Press #42 to join the call

Every conference call should automatically terminate after 5 minutes, preferably shorter. If it requires more time than that, I recommend hopping on a plane and attending in person. Sure, one could infer possible bias given my profession though I firmly believe few things cause such existential dread as the prospect of yet another conference call to join.

From my experience there is a predictable pattern for all calls, measured in minutes:

0–4 minutes: Small talk continually interrupted by announcement beeps. Each beep is followed with “Hi. Who joined now?” while two other people continue discussing the playoffs.

5 minutes: A heavy breather has joined the call. Someone draws attention to it and suddenly the breather stops.

6–7 minutes: Each person on the call re-announces themselves. This is followed by a review of the agenda by the person who called the meeting. Let’s call her Amy.

8–10 minutes: Bob announces that he wants to ensure that, in addition to what Amy mentioned, they also include a review of sales goals. There is a guttural agreement by all members of the call. The fact that the meeting subject is “Review and update Sales Goals” and that this was just mentioned by Amy not but two minutes ago is lost on everyone other than Amy. Somewhere you can hear another weight stacked upon Amy’s already damaged soul.

11–16 minutes: Amy officially starts the presentation. The first three slides are all background information and a review of all prior calls. The smart ones discreetly go on mute, but not the heavy breather. He, and his nascent asthma, are back.

17–22 minutes: Candice joins the call claiming that she just finished meeting with a client. In reality, Candice kept hitting snooze on her alarm while she caught up on Pinterest. She shares that she hopes she didn’t miss anything important. Bob asks for Amy to start over to make sure Candice is brought up to speed.

23 minutes: Amy moves to slide four in her deck (the one about sales goals which Bob requested) and asks for Bob’s feedback. Bob advises that he can’t see the screen. During this illuminating repartee Don states that he didn’t realize that screen sharing was needed so he will rejoin the call on his computer. Curiously, Don hangs up.

24–28 minutes: everyone offers Bob virtual IT support to help him view the slides. Meanwhile, the heavy breather has a coughing fit.

29 minutes: Bob realizes that he was looking at the wrong tab, the one that says “ESPN” at the top. A quick click and he announces: “Weird, it seems to be working now. Computers, amirite?” Meeting resumes.

30 minutes: Candice interjects that she has to step off the call as a client is trying to reach her. She asks for someone to send her the notes afterwards. An unnamed voice (the heavy breather perhaps?) offers to do so but has no intention of actually following up on this.

31–44 minutes: Amy continues. She makes an impassioned pitch for updating the sales goals, for adding a new program targeting emerging size companies, and redesigning the marketing pitch. Meanwhile there is the all-too familiar echo of keypads typing away in the background while a dog barks at what assuredly is not the mailman.

54–61 minutes: Amy hands the call off to Don for his portion of the presentation. Everyone waits for an answer before someone remembers that Don has still not re-joined the call. She then gives his presentation identifying key targets, relevant demographics, and needed operational support. This should come as no surprise as Amy prepared all the material for him last week.

62–64 minutes: Q&A time. The sound of crickets is mixed with the soft whoosh of an email being sent.

65 minutes: Amy asks Bob: “Is this what you had in mind? Is there anything else you would like to add?” 30 seconds pass before Bob answers with: “Ummm….sorry, I was on mute…yes, I concur with your recommendations. We really should implement this…wait, I’m sorry, what was the question again?” The rage in Amy’s heart grows brighter.

66 minutes: Having no questions everyone prepares to sign off. Before doing so, Bob asks Candice to reschedule a follow up next week for updates. The fact that Candice long since quit the call (and is now trying to pass the next level of Candycrush) is a fact missed by nearly everyone. But not Amy. As the cavalcade of chimes announce everyone’s departure, Amy ponders why she returned from her vacation.

68–90 minutes: Don rejoins the call. He puts it on mute and returns to working email. First email is to his manager.

Subject: Week in review
- Redrafted all company sales goals per Bob’s direction.
- Led initiative to target SME’s with identified leads. Have solicited marketing and operational support. Expect excellent progress.
- Assisted IT with web applications.

Of course, the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Except for the heavy breather. He knows who he is.