Friday, March 28th, 2014

BY David Raether, Head Writer

Okay, here’s the scenario. An inventory planning session for the spring season. For a chain of gardening stores in the Midwest and West Coast. Twenty managers on the conference call.

The CEO starts off with a few introductory remarks and then this sound appears in the background:

Look, I think we can all agree it’s one of the great masterpieces of grunge rock from the early 1990s. We’re rockin the Neverland. Oh, wait. We’re not supposed to be rockin’ the Neverland.  We’re supposed to be discussing tulip bulb orders. Okay, someone says, who’s got Metallica on in their shop?

The call comes to a halt as everyone tries to figure out the source of the Metallica. Finally, the manager in Green Bay fesses up. He just noticed the high school kid he has loading fertilizer bags on the display rack next to his office is using Metallica to “pump me up for this job, dude.”

Okay, we’re back on track and talking about tulip bulb orders — until the conference call comes to a halt with what seems to be the sound of automatic gun fire and mixed with a yipping. The conference call stops and everyone checks in. Nope, no roving gunman. And yet it continues. Oh, wait. It’s Alison, the National Sales Manager at the office in Provo. She’s chasing her Maltese around the office in heels. She had to bring “Walter” into the office today because he has a vet appointment right after this call.

The noisy caller is a nagging problem in teleconferencing. It’s not the caller per se, but their environment from which they are calling. Look, I’m as big a fan of Metallica as any other right-thinking American, but not when it’s drowning out a group discussion during a business teleconference call. And many times the offending party has no control over the background noise: Is it Gary in Spokane’s fault that a homecoming parade for Joel E Ferris High School is going by the window at the same time as our conference call?

Probably not.

But does that mean the rest of us have to suffer?

No. Which is precisely why UberConference has a mute setting on each of your callers. Barking dogs, heels on hardwood, brass bands in parades, or an old-fashioned “Enter the Sandman” blast: all of these can be eliminated by simply muting the offending callers.

Then just message the person whom you’ve muted that there’s a problem on their end. (A polite way of saying: shut the window, take off the heels, let the parade pass, unplug the speakers, and so on). When they are ready, unmute them and return to the call. And all of it is discreetly handled.

Pretty cool, huh?