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# Off Topic: Conference Calls

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SVP
Joined: 01 Nov 2006
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Off Topic: Conference Calls [#permalink]

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06 Jul 2007, 11:27
Does anyone else hate conference calls?

I'm on hour 2.5 and trying to keep my head in the game, but I just can't pay attention for some reason. It's definitely a topic that I am very intereted in, but that doesn't seem to matter. They're like this all the time for me.
Director
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06 Jul 2007, 12:47
if i have a laptop in front of me it is hopeless
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06 Jul 2007, 14:44
I used to hate them. As the most junior peon for most deals, it was my responsibility to figure out what happened in a call and then rewrite the deal to reflect the conclusions. Generally, you don't have much input as a junior peon, so it was pretty boring.

The worst part was that most successful lawyers and bankers that get ahead are able to take over conversations by talking louder and longer than everyone else on a call. So, sometimes you'd have 8 or 10 (usually just 2-4) really loud people all trying to get their points across. They talk and talk. The only way someone else can talk is by being louder. It's amazing how long some of them can talk without taking a breath, because if they pause they will get cutoff and there's no telling when the next guy will shut up.

It's truly what pounding headaches are made of.
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06 Jul 2007, 19:41
Conference calls are like regular meetings: 10% productive and 90% crap. It helps if you can multitask by balancing your checkbook or something while gilbert spends fifteen minutes trying to say something you or I could articulate in two. WCS, think of it as paid idle time.
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06 Jul 2007, 20:28
Oh god the worst are video conferences...at least if it is just the phone when someone is blabbing on about some nonsense you can sorta zone out without them really noticing as long as you aren't silent when they ask a question. Thankfully most of what I do at work can't be discussed over the phone (one benefit of government work) but we just got an upgraded system so we dont have the limitation as to what can be talked about anymore.

That said 99% of the time I would rather have a conference call than have to travel to another site to deal with something.
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06 Jul 2007, 20:54
I have had mixed experiencies with conference calls. Some have been really productive and some have been a total waste of time. I've identified a few common factors for successful ones.

Characteristics of successfull teleconferences:

- No more than 4 or 5 people involved.
- There's a clear objective to the teleconference.
- Some or all people have commitments right after the TC so there is a sense of urgency.
- The hierarchical differences in between participants do not exceed 2 clusters (eg: analyst - coordinator - manager or coordinator - manager - director).
- Nobody hi-jacks the teleconference or increases its scope while it is taking place.
- There's a collaborative spirit to the teleconference, rather than a finger - pointing or politically charged environment.

On the other hand I've had teleconferences (or even 1 to 1 telephone calls) with people who are uncapable of having brief conversations. There's a guy who's notorious among my co-workers for starting conversations with the opener: "I'm kind of busy right now so let's keep it brief" and then going on to articulate a half hour monologue for each question posed. It's virtually impossible to have a conversation of less than an hour with this guy.

L.
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08 Jul 2007, 11:02
But how do you actually pay attention? There's a guy I work with a lot who I really admire. He's smart and funny and has been really helpful in my career. He's one of those people that I just like to listen to. He's got a great voice and always has good things to say. But if I'm on a conference call, I just can't focus, even when he's talking.

And the worst is that while I may be a big loudmouth, I hate to interrupt people. It's just not nice. On one of my calls on Friday, I had something to add, and I swear I started out with "well, I-" 8 times before I finally got to make my point. If someone else starts out at the same time, I just let them bust through.
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08 Jul 2007, 20:10
aaudetat wrote:
But how do you actually pay attention?

If there's only 3 - 5 people on the line and you are trying to achieve something through the teleconference, then attention comes naturally. The
type of teleconference I'm talking about can be summarized as follows:

1) Some situation arises and we have options a,b and c as possible solutions.
2) I send an e-mail with the data and then set up a teleconference to discuss.
3) During the teleconference we re-introduce the subject to make sure everyone is on the same page and then go through options a,b and c and their pros and cons.
4) We discuss the options and maybe introduce option d.
5) We agree on the action.

On the other hand there's a massive regular teleconference (about 50 people in 8 countries) I used to attend where my job was to be available in case I had to clarify some issue (i.e.: I would get about 20 seconds of "air time" every 3 - 4 meetings). In this particular one, I forced myself to pay attention by volunteering to write the minutes of the meeting.

L.
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08 Jul 2007, 21:41
aaudetat wrote:
But how do you actually pay attention? There's a guy I work with a lot who I really admire. He's smart and funny and has been really helpful in my career. He's one of those people that I just like to listen to. He's got a great voice and always has good things to say. But if I'm on a conference call, I just can't focus, even when he's talking.

And the worst is that while I may be a big loudmouth, I hate to interrupt people. It's just not nice. On one of my calls on Friday, I had something to add, and I swear I started out with "well, I-" 8 times before I finally got to make my point. If someone else starts out at the same time, I just let them bust through.

I usually just run the meetings. It makes it less boring, plus I get to keep things moving at a pace I feel like making them move. If I want to close the subject, I just pick an option, propose it, back it up with some logical argument, and ask if anyone has any other ideas. 99% of the time, most people have a hard time thinking on their feet, and whatever idea I proposed typically gets a unanimous "sounds good". I'm very good at directing and controlling meetings.

If I'm not running them, my attention span varies.... I get stuck on a lot of calls as a "SME" - there to clarify something for someone if they get themselves painted into a corner... if I get called on and I don't know what the heck they've been talking about (which happens every now and then on some of the longer calls), I just say "I'm sorry, someone was at my desk. Could you repeat that?"
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24 Jul 2007, 12:15
pelihu wrote:

The worst part was that most successful lawyers and bankers that get ahead are able to take over conversations by talking louder and longer than everyone else on a call. So, sometimes you'd have 8 or 10 (usually just 2-4) really loud people all trying to get their points across. They talk and talk. The only way someone else can talk is by being louder. It's amazing how long some of them can talk without taking a breath, because if they pause they will get cutoff and there's no telling when the next guy will shut up.

It's truly what pounding headaches are made of.

Isn't this the same types of people who make up MBA classes?
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24 Jul 2007, 13:57
RLM wrote:
pelihu wrote:

The worst part was that most successful lawyers and bankers that get ahead are able to take over conversations by talking louder and longer than everyone else on a call. So, sometimes you'd have 8 or 10 (usually just 2-4) really loud people all trying to get their points across. They talk and talk. The only way someone else can talk is by being louder. It's amazing how long some of them can talk without taking a breath, because if they pause they will get cutoff and there's no telling when the next guy will shut up.

It's truly what pounding headaches are made of.

Isn't this the same types of people who make up MBA classes?

You know, I don't know. I haven't started classes yet. I would suspect that some people with banking background might be like this. I also think that geography might be a factor. People from NY are much more likely to be loud and rude - I don't mean to offend anyone, I just think it's what you have to do to survive in an environment like New York City. But for the most part, I don't think the classroom environment will be much like the cutthroat nature of investment banking.
24 Jul 2007, 13:57
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# Off Topic: Conference Calls

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