Audio Conference Call ADD – Is It Normal?

Sitting in front of your computer listening in on a virtual conference call, you may not be able to help taking a glance at your e-mail. Then minutes later you might find yourself zoning out thinking about what you’ll have for lunch later. And before the 30-minute call is up, you’ve found yourself dozing off. These ADD-like behaviors would never manifest themselves in an in-person meeting or even a web conference with video (at least for those of us with manners) – so why do little distractions seem to happen more frequently during conference calls that are voice-only?

If you ever find it hard to stay focused in a conference call, it might be because you’re just not wired for it. Your brain is a complex set of nerves and cells that communicate with one another to operate all the functions of your body. When it comes to communicating with other people, your brain works best in face-to-face interactions. The brain is constantly looking for data input to read and interpret a situation and come up with an appropriate response. Facial expressions, gestures, and other visual stimuli cue our brains in as to the nature and tone of the conversation. Without these, two things can happen: our brains have to work harder to participate in the dialog, and our brains get a little, well, bored.

When taking part in an audio conference call, the lack of data can make your brain confused. It uses the imagination to try to fill in the gaps – like your boss just made a sarcastic joke, but was his face angry or amused? Conference calls can also break up communication when there’s a bad connection or someone is speaking too quietly. The straining you have to do to listen to a scrambled audio message saps your brain of energy and makes it more likely to want to do other things that it might be better at – like reading an e-mail or even resting if it’s really tired.

Despite what your brain may be telling you – “Let’s not pay attention to this, it’s too much work!” – if you’re invited to an audio conference call it’s probably very important. You can hack your brain to work smarter, not harder. Give your brain the data input it seeks to function optimally, and you’ll have a much more productive audio call.


Look At What’s in Front of You

If you’re given a PowerPoint or other visual aid to look at, keep your eyes focused on that. Having someone to look at will not just entertain your brain, but it will help it process what it’s hearing from the speaker. Don’t let your eyes wander to something else, as this will break your focus. While it takes some concerted effort, it’s easier to pay attention when you’re being guided visually than just with the audio on its own.


Prime Your Brain for Thinking

A good icebreaker or other opening activity can be just what the brain needs to get geared up for paying attention. Research shows that participating in a light activity that uses memory and critical thinking skills activates parts of the brain and tends to keep them activated for a time. In other words, it helps get your brain into a zone. This is why starting a meeting abruptly – getting straight to the point – on an audio call can set it up for failure. Easing into it with some kind of opener – even going around and asking everyone to make one comment about a previous meeting – is the best way to go.


Have a Role to Play

Assigning roles like note-taker or meeting facilitator keeps meeting participants on their toes. When your brain is anticipating having to do something, it will be more likely to stay attentive than if it’s just passively listening. Meeting organizers will be pleased at the results when they have someone keep a record of decisions made at the meeting, and have different people take control of leading the different topics and issues to be discussed. As a bonus, assigning roles also ensures that everyone is actively participating (seeing as active listening is hard to come by).


If Your Mind Wanders, Don’t Worry

The answer is yes – audio conference call ADD is normal. The good news is that it can be combated with a solid understanding of how your brain works. Visual stimuli, mental warm-ups, and an assigned purpose can get the blood flowing and make your brain more engaged in the meeting. The bottom line is that your brain, being as smart as it is, needs more to do. When it has that, it won’t be looking elsewhere for it.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Subscribe to our blog!