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Top 10 Things People Do While on a Conference Call

Thursday, November 5, 2015 - 13:30
Things people do while on conference calls

West released a study that looked at mobile conferencing statistics and surveyed 500 professionals about their experiences with mobile conferencing. Read our overview of the study and view the infographic here. The study picked up a lot of traction among the business community and inspired posts on:

I found it interesting that of all the great information in our study, most people were focusing on the stranger aspects of it, like the weird places people take a conference call and the unusual things they do while on one.

Conference Calls Can Be Boring

Let’s face it; it takes a particularly talented person to keep people engaged during a conference call. Most calls are so dreadfully boring, in fact, that 27 percent of those surveyed admitted to falling asleep during one.

Sleeping During Conference Call

Sleeping on a professional conference call is pretty bad, but that’s not the end of the story. Turns out people do all kinds of things on conference calls that you wouldn’t expect. Here is a list of the top ten things people admitted to doing while on a work conference call.

Disclaimer: West does NOT condone or endorse the practices of the following conference callers.

1. Doing Other Work

Doing other work during conference calls

No one was surprised by this one. One of the big advantages to a conference call is the opportunity to multitask. Almost two thirds of people said they do other work while on a conference call.

While we applaud the multitaskers and overachievers, it can also be dangerous to become so distracted with other work that the conference call becomes ineffective.

Pro Tip: If you can’t keep up with the conversation on the conference call, there’s no need to be on it. Make sure your call is the #1 priority.

2. Sending Emails

Sending emails during conference calls

This isn’t a big surprise and may sometimes even be necessary. More than three out of five people admitted to sending an email during a conference call.

This isn’t always a bad thing, especially if it is related to the call. But, keep in mind that if you can’t type and pay attention at the same time, you might wan’t to put a hold on the emails.

Pro Tip: Only send out emails that are requested or are necessary for the call you are on. If you are a loud typer, put yourself on mute while you compose the email so the other attendees aren’t distracted by the constant ‘clack, clack, clack’.

3. Eating or Making Food

Eating during conference calls

The survey found that 55 percent of people eat or prepare food while on a conference call. They must not be contributing much if their mouths are full. On one hand I get it; I keep snacks at my desk and am known to gobble them up at any given time. But, on a call?

I’m envisioning a scenario in which I am on a conference call with a lot of people. I’m feeling peckish, so I grab a handful of salty peanuts. Then, I’m asked a question by my boss. Now everyone has to wait while I properly masticate and swallow my food. It’s either that or I spit them out. Either way, it doesn’t look (or sound) good.

Pro Tip: Just don’t eat during a call; you won’t starve. But, if you have to, put your line on mute before you dig in.

4. Going to the Restroom

Restroom during conference calls

Gross. The last thing we want to do is picture another person going to the restroom while we are talking to him on the phone. Nearly half of people admitted to doing just that while on a conference call.

I will tread lightly on my commentary here. If you are doing this, please stop. Just don’t. It’s a dangerous path to go down that could end in professional humiliation.

Pro Tip: Hold it!


5. Texting

Texting during conference calls

So this one is pretty predictable. When are people now-a-days not texting? I’ll admit that it’s become so normal to see someone shoot off a quick text that I wouldn’t even notice it in a meeting if you were quick about it. But that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable.

Even in the modern world, some manners will take you a long way. A simple rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t do it in a face-to-face meeting, you probably shouldn’t do it in a conference call. But, flexibility is part of the allure of a conference call.

Pro Tip: Stay on the safe side and only text during your conference calls if it’s an emergency. If you’re relying on your cell phone to attend a meeting, the last thing you need is for it to malfunction.

6. Check Social Media

Social Media during conference calls

It should come as no surprise that more than four in ten people surveyed admitted to using social media during a mobile conference call. Social media has permeated our society. You’re likely to have found this very blog post on social media. That being said, it can be very distracting while trying to pay attention to something important.

Another thing to consider is the fact that social media has become so intertwined with the business community. So, it may not be a bad thing to use social media in a business setting. But, like most things, there is a time and a place to Tweet or post a status. A conference call is rarely one of them.

Pro Tip: Unless your job title has the words “social media” in it, it’s a safe bet that you shouldn’t be using social media at work very often.

7. Playing Video Games

Video games during conference calls

There is just something strange—and almost offensive—about a client or coworker playing Call of Duty or Madden while we’re trying to discuss quarterly budgets and marketing strategies. But alas, a quarter of our respondents admitted that they have played video games during a conference call.

I don’t think I could pull this off. It’s not that I don’t play video games. Rather that when I do, I tend to yell at the TV screen like the characters in the game can hear me and will be motivated to perform at a higher level. Something tells me that someone shouting, “You gotta catch the ball when it hits your hands!” would be pretty confusing on a conference call.

Pro Tip: Better safe than sorry. Turn the game system off for the duration of the conference call.

8. Online Shopping During a Conference Call

Online Shopping during conference calls

More than one in five of those surveyed admitted that they shop online during a conference call. This isn’t so surprising. Most people browse the web while working. But, again, when you’re on the clock and on a call, you should probably be giving 100 percent of your attention to the conference call.

Pro Tip: Unless it’s Cyber Monday, those online deals will be there when your call is over. Park the cart until after the call.

9. Exercise While on a Conference Call

Exercise during conference calls

So, almost one in ten people admit to getting a sweat on while on a conference call. Personally, there is no way I could work out while also on a conference call. My wheezing and stressed vocals would give me away instantly.

It’s possible that people may be just walking on a treadmill or squeezing a hand grip. But, those are some liberal definitions of “exercise.”

Pro Tip: If your schedule is so packed that you need to overlap your workout and your conference calls, hire a personal assistant to optimize your schedule.

10. Take Another Phone Call

Other calls on conference calls

With just six percent of respondents admitting to taking another call while on a work conference call, this has likely never happened to you. But, as anyone who has ever tried to call customer service about your cell phone bill will attest, being on hold is one of the more maddening things in the world.

Pro Tip: If you are expecting an important phone call, make sure you announce that fact at the beginning of a conference call so people aren’t surprised or put off when you take the call. That way, too, when they ask for your feedback and there’s only silence, they won’t wonder if you’re sleeping.

How to Keep People’s Attention on a Conference Call

It would be easy to be discouraged by these numbers. People, it seems, are doing anything they can to not pay attention to you on a conference calls.

One problem with conference calls is that they are a completely audio experience. Several studies have found that about 65 percent of people are visual learners, so it is no wonder that people tend to ‘wander off.’

But remote meetings don’t have to be this way. You can make your conference calls a visual experience with an online meeting platform like InterCall Unified Meeting 5.

Here’s a video to show you what I’m talking about.

Imagine running more effective meetings just by holding everyone’s attention with the resources and materials you already have on your desktop. You might actually get more done.


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