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My Experience and a New Study Agree: Bungled Conference Calls Cost Businesses Big Money

We got on the phone with the client to clear the air and save the project. They fired us instead.

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A day in the life of a small business owner often involves . Sometimes, they can be a misery. One call like this comes to my mind, and although it seems like it happened ...yesterday...I've completely gotten over it.

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Jerry was the vice president of sales and marketing at a client of ours and the most senior level person on the project we were working on. The project was going ...nowhere, man. It was mainly because Jerry could not carry that weight of responsibility necessary for overseeing it. Why? Well...just...because. Regardless, the rest of his team -- and my team -- was determined to come together on a conference call to figure out what to do. "We can work it out," I thought.

Related: How to Steer a Conference Call Like a Champ

Unfortunately and near the end of the conversation, I made a very inappropriate and offensive joke about Jerry's ridiculous mop-top haircut (he looked like a member of one of those 1960's rock groups). I was pretty mean about his haircut. Well, it turns out that Jerry -- unbeknownst to me -- was quietly listening in on the conference call. Help! He didn't think it was funny and within a week my firm was told...well...hello goodbye.

That was a horrible and embarrassing experience. I should have known better. But, I feel fine. You won't see me making that mistake again. But, I've got a feeling you've had bad or unprofitable conference calls too, right?

Related: The Birth of the Star Speakerphone

Others certainly have. Last week LoopUp, an online meeting platform, released the results of a study it conducted of 1,000 business professionals in the U.K. and U.S. who regularly take part in conference calls. The study found that businesses lose an estimated $34 billion a year because of their helter skelter conference calls.

Why so much? The study lists a long and winding road of problems, starting with an average 15 minutes of wasted time just to get everyone on the line. Out-of-date technologies hurt productivity but a big cost is confidentiality. Over 50 percent of those participating in the survey admitted that they typically don't know who else is on the call, even when confidential information is being discussed. Isn't that ...something?

So how can you your conference calls be a little less costly? It just takes a little prudence, dear.

Today's video and web-based conferencing tools are more powerful than just dial-up. These applications help us better monitor attendance across the universe of mobile devices and they make it much easier to see who's also on the call. Taking verbal attendance doesn't hurt either because you know as well as I do that people can be here, there and everywhere.

Related: 7 Tips for Minding Your Manners During Conference Calls

Keeping calls short and having a designated lead person makes things more efficient because everyone can't be free as a bird during these conversations. Creating a reputation for starting and ending calls on time will ensure that people don't feel like your calls take eight days a week. And please, make me (and everyone else on the call) happier by using your mute button.

I still regret that stupid comment I made about Jerry's hair that got us fired. But, I've completely gotten over it, can't you tell? Sure, I guess I should've known better. I admit I'm a loser. Maybe we can work it out. OK, I'll just let it be.

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