It’s hard to work through a day’s responsibilities and objectives without being interrupted by a conference of one sort or another. It’s even worse when the conferences you attend do nothing to advance the goals of the business. Unfortunately, it seems that this unproductivity occurs too often when it comes to conference calls: Not only do you lose valuable work time fiddling with technology or waiting for attendance, but you often tend to accomplish little when the conference is finally underway.
Problem with conference calls are rampant, but that doesn’t mean you should abandon this important technology for connecting and communicating. Instead, you should evaluate why your conference calls aren’t working using the following guide.
People Aren’t Phoning In
There is little more annoying than spending weeks trying to coordinate schedules for a conference call only to have that call canceled day-of thanks to lack of attendance. Typically, you organize a conference call to bring together multiple parties, and if one party flakes, the call is likely to be a failure. Therefore, it is imperative that you can bring everyone you need to the call.
A lack of participation is most common with international conference calls. Differing time zones, exorbitant long-distance rates, and more make scheduling and execution a pain for others, so you should strive to mitigate these factors as much as possible – the former by double-checking times during scheduling and the latter by dialing out and incurring any long-distance charges yourself. In fact, you can dial out to all your conference call participants with an automatic attendee list programmed into the bridge. However, just because you establish a connection doesn’t mean the call will be productive.
Your Sound Quality Is Bad
An inevitable experience of using technology is being disappointed by technology. Computers crash; projectors freeze; and phones produce all sorts of fizzing, popping, and echoing that make productive conference calls all but impossible. Fortunately, call quality is something that is easily diagnosed and remedied. Here are some common causes of poor-quality calls and simple solutions for them:
A common tech term, jitter is the variation or irregularity of arrival times of packets over a network. In a VoIP system, jitter can mean scrambled audio, as snippets of your voice arrive in random sequence and produce incomprehensible sounds. VoIP Jitter is remedied with two services: jitter buffers and QoS. Buffers temporarily delay packets, ensuring they remain in order while being sent, while QoS marks your voice traffic as higher priority on your network.
At its simplest, latency is the amount of time it takes for words to leave the speaker’s mouth and enter the listener’s ear. Unfortunately, in some VoIP systems, this can be an untenably long and irregular time, creating irksome echoes. There are three identifiable types of VoIP delay:
- Propagation delay. The fastest information can travel is just shy of the speed of light. A conversation with someone halfway around the world is bound to have a delay of at least 70 milliseconds. Propagation delays are often impossible to detect – and certainly impossible to eliminate – but they can compound more obvious forms of delay.
- Handling delay. Perpetrated by devices that forward the frame through the network, handling delay actually represents a number of causes of delay, such as compression and packet switching.
- Queuing delay. When outbound interfaces are too congested and thus hold packets in queue, you experience queuing delay. It is important to have an interface that can manage your packet needs.
No matter what type of latency you experience, you should be able to eliminate it by prioritizing VoIP traffic over your network.
People Aren’t Paying Attention
Even if you manage to connect every attendee to your call, rid the connection of static and echoing, and begin your presentation, your conference call is likely to be unproductive. Recent studies on conference calls have determined that at least 60 percent of conference call listeners attempt to complete other work while participating on the call, about half of listeners eat during the call, and another half are in the bathroom. Roughly 20 percent of listeners engage in online shopping while on the call, 1 in 11 is exercising, and an astonishing 6 percent try to juggle two calls at once.
However, it is important to note that despite all this attempted multi-tasking, the research did not find conference calls to be ineffective or pointless. Rather, it means you must take extra pains to keep hold of your audience’s attention while you speak on conference calls. Additionally, you should strive to make the calls short and to-the-point while encouraging participation from your different attendees. By doing all these things, you will have a conference call that works.