Friday, April 11th, 2014

BY David Raether, Head Writer

Last week, we began our analysis of the eleven types of people who can ruin a perfectly good teleconference.  We looked at the Repeating Everything Everyone Else Already Said Guy and the Irrelevant Topic Gal.  These are about two of eleven types Conference Call Ruiners have identified in my academic research.  (Please note my credentials: I am ABD (all but dissertation) at the University of Duluth (France) in Human Behavior, so I think I can confidently state I AM an expert.

Today we’re going to look at the Completely Unrelated Anecdote Guy and the Hello? Is This Thing Working? Gal.

First up: the Completely Unrelated Anecdote Guy. At first, this type can be charming.  He’s got a million great stories: his life on the high seas as a crab fisherman, the years he spent in minor league hockey, cutthroat tales on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.  Oh, I could go on and on.  And so could he.

Here’s how this thing sort of plays out:

CALLER 1: Now as far as the language in Hold Harmless sections here.

CALLER 2: It’s fairly standard language.

CALLER 1: And that’s our problem —

COMPLETELY UNRELATED ANECDOTE GUY: Did I ever tell you guys about the wrestling match I was in in the Phillipines back in 1979?

CALLER 1: What?!  What does that have to do with what we’re talking about?

COMPLETELY UNRELATED ANECDOTE GUY: Well, we’re talking about holds here, right?  Let me tell you, I was working the professional circuit in those days.  Very popular character: Uncle Sam the Hammer.  Patriotic type.  Striped pants.  Red, white and blue outfit.  Top hat.  Although in the Phillipines, the Uncle Sam the Hammer character was a villain.  Anyway, one particularly steamy night in Manila —

CALLER 2: Excuse me, but what does this have to do with the Hold Harmless language?

COMPLETELY UNRELATED ANECDOTE GUY: I’m talking about a hold that wasn’t harmless.  In fact, I’ve problems with regular urination since then.

CALLER 1: Eeeeww!  Get out you.  Hang up on him.

COMPLETELY UNRELATED ANECDOTE GUY: I was at a hanging once.

The Completely Unrelated Anecdote basically is a narcissist. They are staring into every situation and seeing themselves. In the Greek myth of Narcissus, Narcissus was so enamoured of themselves as he stared into his reflection in a pond and then fell in and drown.

Similarly, the best way to manage this person on a conference call is to let them know two things:

1. If they tell one more anecdote, they will be hung up on.
2. You’re not kidding.

They will respond thusly: “Sorry. You know, I worked in the merchant marine once with a guy who had a million stories.”

Once this happens, you will hang up on the person. When they call back in, remind them you weren’t kidding. And that you have one finger on the hangup button on their line.

We now come to the Hello? Is Thing Working? Hello? Gal.

The answer is: Yes. Yes, it’s working. Stop asking that question. We all know you can hear us. Stop pretending. It goes like this:

CALLER 1: Okay, as far as Thursday’s agenda,

HELLO GAL: Hello? Hello?

CALLER 2: Yeah, Denise. We hear you.

HELLO GAL: Is this thing working?

CALLER 1: Yes, it’s working. Now, as far as Thursday–

HELLO GAL: Can you all hear me?

CALLER 2: Yes, we can hear you.

HELLO GAL: I can hear you guys. But can you hear me? Hello?

CALLER 1: YES!  WE CAN HEAR YOU!

HELLO GAL: Gosh, Bob, you don’t have to yell.

CALLER 1: Good. Thursday’s agenda will have–

HELLO GAL: Hello? I think I just lost the connection. Are you all there?

At this point, things are about to turn ugly. What all of you could do is start yelling at her. But what does that get you? Nothing, my friends. Here’s what you all do. Sit perfectly still for a minute, all of you. Nobody moves or makes a sound.

She’ll keep asking if you’re and when you don’t respond, she’ll think she’s lost the call. She’ll hang up and you’re in the clear. You can finish the call without her.