Useless Conference Calls

August 2nd, 2007

This is the sequel to Useless Meetings.

Useless Conference Calls

By Ivy Reisner and Jane Lebak

Asmodeus: If we're all on this call now, I'd like to begin with the first item on your agendas--expanding useless meetings into a new area, the teleconference. As we discussed in the last meeting, the goal of this project is two-fold. We want to engender ill-will and cut out productivity, leading to a deficit in available prayer and charity time. Let's start by reviewing the minutes from last Sunday.

Mephistopheles (on IM to Beelzebub): That should buy me enough time to grab some coffee. Want one?

Beelzebub (on IM to Mephistopheles): Already did. Besides, I'm watching an ebay auction. I don't want to get sniped.


Asmodeus: Everyone's here. I'm ready to open the floor for the brainstorming session.

Beelzebub: What if we have them invent mute buttons so that the one who is contributing something useful is also muted and they can't hear it?

Mephistopheles: No need. They won't listen to each other anyway.

Satan: If a meeting is held via conference call and nobody listens, does it make a sound?

Mephistopheles: More importantly, are any of the items really actionable?

Satan: Yes. They're almost invariably unnecessary anyway.

Belior: Particularly the ones concerning scheduling another conference call.

Mephistopheles: Then we should encourage them.

Beelzebub: We could have one person keep minutes, another send out an e-mail describing what was discussed in the meeting, and another summarize the meeting for the executives.

Mephistopheles: Minutes aren't brief enough?

Asmodeus: You have no idea.

Beelzebub: I'll include as instructions leave plenty of white on the paper.

Satan: Have the committee ask for executive feedback.

Belior: That's--that's truly evil!

Beelzebub: They'll definitely need another meeting to discuss the feedback.

Satan: Which won't make sense as the executives will have scanned, not read, the document.

Mephistopheles: Make sure the blow-hards get into an argument over something about which they're mistaken, something not even important to the document, and no one ranking lower then them will have the courage to tell them they're a bunch of idiots.

Beelzebub: Allocate five minutes of every meeting for kissing up. No one will be able to see the eye-rolling.

Asmodeus: How about dropped calls? Someone's line can go dead, and no one will realize for a while.

Satan: Can we arrange things so that they confuse two similar projects?

Belior: I like the way you think, sir!

Mephistopheles: This works best if they then decide on an action item for the other project, no one from which is at that meeting.

Belior: What do you mean, not at the meeting? Anyone involved in any project, no matter how peripherally related, should be participating in the meeting. It shows their status and brings in their sphere of knowledge. On the other hand, individuals whose input is vital should be inadvertently left off the call, creating an information donut the remaining executives will feel the need to fill.

Asmodeus: We can also have people sign in late. By the time they've recapped the whole meeting, they'll have lost track of what they'd been talking about.

Satan: That's best when it interferes with conveying or receiving information needed for actual work.

Mephistopheles: They do any of that?

Satan: I generally discourage it. I like idle hands.

Belior: That's what makes you such an effective visionary.

Mephistopheles: But sir, if that's the case, what's the purpose of the hands-free headset?

Beelzebub: It was in order to have them playing Minesweeper while on a conference call.

Satan: But only if we want someone to call on them the moment after they lost track of the conversation.

Asmodeus: That can be arranged.

Mephistopheles (on IM to Beelzebub): Admit it--you're playing Minesweeper, aren't you?

Beelzebub (on IM to Mephistopheles): Nope, I'm on another call. It's not like I'm needed at either. Satan's on both, too. Belior is playing Solitaire though. I can see his monitor from here.

Mephistopheles: WHAT?!? That's an insult--why wasn't I important enough to be included on the other call?

Beelzebub: Do you really want to be? They spent the first fifteen minutes making sure everyone was on the call and the next twenty deciding when we're going to have the next. Now we have two geeks discussing some minutia about server capacity. Satan's done the "throat clear" thing twice, but they never noticed.

Mephistopheles: They disincluded me. That's implying I'm not as important as you.

Beelzebub: Do you even know what this meeting is about?

Mephistopheles: Do you?

Beelzebub: Oh, criminy, I just got outbid. BRB.

Satan (on call one): Asmodeus, have you consulted with parts and services?

Asmodeus (on call one): Good point. How is your department proceeding with this, Beelzebub?

Satan (on call two): Demogorgon, have you consulted with parts and services?

Demogorgon (on call two): How do you think we should handle this, Beelzebub?

Beelzebub (on IM to Mephistopheles): !!!

Mephistopheles: Sir, before we get into that, I want you to review the timeline of the framework for repotentialization.

Satan: Uh, well--

Beelzebub (on IM): I owe you a bagel and Starbucks.

Satan: Clearly the reenergization process of the actualization is going to affect the event horizons for our benchmarks, creating a long tail for our paradigm shift.

Mephistopheles: Thank you, sir--that clarifies matters.

Azriel (first coming in on the call): Hi. Sorry I'm late. Did I miss anything important?

Asmodeus: Not a problem. Let me bring you up to speed.

TEN MINUTES LATER, with a second recap to bring Belior back up to speed on what happened after his call got dropped:

Satan: Before Azriel joined us, we were discussing the sloth angle and how some people might join meetings they didn't need to be at.

Beelzebub (on IM to Mephistopheles): We were?

Mephistopheles (on IM to Beelzebub): Do you want tell him we weren't?

Beelzebub: Good point. Hey! I just won my auction!

Mephistopheles: Another one of those dogs playing poker posters?

Beelzebub: How'd you guess?

Mephistopheles: We're in Hell. I didn't have to guess.

Asmodeus: The idea was that executives would sit around with tech toys and tune the meeting out.

Mephistopheles (on IM to Beelzebub): Meeting? I thought we were talking about conference calls.

Beelzebub (on IM to Mephistopheles): Is that what this call was about? I'm getting mixed up between this and the one on obnoxious cell phone technology.

Asmodeus: We can expand on that Bluetooth headphones idea. It would be good for shutting everyone out.

Satan: As you said before, people who pay no attention to the world do tend to be a bit more self-centered. I'm beginning to like that line of research more and more.

Asmodeus: I think the RFID approach will work.

Satan: It's worth it to have Marau look into that. ... Marau?

Beelzebub: She's not on this call, sir. She wasn't brought into this project.

Satan: She should have been--this is horribly lax of you to omit her from the distribution list. Drop her an e-mail later and let her know.

Beelzebub: You got it.

Beelzebub (on IM to Mephistopheles): What am I supposed to tell her exactly?

Mephistopheles (on IM to Beelzebub): They lost me somewhere around Bluetooth. Hey, do you want to get together after work?

Beelzebub (on IM): I'm not sure--give me a call later and check my availability.

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