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Farewell to the telephone conference call

A friend of mine in the public sector was telling me how awful it’s been in the last few months, having to hold small meetings online instead of in person. I was thinking how much I’ve preferred it, before realising that he was talking about having moved to telephone conference calls. This is because he can’t assume the members of the public taking part have internet access, smartphones or computers.

Fortunately, in business, the opposite is true, and the telephone conference call may be a casualty of the events this year. I don’t know about you, but I won’t miss it. Faceless people speaking over each other (“Sorry, you first”), often with terrible sound quality because two of the participants are in the same conference room around a cheap speakerphone in the middle of the table. How many times have I groaned when a caller who sounded like they were in Wookey Hole Caves announced: “I’ve got my colleague in the office here with me now…”

At least in business we can assume we’ve all got video call technology, in the office and at home, and we’re all used to it. Sure, it’s nowhere near perfect, mainly because so many users still don’t know how to make themselves look and sound good. But things are improving, and we get two huge advantages over the telephone conference call: the chance to see people (yay!) and to use some visual cues about whose turn it is to speak next. Once more people learn how to do it, screen sharing will be a big benefit too. What a relief.