I have been on two conference calls recently that included a Cisco Webex meeting and an audio call. Webex supports audio through their platform, but both of these calls chose not to use it. The social protocol violation: not stating in the invitation explicitly that participants would need to call-in via telephone rather than using the IP audio through Webex.
I was a new attendee to both calls. Regular members of the calls probably have an established understanding of the protocol. It is important in collaboration situations that organizers state the protocols even ones on an established call using a one-to-many model.
There were two negative impacts on productivity related to these calls:
- Taking time to figure out what is going on. On the first conference call, I spent about ten minutes trying to figure out why my system wasn’t working. Tools like Webex can sometimes reflect system setup issues between audio inputs and outputs. I was, however, call in from an iPad, so that wasn’t likely the issue.
- Dial-in time. As minor as it may sound, once I realized I need to dial-in into the conference calls, I had to go through the dial-in process, including sitting on hold, telling the person my name, spelling my name, relaying my company name and then being placed on listen only-mode.
- Inefficient Q&A. One of the major productivity contributions from tools like Webex is maintaining a dialog between attendees and organizers. The tools include ways of managing Q&A, unmuting attendees, etc. By moving voice to a service other than the main conference platform complicates meeting management for the organizers.
When setting up a multi-party conference call or video conference, make sure you specifically state how people should connect. If you want them to use both the conferencing system and dial-in, make sure you say that.
For more on meeting design, see: How to Design A Meeting: Lesson 1.