Thursday, January 25, 2007

Who You Gonna Conference Call? Don’t Conference Call Us, We’ll Call You…

After posting helpful suggestions for surviving the dreaded staff meeting, I figured I’d follow up on my ‘how not to succeed in business’ seminars with the obvious companion piece: how to make the teleconference more fun. It was inspired by me getting a last minute email today about a department wide conference call tomorrow. Oh great, a conference call with the department big wigs on a Friday. At least that’s what I was thinking until I recalled a few ways to make that boring old conference call a lot more fun.

Any conference call I have ever attended begins with several minutes of beeps, tones and ‘ahems’ or people clearing their throats and announcing they have joined the call. That is followed by acknowledgement of whoever has just introduced themselves and sometimes even little mini conversations between attendees that no one else wants to hear. This is usually a good time to speak up and let a little fake gossip slip from your lips. After that, what more fun could you have than saying you are someone you are obviously not? As many upper managers barely know who works under them, your voice will not be recognized. This is the perfect cover for you. Introduce yourself with a name you made up, a colleague who may be out sick or on vacation, or better yet, your sworn office enemy. I’m sure no one will notice that the same name was called twice. For a really fun reaction (and a test to see if anyone is paying attention), say you are a recently retired employee or an employee who has left the company for another job.

My most fun thing to do at the beginning of a conference call is to get on the line with a made up name and announce that I think I’ve joined the wrong call. This will surely get noticed, especially when you ask if anyone knows the call-in number for the conference call about the downsizing of the department you and all your fellow departmental colleagues work in. As you disconnect, make sure to press every button imaginable to make your exit as raucous and clumsy as possible and then mumble something about how you never understood management budgeting for that department to begin with.

Once the call is in progress, there are still a lot of great ways to keep entertained. For all of these, I strongly suggest being able to make eye contact with the employees in your office. It turns the game into a competition and you might be surprised what your friend in the cubicle across from you will try to do when egged on. A good thing to start with is taking your phone off mute and calmly asking if anyone else hears that high-pitched beep. Make sure your fellow office workers also say they hear it and then wait for all of the conference callers to chime in about whether they hear it or not. If you’re lucky, someone will say they do, providing you with a great workplace story to tell for many years to come. All of this is sure to eat up valuable conference call time.

Next, you can crumple up paper beside your phone’s earpiece and when management asks where the noise and static are coming from, you can tell them you are calling in from a cell phone while in the field. If you can make it obnoxious enough, you just might be excused from the rest of the call. You can get on the line, excuse yourself for interrupting and then identify yourself as your office mate and ask if you can go to the restroom. The downside of this is that you’re boss will probably reprimand you for such behavior. Perhaps the simplest way to entertain yourself during the conference call is to repeat in question form the same exact point that the conference call’s facilitator just made. This will of course make you look like a dolt, but if you cared in the first place you wouldn’t be trying any of these.

What’s the worst thing you can do during a conference call you ask? Well, fortunately for you I have done just that thing and can share it with you. First, ensure that your speakerphone’s mute button is off and that you can be heard and then say something to the effect of ‘can you believe this guy’ under your breath. Hopefully no one will recognize your voice and if you were paying attention to my second paragraph, you won’t have to worry because you identified yourself as someone else. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go find my whoopee cushion and duck call before I leave for work tomorrow.

Of course, if this post is read by anyone I work for, I’ll then have to go looking for another job…Perhaps I should sign it as being written by someone else? After all, my annual employee review is coming up in a few weeks. Maybe I’ll be voted most like to succeed…


Odat said...

Dear Micheal's boss, Micheal has been kidnapped by aliens. He won't be at work on Friday. This is not him writing this. It is his pod person. Michael still deserves that promotion and raise.

abbagirl74 said...

I am someone who has to give those conference calls, I just don't know what to say.

Wow, if you did that to me, I would kick your a**.

Of course, if I knew you, I may even go along with it. The boss and the "joker" employee could definitely pull a number on the rest of the group.

SGT DUB said...

Well, everyone knows Michael loves his job and that his evil twin, the one without a job, is probably sitting at his home computer pretending to be him, while Michael is struggling to make his employer more successful. (Think they bought it?)

mist1 said...

I can't wait for my next conference call.

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

well i'd definitely use these to entertain myself if i wasn't retired and had to get up in the morning and go to work instead of blogging all day like a fool or going on cruises or going on regular vacations or something else fun and frolicky. but sadly i won't have the chance. i will, however, pass this wisdom on to my daughter, who gives these things and she'd love to play along. want her number? smiles, bee

(hey! who turned the light out in here? i'm still IN here you idiot! now where is that light switch, drat!)

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Wow. they don't teach this at university or business school. You should become a business consultant. It will improve staff morale in no time.

Dan said...

Oh my God! Dude! Do you and I work together? I've used nearly one of these ideas.

My favorite is to make believe I don't know that my mute button is OFF and I start shouting to an imaginary person in the back room of the house (I usually do conference calls when I'm working from home). I usually shout things like "NO! Not now! One of the neighbors might see! We'll get rid of the body tonight, when it's dark!"

captain corky said...

"First, ensure that your speakerphone’s mute button is off and that you can be heard and then say something to the effect of ‘can you believe this guy’ under your breath"

People always forget to put the mute button on, and we always here somebody saying something stupid that they shouldn't be saying.


Steven Novak said...

I'm immediately forwarding this post to your office.

Sorry...I'm a jerk..

It's what I do. ;)



I have three conference calls scheduled for Monday. I was dreading it, but now I can hardly wait. :)

thethinker said...

Too bad I've never done a conference call/will probably never need to do one.

I'll have to settle for lame prank calls.

Pickled Olives said...

Thankfully, don't conference call!

Michael C said...

Odat: Thanks, hopefully he reads your remarks and decides to not only let me keep my job, but get a raise, too ;-)

Abbagirl74: I'm for the going along with rather than the kickin' tail ;-)

Sgt. Dub: I don't know if they bought it, but it was sue a good try!!

Mist1: Let me know when and I'll dial in ;-)

Empress Bee: Rub it in!!

Lone Grey Squirrel: I like that idea...

Dan: That's a good one!

Captain Corky: The best part is when you can actually identify who it is!

Steven: Fair enough, I've had it coming for a long time.

Parlancheq: Hey, can I join in? I promise I'll be good ;-)

Thinker: believe me, the conference stuff is a lot more fun.

Pickled Olives: You should be thankful indeed