Top 10 Conference Call Crimes

CIQ Trends

Conference calls are a necessary evil. Like the dentist. Many conference-call participants and organizers make it even worse than it has to be. Here are the Top Ten Conference Call Crimes.

How many are you committing on a regular basis?

1. Multitasking/Not listening

The long pause to hit un-mute. The stuttering, “Wait? What was that?”

We all have email to answer (or online shopping to do). But, you’re not fooling anyone when you say, “I didn’t completely understand the question. Can you rephrase?”

“The question was are you available Friday? I’m not sure how else to put it.”

2. Bad cell phone connection


It may be a hipster badge of honor to ditch the wire line and go commando-mobile. Here’s the thing: You sound like you’re on a CB radio.

Maybe it’s the headset. Maybe it’s AT&T. If your job involves communication, get a device on which you can communicate.

3.  Speakerphone


The scene: A bunch of people huddle around a conference-room speakerphone. At the same time, in distant office locations, people are dialing in.

“What? What?” one of the remote-dialers says, “Can Jane move closer to the mic?”

Jane moves closer. She speaks. She is heard. Roger speaks.

“What? What? Can Roger move closer to the mic?”

Here’s your choice: (A) Everyone dials in from individual phones, OR (B) Invest in some high-quality acoustics. That means expensive speaker phones and mics throughout the room.

If you’re alone in a room using speakerphone, imposing echoes and reverberation on a whole group of people listening, then you’re just an ass.

4.  Background noise


You can’t join the call from the Delta terminal at JFK. (Unless you’re listen-only and do not have to participate.) Be honest and say you can’t join, or schedule a different time for the call.

5.  Putting the call on hold to take another call; The rest hear hold music.


There is a special circle of hell reserved for people who do this.

Marsha is in the middle of a deep-dive explanation and suddenly Michael Bolton music pours into the lines, drowning out poor Marsha.

The organizer struggles with the mute instructions. Is it pound-six or star six? Roger shouts over Michael Bolton that it’s star-six. Now everyone is on mute and all must unmute themselves individually.

When the call is brought to order five minutes later, Marsha can’t remember what she was saying.

6.  Tiny dial-in and code numbers without spaces

It’s like having an IQ test sprung on you with no warning. Who can read this?




Organizers, please pay attention here: Use spaces in between the numbers. And pick a larger font.


7. Talking Too Much



The average human being can only digest about a paragraph of information at a time. That’s five sentences. After the five sentences, you sound like the teacher from Charlie Brown. Woh-woh-woh.

One paragraph, then stop. Let people respond. Now you can go on. One more paragraph.

I know you have seventeen critical points to make. You get to make one at a time.

Tip #1: This rule also holds in conversations with your life partner.

Tip #2: There are some legitimate circumstances where someone, usually the organizer, needs to frame up the call with multiple paragraphs of information. Warn the crowd. Say, “I need to get some information on the table so we can discuss it.”

8. Late organizer


A dozen people are dialed in. The organizer has not launched the call. Everyone answers email for seven and a half minutes.

Similar to #1, you’re not fooling anyone. People who are late to one call are late to every call. They arrive breathless with today’s excuse as to what emergency delayed them.

When on-time people are late, everyone on the call will sound worried. Something must be really wrong.

When you are chronically late and you are in a leadership position, you lose credibility. There are people far busier than you and far more important than you who make it on time.

9.  No notes; No follow up steps


It’s everyone’s job to take notes. Hard as that is to hear, it will keep you from committing crime #1, multitasking and not listening.

Someone should be tasked with distributing out notes to the group with follow-up steps. If no one does this, then everyone just flushed an hour of their time down the john.

10.  Can’t get on the web link



If the call is using a web link to share screens, you’ll have to download a plugin to get it to work. Not knowing how to do this was forgivable five years ago.

On the flipside, if the organizer is using some fringe freeware conference call software, they should warn everyone joining the call about it. It’s not the standard GoToMeeting, Webex, Adobe, Lync plugin they already have. They’ll need to download FringeFreewarePlugin ahead of time.

