I think you’re on mute! The game of teleconferencing.

Like a lot of people these days, I am spending plenty of time on Zoom, Teams, and other teleconferencing platforms. I was a teleconference user before COVID so I don’t regard myself as a novice, yet there are still challenges I find frustrating.

The first of these is the technology. Once the meeting has been sent and accepted, you’d think it would go smoothly but that’s not always the case. Here are just some of the issues which arise, and never consistently!

  • People can’t seem to locate the link that they have to click to join. Whether they aren’t reading the meeting notice correctly or it is not showing fully on their remote device, is anyone’s guess. This leads to emails and SMS messages being exchanged which consumes the first 10 minutes of the call.
  • Once they’ve found the link, somehow a password or meeting key is now required which I don’t remember being needed previously?
  • The sound doesn’t seem to be OK for everyone in the meeting. Yes, some people will forget that they are on mute, others seem to have incompatible headsets, others will be getting severe echo, and some will have a delay such that they are always being talked over.
  • Video quality is patchy and, on some platforms, seems to seize up for no reason. This will almost always happen to me as I scratch my face which leaves me looking like I’m picking my nose right through the call.
  • The call cuts you off part-way through showing something like “your connection is unstable”. You only find this out though after you’ve been speaking for a number of minutes and someone then comes in and says, “we haven’t heard you since you said, “in my view”….”.
  • And then there is the issue of screen sharing — why is this so complex? The options you are given merely confuse, leaving you showing your spouses email request for you to pick up the children on the way home instead of your lovely data analytics slides. Any attempt to change to other open windows is fruitless as they take so long to load that you’ve moved to another thinking it didn’t work. The audience then all shout “yes, its up…..no, its gone again”!

Once you have the technology in phase, its then about the attendees.

  • There are the “shouters” who may not hear you very well but they are coming through your earphones at ridiculous decibel levels.
  • Then there are the “whisperers” (see the above and reverse the issue).
  • The “lurchers” are also there who provide no feedback or comment such that you are always having to ask, “are you still there”? They then answer that they are but you don’t hear them because they are obviously on mute.
  • Of course, we have those who NEVER put themselves on mute, so we have a range of background noise from dogs, sirens, children screaming, road noise, birds, and again, your own voice echoing back to you!
  • Although the meeting was set for 1 hour, less the 10 minutes to get everything in order, there will inevitably be someone who says, “I have a hard stop in 25 minutes for another meeting”….grrrrrr.

Yes, teleconferencing has rapidly ramped up under COVID-19 but have we ramped ourselves up to the challenge? I don’t think so.