Why everything about conference calls is not hunky-dory

Teleconferencing enables multiple people across the globe to connect and discuss business. However, it is not free from awkwardness, confusion and ambiguity.

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Your digital calendar promptly reminds you to join a conference call. Either for the time-zone difference or otherwise, you end up logging into the call when you are on the go, nursing a baby or in a soccer match.

This shouldn’t really be a problem, or so we thought until we saw the video. However, the real cause of worry is that the mail informing you of the meeting’s agenda missed your attention and now you have to connect the call feeling blank as an empty box.

We dug out history to evaluate the impulse that led to the invention of conferencing. Apparently, the basic human need to connect with people far off has always existed. Primitive people used drum beats or smoke guns to do so.

Phone conferencing was invented in the mid-nineties— a wireless device was used to transmit the voice on the regular phone to a loudspeaker so that many people could hear the person on the other side.

A revolution in digital communication has brought us to the present day, where teleconferencing allows multiple people to dial in independently through the web-based software.

While advantages of teleconferencing are aplenty, the outcome is not always hunky-dory. Let us find out why.

It doesn’t always save time: With teleconferencing, it is possible to hold meetings at a very short notice. In addition, there is no time spent traveling to the venue of a meeting, making prior arrangements for the availability of the venue and refreshments, as all meetings are held through machines or the Internet.

Unfortunately, time does get wasted in teleconferencing as one or more candidates may join in late and that may disrupt the agenda. Moreover, if people have not done their homework and do not offer productive inputs, rather distract by speaking out of context or talking the language of ‘uhh’s, ‘ohh’s and ‘hmm’s.

It misses out on personal contact: Although business today has a global reach, it is surviving in a hyper-competitive market. Companies are reducing costs by cutting travel expenses. Teleconferencing is helping them establish communication across the globe without travelling.

While an individual can speak to multiple people through a conference call, it lacks the outcome that can be generated by meeting them in person. It lacks the power that one is capable of generating through body language especially in the case of tough negotiation and bargaining.

It lacks dynamism: It ensures that workers belonging to various hierarchies in the company structure are in constant communication. This translates to effective information sharing, brainstorming of ideas and prompt action. Such recurrent engagement is a motivational factor that results in increased productivity.

Tele conferencing lacks the dynamism of a real conference, where participants engage with each other, and raise and respond to issues instantaneously. Moreover, nonverbal cues such as head movements and facial expressions are critical to comprehend what a person is really thinking.

It dilutes productivity: Teleconferencing leverages technology that everyone already has and is familiar with. Conference calls are inherently mobile because anyone can join from their smartphone, either through a dedicated mobile app or by simply dialling the conference line directly. Most of collaboration solutions now feature a mobile component that enhances the mobility feature.

Though mobility ensures great participation it also leads to ‘stepping on toes’ as different callers end up talking over one another. People also use this as an opportunity to multitask and that dilutes the productivity or the purpose of the meeting.

Conference calls are like bread and butter for business communication. A company, whether small or big, global or local uses this platform for holding meetings. However, for it to become more effective and engaging, employees need training. They need to develop a flair for using the equipment required for conferencing, and also require to be highly disciplined, focussed and purposeful to make the meetings productive.

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