Why Conference Calls and Hangouts Don’t Work

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You’ve likely experienced one. You may even love them. Your day filled with blocks of them. You can even do them on Google Plus. The truth is, conference calls and hangouts don’t work. Oh, there might be an exception or two, but the vast majority run anything but smoothly. hangouts don't work

Too Many People Involved

Just because we can have a Google hangout with 10 people on it, doesn’t mean we should. The more generally isn’t merrier. If you keep it to 3-4 people, you have a fighting chance, but once you get north of 5 the chances of chaos increase dramatically. Phone conferences calls with 20+ from multiple locations are laughable.


It’s just not there yet. Feedback, distortion, noisy lines, all lead to an inefficient experience. Video is worse. The bandwidth and speed can’t meet the demand of video. When is the last time you had clear video and audio on a Google Hangout? Never. Hold on, I’m having trouble hearing you, and I can barely see you.

People are too Easily Distracted

You’re in a room with 8 people, all with their laptops in front of them. There are 20 more people on the bridge that are at home, or at another office. All with their laptops in front of them. The only person focused (generally) is the person talking at the time. Kids, dogs, and traffic are often heard on calls. “Can you please mute you’re phone, the noise is disrupting the call.” If only I had a dollar every time I heard that barked out.

They are too Long

I think most people can hang in there for 10 minutes. When you start to get past 10 minutes, people start to drift, especially if they’re not in the same location as the speaker. The problem is calling a meeting with multiple people for 10-15 minutes won’t give you the time needed to go over what needs to be discussed. So it’s a catch 22.

Quick Tips
Keep them short, 30 minutes or less
Keep them small, 5 or less is preferable
The more people you have, the shorter they need to be
Mandate that everyone on call/hangout needs to participate
No smartphones allowed
For participants working from home – Kids, dogs, etc. should not be seen or heard

So an awesome guy that I use to work with, Jason Klock, brought this video to my attention earlier this morning. No conference call was necessary. The video was produced by Trip and Tyler, and they hit it out of the park. The video is 4:00 minutes, and you will be laughing.



comic via GCS Agents


Great article, thanks for the share Steven.  I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned that it seems we're just not quite there yet.  Nobody can argue with how great the idea of (especially) a long-distance or international video call - but quality of video / audio / stream speed?  Currently leaves a lot to be desired!

Also thank you for championing the short, efficient call.  The calls that drag on are just going to end up with many distracted people doing other things.  And that video was hilarious, had me laughing out loud.  Thanks again, first time visitor, will be checking back.  I'm @zacharykreid feel free to contact me via Twitter and let's get int ouch.  Take care.


Great post Steven, as usual. LOVED the video! 

GeeklessTech moderator

Thanks for the comment Neicolec. Yes, well there are exceptions to the rule. Also, I think you can still be successful even if one participates in inefficient meetings. My experience over 20 years in corporate is spot on with video. A lot of nonsense, wasted time, and it's just forced because most managers think it's must because that's what they were told or read somewhere. 

When I was managing a group of 10, I would have one-one's consistently and keep team meetings short and sweet, with a lot of energy. That worked for me and my group. Definitely saw many that loved meetings. Where is he, meeting. Where is she, meeting. There are definitely a group of professionally trained meeting experts.


Well, all the problems you point out are true. Still, I work almost exclusively remotely, as does everyone else on my team. And despite those problems, we are quite productive and successful.