Do you enjoy conference calls? Despite good intentions, conference calls often end up being train wrecks of epic proportions. People check out. People leave, multitask, or argue. Sometimes one voice will be easy to hear but others are inaudible.
Compounding this is a very common practice. Maybe you fall into this practice. I've seen it over and over and even been a participant myself. The flawed practice is mixing the group, with part of the call all together in one conference room and the rest of the group off site on separate phones. A variation of this, and even tougher to manage, is a chain of conference rooms with groups of people sharing one phone at each location.
What's wrong with this arrangement?
People are then communicating on different levels, in different channels, and on different status plane. In any room you have the issues of status to deal with. When you put some people together in one room, that is one status dynamic to manage. When you mix that with multiple locations, the status range becomes unmanageable. It also tends to favor wherever the "home" location is much to the detriment of anyone else. Frustration and ineffective behaviors results.
How to fix that? It's simple, but it takes some guts. Follow this rule:
"If anyone is calling in alone, everyone is calling in alone."
Rather than have groups in some locations and individuals in others, allow (and require) every participant in the call to call in, using a common conference call number. This puts everyone on the same level of participation, technology, and status. No more rolling of eyes at something someone on the line said so that some people know your reaction and some do not. No more secret coded body language disparaging or supporting someone on the phone. Set up everyone as equal, and your chances of achieving equality increase geometrically.
If anyone is on the phone, everyone is on the phone. And for better quality, make it one person one phone.
Try it. You'll enjoy much, much better conference calls.
-- doug smith