Ad:Tech Report: What’s Not in a Name? Meaning.

CIQ Trends

IBM, now there’s a name. International Business Machines. Says what it does, does what it says. Okay, so it does other things now too. Not just Big Blue anymore; more like Big Blue Man Group.


Here’s a question: What’s a Lenovo? You’d think having nailed the name game at the start, IBM could do better. Legend, maybe? Plus a soupcon of innovation? Also, it has that dashing ovo ending, suggestive of first person present tense action verbs in Spanish, Italian, and Greek. “I create legends! I innovate!” (Holy Cow, that took a lot of thought. What was wrong with ThinkPad, again?)


This years Ad:Tech made my head hurt in a similar way. It also made me a little afraid. The last time I encountered hip, coy, utterly impenetrable names like the list of Ad:Tech exhibitors was, well, on a list of Ad:Tech exhibitors. Only it was 2001.

  Of course, in any dot-com crowd, there will be the simply bizarre– Blue Lithium, JargonFish– that don’t fit in any distinct category. But the rest are roughly classifiable. Here’s a list. First, the mash-ups. Those Frankenstein’s Monster eponyms that shove together bits of suggestive roots with some kind of suffix to indicate it’s an actual word.


  Then there are the names that use edgy media words and plays on the word “broadcast.”

Next, we have the companies who want to be both cerebral and hip. They may use in-the-know words, implying that if you have to ask, you’re not smart enough to do business with us. F5 Networks seems like they might be one of those. But the more inclusive brainy companies employ gray-matter type words like “knowledge” and “logic.”

Intela (Actually, this last one kinda fits in list #1 too, but who’s counting.)

The next group wants action. With their help, everyone will Do! Click! Go! Racking up responses and ad impressions like pinballs.


Another thing I noticed is that the quirky letter Q has become quite popular. He makes names a little hard to decode and, one would think, to pronounce.


I wonder how the sales folks at those companies say those names over the phone. Am I being qantakerous?

But my favorite of all, after three hours of glossy dot-com brochures, thousands of free pens, mousepads, coffee mugs, and keychains, plus one guy in an enormous dog suit: The Blind Network. Perhaps it is just the humility latent in the name. (And yes, I did check. They’re an ad network and have nothing to do with the disabled.)

Humility. There’s a concept, albeit an old fashioned one. Have any idea what these companies do? Me either. I’m not saying these corporations aren’t terrific, thank-your-lucky-stars-they’re-here, paradigm-shifting, value-creating entities. I’m sure many of them are. But many of them aren’t, created by the inevitable froth that follows in the wake of easy VC money. The hairbrained names are just a metaphor for empty dot-com arrogance. When you arrogate the right to create language, focusing on hip wordplay, and leave out the meaning, will you leave out other important things as well? Say a value proposition?

I blame DoubleClick. They started it all with the silly name thing—back in the time when you actually had to click twice on your Macintosh mouse. Something most of us don’t do any more. And in a nice ironic twist, DoubleClick was just bought by Google—with perhaps the loopiest name of them all, a bastardization of the mathematical “googol.” But if you take what you do seriously, more seriously than your cool name and its marketing potential, I guess you get to create new words like google, and have your fans turn it into a verb.



Greek Mortgages and Dot-Com Deja Vu

CIQ Trends

“It’s a scheme they have in America where the bank buys the house and you rent it from the bank.”

That was my father-in-law at a cocktail party in Athens, Greece, explaining the concept of a mortgage to group of older European guests. Until very recently, American-style mortgages were virtually unknown in Greece and many other countries.


The explanation seemed quaint to me. That is until the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Traditionally, in places like Greece, you might borrow 20% of the purchase price of a house, but certainly never the 80-90% we do here. In much of Europe, property passes down inside of families. And the rest of the world, generally speaking, does not love debt the way we do. Though in some places they’re catching up fast. Along with Big Macs and cigarettes, our credit-card habit is another unhealthy export.


