Quarantine Life: The WebEx
Scene: various home office spaces in multiple residences throughout the country.
Several employees of a Fortune 500 company on a 9 a.m. web conference to discuss Random Business Thing. Scheduled duration: 30 minutes.
9:00: 5 of 7 participants are on the line. Quarantine and weather-related small talk.
9:02: 6 of 7 participants are on the line, including one VP.
VP: “So it looks like we are just waiting on Senior VP to join.” Chat between Participant A and VP on project unrelated to subject of call.
9:03: Senior VP is on the line. “Can you hear me?” Assurances “yes, we can hear you fine” simultaneously with “Can everyone hear me ok?” followed by round robin of “what was that?” “Oh, no, go ahead.” “No, what were you going to say?” “I was just saying I can hear you.”
9:05: Discussion of Random Business Thing begins. Participant A is taking notes.
9:06: Senior VP: “Hold on…Participant A, can you share your screen so we can see your notes? Can you share your screen?”
Participant A: “OK…can everyone see?”
Participant A: “Oops, sorry, clicked the wrong thing… there we go… oh no wait, sorry, wrong screen, that’s my email, ha ha. OK, there. Can everyone see?”
5 out of 6 people: “Yep.”
Participant B: “No, it’s just a black screen for me.” (Various suggestions made of what Participant B is doing wrong.) “Oh, there we go.” Discussion resumes.
9:08: Dog barking. Someone yells “SHUT UP!” Participant C: “Ope, sorry about that… my dog… thought I was on mute.” Discussion resumes.
9:09: Senior VP, interrupting VP: “Hold on, hold on, sorry. Just one second. Participant A, I love that you are taking notes for us, I like that you are trying to get everyone’s thoughts down, but how about instead of a narrative form, you create a table there, so we can keep the ideas and next steps organized?” Participant A creates table, per instruction. Senior VP: “Sorry VP, go ahead.”
9:10: Participant E disappears from call.
9:11: Discussion resumes. VP: “Wait, what is this table for? I’m not understanding why we are making this a table. Does each idea go on a line and then the columns are for…or are the ideas each to be a header for its own column?”
9:12 through 9:20: VP and Senior VP have a lively back and forth about the merits of the table vs. the narrative form of notes for this informal brainstorming meeting, the results of which are not to be presented anywhere.
Senior VP: “I’m just trying, as SENIOR VP, to steer this meeting toward actionable steps as opposed to just a list of thoughts that- ”
VP interrupts: “No, yeah, no I get that, ok…”
Senior VP talks louder “…but if you don’t like it and want to do it another way, that’s fine.”
VP: “No, no, go ahead. I just didn’t-”
9:20: Discussion resumes. Two of the participants have yet to speak.
9:21: VP disappears from call. Unclear if mini-tantrum or connectivity issue. Senior VP does not or pretends not to notice.
9:23: VP returns to call.
9:24: Senior VP calls on Participant D: “Participant D, not to put you on the spot but…” (proceeds to put Participant D on the spot.)
“You’re on mute Participant D. Unmute yourself.”
Participant D: “Sorry, sorry, I was on mute (begins to give thoughts, gets through 20 seconds before interruption by VP.)
VP: “I think- I think- I think…” (repeated until Participant D yields the floor): “I think that’s a really interesting idea, but I don’t really see how… (proceeds to dismiss idea entirely.)
Senior VP: “Well, I think what she is saying is…” (repeats Participant D’s idea nearly verbatim).
9:27: VP: “Did we lose Participant E?”
Senior VP: “I think so. I’m going to have to jump as well, I have a bigger call to get to at 9:30. So, let’s recap. (Reads Participant A’s table aloud.)
9:28: Participant C: “Participant E just pinged me. She lost VPN.”
VP: “OK, I’ll be sure she gets the notes. Maybe they’ll be helpful to her. Are we done, then?”
Senior VP: “Yes, we’re done. One more thing I want to add though….” (discusses time keeping and other administrative matters.)
9:36: Call ends.
Total time spent discussing Random Business Thing: 9 minutes.