Conference calls have advantages and disadvantages. What are they? In a strange twist, many of the advantages and disadvantages are very similar.
What is a conference call? There are two kinds of conference calls. One is a phone call that is made by a group of people (usually in a meeting or other similar situation) to another person (or group of people). The other type is when you have several individuals all using phones alone but on the same “line” so they can talk to each other. Each of these types have their pros and cons as well.
The biggest advantage to a conference call is the fact that everyone involved gets to hear information first hand. They don’t have to rely on another person receiving the information and then passing it on. Even the smallest change by one or more people in a chain can completely alter the original message and the meaning. If you actually heard the words come out of the CEO’s mouth, then you know exactly what was said.
Another advantage of the conference call is anyone involved can provide input to the group. This can be an invaluable tool when you have an entire team working on a project. You may have a member that remembers a point that is important but could have easily been left out of a report given to a single individual. In this scenario, that minor bit of information could be a turning point but would have never been known if the report was given by a single person to another single person.
If you happen to have one group calling another group on a conference call, you can substantially increase the amount of people “present” even if they are in different parts of the country or the world. This can save both time and money by not having to physically move groups of people from place to place. It is much easier to meet in a conference room than to get all the people needed on a flight to New York (or wherever).
The down side to conference calls is the same as the advantage. Everyone present has the ability to provide input. This can lead to arguments between people both in the room or on the phone. Just like a face to face conversation, disagreements happen. When you are only working with voice, people will tend to try to “talk over” the people that they are disagreeing with. If tempers flair, this can easily turn a conference call meeting into mayhem (of course, the same thing can happen just as easy if the meeting is happening in person).
Another downside is that all the people present can be heard. Most people will have an opinion of their boss (or other member of the company) that would probably be much better kept to themselves. If you are on a live conference call, that “under your voice” muttering could very well be heard by the person in question.
One last disadvantage is the fact that you are basing decisions just on the tone of a voice. Body language is taken out of the equation. When a human communicates with another human, more information is passed via body language than most people realize. Of course this is a disadvantage to any phone call versus face to face meetings but it is also a disadvantage to conference calls.
Conference calls have made the world of business much easier but like anything that can solve a problem, there are always disadvantages that will go along with it.