(This post contains affiliate hyperlinks. Please read my full disclosure.
I spend a lot time on conference calls, especially since I can work remotely. If I’m honest, I can use my mute button with no need to look at the phone. It’s great for blowing my nose, drinking tea, and also to make sure that no one can hear me typing.
Yes, I’m willing to admit it in public. I do other things while I’m on a call. I check my incoming mail. I file things. I go through my folders looking for things that someone has sent me.
This is a bad conference call practice, I’m sure.
A conference call participant must be attentive to the discussions, contribute as needed, pay attention, and respect those who are speaking.
I like to think I am respectful and efficient. Sometimes conference calls can contain large chunks that I only need to hear at 80% capacity. I still know what’s happening, such as recaps of tasks I know all details about.
I have been searching for alternatives because conference calls are here to stay, and they are definitely a very useful tool. However, I am open to other options.
There are many.
These are five alternatives to conference calls at least for a portion of the time.
1. Instant messagingInstant messaging in action
Popular instant messaging tools
2. Face-to-face meetings
3. WorkshopsPopular online tools to help you organize your workshops
4. Individual catch ups
5. There is no meeting
1. Instant messaging
I was late to instant messaging, but I am now a convert. It’s a great way to check if someone is online, and to ask a quick question.
It’s used by people in my meetings to quickly get an answer to a question if they don’t know the answer. It moves the discussion forward.
This is illustrated by a case study I have in my book Social Media for Project Managers.
Instant Messaging in Action
Cornelius Fichtner (PMP) was working on a project that would create a new website for a business to consumer website. The team had a “war room” in Atlanta, Georgia.
He says, “We had to connect our system with a variety of vendor systems.” “We were implementing our latest version of our software, which had some ‘issues’. Our team, some vendors, and the customer were all present in this room, working on different aspects of the implementation. “We had simultaneous development, system analysis, and project management activities.”
Cornelius’ team was using instant messaging to communicate. He explains that the two core system developers back in Switzerland, Cornelius and himself were constantly exchanging information about software status.
It would have been easy to communicate with most of the team in one room. However, instant messaging was a private way to communicate with clients and other vendors.
Cornelius says, “Discussing these problems in the open would’ve alerted the customer or other vendors to the fact we were having problems with our core system.”
“We immediately began to talk about the exact nature and causes of the problems. We discussed what was needed to immediately fix the website code so it would work. We also estimated how long it would take to rewrite the entire website code.
Using instant messaging meant that these discussions were held away from the client: it was not necessary to create a reason to have a development-team-only meeting or to worry the client with issues that would be easily resolved.
Cornelius says, “The chat allowed for us to talk to each other in these close quarters without alerting anyone at the table to our problems.” “This allowed us to devise a str…”