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In her BNET column, “168 Hours,” Laura Vanderkam recently shared “22 Things to Do During That Boring Conference Call.” While I applaud Vanderkam’s suggestions to write love letters and thank-you notes, read poetry, and do other things that arguably make the world a better place, I also agree with her that if people need conference call distractions to pass the time, perhaps they should instead think of ways to make the calls more worthwhile.

So how do you make a conference call productive? Host it over telepresence. The face-to-face connection commands people’s attention—you can’t hide from the person staring at you across the virtual table! With telepresence, participants can read each other’s nuanced body language and engage in lively, natural dialogue without the common audio call hazard of talking over one another. Just by paring down the confusion of faceless communication, telepresence calls can take regular 60-minute conferences down to 45 or 50 minutes. Add up those savings over the course of the week, and you’ve earned back several hours of quality time.

Government agencies can greatly benefit from the efficiency telepresence brings to conference calls. As the Telework Enhancement Act takes effect and more and more federal employees work remotely, the conference call will increasingly become the go-to meeting format. If agencies use telepresence to host these calls, productivity levels can equal—even surpass—the productivity of in-office meetings: there’s no need to round everyone up from their offices because they can connect at the push of a button from anywhere they choose. In addition to logistical smoothness, communication will be clear, colleagues can explain things visually, and employees will feel accountable for maintaining active presences in the discussion.

Now, if you do still find yourself on the occasional boring traditional conference call, I recommend Vanderkam’s suggestion number 13 (assuming your boss won’t mind): watching a video on Khan Academy. It’s a great example of the power of video technology, including telepresence, to enhance education.

Could telepresence help make your conference calls more productive?

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