Like most of my Ss, my meetings usually happen over the phone. So, when I saw the first of these strips, I knew my Ss would find it as amusing and close to home as I did. Here’s a 30 minute activity for reviewing common issues that hamper productivity on a conference call as well as addressing these problems using some formulaic language. You might want to follow it up with a conference call simulation.
Printouts of these Dilbert comic strips for each group.
Make enough copies of the comic strips for each group of three or four Ss. Blank cards (I recycled old unused certificates by cutting them into four pieces and stapling two together with the blank sides facing out).
- If your Ss are unfamiliar with Dilbert, you might want to preface it by showing them a brief animated sample from Youtube and pointing out the satirical humour that Scott Adams uses to lampoon modern corporate life.
- Divide Ss into groups of four and distribute the comic strips to each group.
- Ask the groups to think about the conference call irritants that underlie the humour in each of these comic strips and discuss whether they have experienced something similar on their own calls.
- Strip 1: Background noise, not being on mute
- Strip 2: Low turnout, compulsively being on mute
- Strip 3: Technical problems, poor planning, bad acoustics
- Strip 4: Multitasking, not paying attention
- Now ask Ss to think of at least seven other irritants or problems or issues commonly faced on conference calls. Distributes cards and ask Ss to write each irritant legibly on a separate card.
- Collect all the cards and shuffle them.
- Redistribute them, handing out seven to each group.
- Ask Ss to read the problem and come up with a (here’s the hard part) communication or language solution to the issue. For example, if the problem is background noise, you might say to your concall attendees “Could you please put yourself on mute if you’re not speaking? or “Could I ask everyone except the speaker to go on mute?”
- Collect all the cards and shuffle them again. Redistribute them.
- Now ask Ss to look through the responses and consider on a scale of 1 to 5 how polite they are and appropriate in a business situation which may involve managers, clients and other key stakeholders. If they rate anything less than four, ask them to tweak the response to make it sound more professional, while also correcting any language errors.
- Have Ss share the concall irritants along with the suggested responses.