“Oh, oh telephone line/Give me some time, I’m living in twilight” – ELO

At PPC Associates, I participate in two weekly conference calls:  A Monday-morning conference call featuring all the account managers and a Thursday-afternoon conference call featuring all members of the staff.

When I started with PPC Associates last March, there were very few people dialing into the conference lines: me, a staff member who was temporarily working from home, and the Chicago office calling into San Mateo (plus the occasional person who couldn’t make into the office for whatever reason). Now, with several more telecommuters on our staff plus others with more flexible work arrangements, we can easily have 12-15 people dialing into the meeting, and the “ding” of a new person joining the call is a frequent repetitive noise around the time the meeting starts.

What I’ve found really interesting is how the behavior of people on the calls has evolved over the last year.

When you dial into a conference line, after entering the proper meeting code, the robotic voice tells you to “please state your name” after the tone. Sure enough, when I first started doing these calls, that’s precisely what I did, and I would engage in small talk with the other people on the line until the main meeting began from the San Mateo office.

This would go on week after week. As much as I liked each and every one of my teammates, these sorts of conversations became a little forced; the meeting would start at any second, and anything we’d be saying to each other would be shut down immediately (even if we were in mid-sentence).

However, as time evolved and more people became call regulars, people started evolving away from announcing themselves, mostly preferring to wait in silence (though no doubt continuing to do their work) until the meeting began.

Or, sometimes when I would call in, there might be a couple of people already on the line chatting with each other. Not being the sort of person to interrupt, I would tend not to say anything – nor would the dozen others also joining the call.

Sometimes I would call in and the prompt would tell me that I was the 4th / 7th / 10th person in the conference. Then, I would hear absolute silence. If nine other people are on the call and not saying anything, it would be pretty darned awkward for me to speak up :.)  Of course, if the meeting had already started, I would make it a point to stay in the background (and with the anonymity of conference calls, the folks in San Mateo wouldn’t know it was actually me who was a little late).

Despite what you might think from reading these preceding 450 words, there is a ton of communication going on at PPC Associates between teammates. For direct communication, we use Skype very heavily, and while nobody is saying anything to each other on the conference call line, there are likely several Skype conversations going on between people who are currently on the phone but not taking advantage of the conference-call capabilities to talk directly to each other.

We also have an internal communication system called Nabble, which we use to either communicate to our clients about their accounts or communicate to each other internally about managing the accounts. We do also use email, though the younger members of the team tend to do less of that than the older members.

So, to sum up, most PPC Associates team members are busy actively managing our client accounts or silently communicating with each other while we wait quietly for our conference calls to begin.  :.)

- Todd Mintz, Senior SEM Manager

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