Dec 30, 2008

The Cost of Teleconferencing

Recently I was talking to a friend who heads Marketing for a Financial firm. She asked me "So how much time do you spend in telecons?"

I was surprised and said that I hardly did so. I use the phone primarily to text or to only set up appointments. The actual conversation is almost all of the time face to face.

The reason is that face to face conversation is the richest mode to exchanging information. And while I am a big evangelist of virtual communities and social networking and communication, for some kind of interactions, like building a rapport with a client there is no substitute for direct face to face communication.

So this friend tells me "I am on a telecon with my boss in Singapore first thing in the morning and I end the day with a call with our US office - the call starts at 7 pm and ends around 8.30 pm!"

She goes on "And sometimes during the day, we have to have video conference with other efolks in India, so we go from our office in Colaba (where we don't have videoconferencing facility) to Andheri (where we do). However due to bandwidth problems only five people can be on the video-con. So everytime the 6th person tries to join - one of the people in the conversation actually is pushed out!"

"You know, I think this consensus driven - lets-all-arrive-at-an-agreement mindset is to blame for so many telecons in official work! My husband and I have two different landlines at home for our respective conference calls. I just wish we didn't get invited to all these useless telecons and videocons - and people made their decisions and informed us."

As a guy who believes in collaboration and that people should have a say in the decisions that affect them and their work, this comment took me by surprise. However, it stands to reason if overdone - this approach intrudes and encroaches into a person's family time - she would react this way.

What do you think? How can organizations help people to be collaborative and yet not inflect these issues?