The crisis in the mortgage industry has made me sensitive to another phenomenon: a new dot-com-ishness in the air. Money is flowing again from VCs. The M&A engine is torqued up. Tech consultants’ rates are up at $175 an hour. These consultants are turning down good gigs, or requiring two- and three-month commitments, telling their clients they can get more across the street. People in stable jobs are saying they can make more on the free market as consultants. Does anyone remember 2001 anymore? Or are we all packing our camping rolls, off again to pan for gold?


I believe in startups. I think many good companies went out of business in 2001 simply because they had the financing rug ripped out from under them. I have not heard my father-in-law explain dot-com investing. But if he did, I imagine it would go something like this: “It’s a scheme they have in America where they invest in small companies so that some people can get rich. But then they close them because they don’t really like running companies in America. Just starting them.”

CIQ Headlines for October 8, 2007

CIQ Trends

Publisher’s Jitters in Frankfurt: Attendees at the Frankfurt Book Fair told surveyers what they thought were the biggest the challenges and threats facing the industry:

— Digitization (53 percent)
— Increasing globalization (24 percent)
— User-generated content (22 percent)
— Territorial rights battles (15 percent)

e-Books and Audiobooks lead the list of major areas of growth. CIQ: We are very impressed with those publishers converting their backlists to XML to face the digital future. We’d like to see someone put a big catalogue of OEM content on an eReader to promote adoption.

Google Phone: (NYT) Some call it a phone. Some call it an OS. This story describes the GPhone as a kind of “open-source operating and Web-browsing software that would compete with Microsoft’s Windows Mobile.” CIQ: We would love to see an open-source phone plaform. And, our advice based on the iPhone experience we recently had: Get the typing part right.

Big Four on Acquisition Binge: (LA Times) To compete with the New York Times, independent blogs, and others, AOL, Yahoo!, MSN, and Google have been on an acquisition binge. Collectively they have spent $10B. CIQ: Content, these days, is a very rich queen.

Retailers–Missed Opportunity of Mammoth Size

CIQ Trends

Last Thursday I did a radio interview for a streaming site geared to the retail industry. And I was reminded of one of the Great Unanswered Questions of the Internet: Why are retailers so slow to catch on online opportunities?

This question is over 10 years old for me. And it has a direct relation to media, advertising and online content.

Like almost everyone, I grocery shop. A lot. Like at least 3 times a week. And I don’t think I’m unusual. Many people go more than I do. I am lucky enough to live in Manhattan, where I can avail myself of Fresh Direct. But there’s other stuff I forget. Or maybe I’m just in the mood for something else. And in my wallet, I have five frequent shopper cards that are falling out all over the place. All the time.

So it’s not as if these stores don’t have data on me. But I never get email from them. Never, ever, ever, not once, nada, nil, nothing. Yes, I get email from Target. But only since I started to shop them online. In the 5 or so previous years I only went to a brick-and-mortar store, I never got an email.

Why, God, why is this touch point missed entirely? There are so many marketers in my inbox I don’t want to hear from. Please, Mr. Food Emporium, could you send me an email once in a while telling me that you’ve got a special shipment of strawberries? I’d really like it. Oh, and, I’m sure there are about 47 brick-and-mortar stores in our zip code that would pay you for co-registrations. And I would like to hear from them too– especially that wonderful stationary store down the block. I really want to know when they are having a sale. Not to mention the local theater group. You could ask me for my email at checkout. That’s how you got me to sign up for that stupid card that’s always falling out of my purse.

In an age where Ford is so desperate to find a new way to reach consumers that they have 104– yes that’s one-hundred-and-four— branded-entertainment projects teed up in Hollywood, it seems just silly that there is such a huge gap in what is a great advertising platform. Oh, Mr. Food Emporium, betcha Ford might be interested in co-marketing to your email list as well.