and then I heard nothing. 

Nothing.  No music.  No leader welcoming me.  No voices. 

I was anxious, wondering if I'd screwed it up somehow.  A minute or two passed (of course I called in early) before someone announced his presence.  Then another voice chimed in, saying that he was here, too.  I un-muted the phone and chimed in at the same time that two other women did the same.

Suddenly, I didn't feel so alone.  There were others whose voices tumbled over mine. 

Suddenly, I realized that I didn't know what to do next.  Should I reintroduce myself?  Did anyone hear our individual names?  Would repeating myself be obnoxious?  I mulled it over and decided to keep quiet. 

Two minutes after the scheduled start time, the last half of the opening sentence from the chair came through the phone.  Thankfully, there were no further introductions of the participants; we went right into the business at hand.

I really don't like meetings.  Sitting alone in my library, listening to verbiage, typing to you.... it's a weird way to stay in the loop.  On the other hand, I didn't have to travel, didn't have to dress up, didn't have to remember pen and paper. 

There was no real work done on the call. We were given the ground rules for participating.  The caveats and concerns were delivered delightfully but firmly.  No one had any questions.  No one had anything to add.  We were encouraged to get involved, to reach out upstream with our ideas, and to resist feeling overwhelmed. 

And then it ended. 

I don't know how it will be to work on a committee whose members I've never seen or heard.  I don't know how my responses will be accepted; I won't have the subtle cues you glean from sharing a physical space.

I'm a 20th Century Girl in a 21st Century World. 


  1. I worked from home and from the other coast for about four or five of my last years. Conference calls were frequent. I think they're not nearly as good a being there. There's no way to see the flick of an eye as someone tries to squelch an eye roll, or someone tensing up. All of that communication is lost on the phone. On the other hand, I did a lot of meetings in pajamas.

    1. And, I could roll my eyes without fear of discovery!


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