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dial in or dial out

December 10, 2007

Being in a Geographically diverse team conference calls are a necessary evil to keep some connection with the rest of the team. Of the many1 irritations of the conference call the one that seems hardest to solve is people turning up late. However I’m now wondering whether we could not handle them better by calling the participants rather than having them call in. At least that way there would be a chance of the calls starting on time. Since our current conference call provider has a nice gui that allows this ( I will give this a try to see if it improves things.

1The many would include but not be limited to: Not having an agenda, having managers trying to solve engineering problems, having to attend to give the same update that was in your email when this is a hot problem and while you are on the call you are not solving it, not having an end time, not having an IM back channel, people not concentrating on the call (doing email), people on the call when they need not be, not using the mute button (again the nice gui can solve this) not being able to warp time such that it is not a ridiculous time of day for someone. Apart from that they are great.

From → General

One Comment
  1. Steve Uhlir permalink

    You’ve raised a very interesting question about conference calls. A long time ago (I hesitate to admit how long ago) all conference calls were dial-out. And I found them completely useless. Why? Because everyone had to wait generally doing nothing useful until all the participants had been tracked down (or you gave up on some of them… and then there was no way they could join late). Then audio-bridge technology was invented and suddenly the conference calls were useful. Why? Because if someone was late at least those of you who were there could get on with the meeting without waiting. And if they showed up later at least they could join in.
    I can certainly see how being called might remind people of a call they had forgotten about. So… the mix of calling out plus, of course, those who are still missing being able to call in later, might be even better. (I’ll watch for your future post on your conclusions.)
    And… I’m sure you recognize that the fundamental issue is with people who are late. (Also people who are unprepared, people who are uninterested, and all the other issues in your footnote.) What you really need to do is change the way these people act.
    I had a similar problem with people showing up late for meetings when I worked at IBM. I solved this problem by locking the door to the conference room at the scheduled meeting start time. What this forced people to do was knock on the door to get in. This was embarrassing enough (my conclusion) that as soon as I started locking the doors people started showing up on time. I never did find a technique that got people at Sun to meetings on time (as you know, the conference room doors at Sun don’t have locks).
    If your calling out technique doesn’t work, you could try the "locked door" approach as the audio-bridge does let you lock out new connections. However, there isn’t any way to "knock" (although an IM back-channel would work) and if someone’s phone line drops they can’t get back either.

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