Conference Calls

When I first got an office a few years ago, I was pretty stoked. Now, finally, I could be annoyed at my speech alone while on the phone instead of wondering what the person in the next cubicle thought. Since the job had more responsibilities, I inevitably had to participate in more conference calls.

This is when I found out something that was really and truly messed up about my speech.

Here’s what I’d do.

I’d dial into the call and have to say my name. Obviously this was painful. But I’d try to dial in a minute early so that I’d be the first person on. That way I was only stuttering in front of the host. Once I got past that, I’d put the phone on mute and wait for others to join. I found that when the phone was on mute, I could say my name easily without stuttering. I then turned off the mute. I could feel the tension and the stutter, and knew I wouldn’t be able to say my name. Mute back on. Easily say my name. Mute off, potential stutter for sure. This was crazy.

The easiest calls were ones where I was just a participant. Then I’d just have to sit and listen and occasionally contribute something that I had prepared and was confident to speak on. The worst are the ones where I’m the host. Then as people join, I have to go through a roll call … and end up stuttering on a few names. What made that even worse was if someone was in the room with me … ugh. Maybe they could just do the roll call? No? Fine.

Another pain with conference calls are going to a meeting room with a bunch of participants and having someone join over the phone. Then they ask to go around the room for introductions. Not only do I have to say my name without stuttering (never happens) but loudly enough so the person on the phone hears it. Then while I’m stuttering out my name, the person on the phone is confused about the delay and possible dropped signal. So of course they ask to repeat. And of course that never turns out well. Because then there’s this awkward silence as I try to regroup and then go through the motions again.

Inevitably I’ll also be on calls where people don’t recognize my voice. So even if I introduce myself at the beginning, they’ll forget. Then when I start talking, they’ll ask who I am. An ambush introduction. These are the worst since everybody sees this as such as easy question — so give me a quick answer. Simply, who are you?

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