After years of working on large scale international projects, I am back in the US working for an event production company based outside Philadelphia. Having done my entire professional career outside of the US up until this point, there have been some learning curves.
On the big international shows, I almost always had my entire team around me all the time.
On my last big job in Azerbaijan, I had over 40 staff, lots of contractors, the local venue team and construction company, plus all of our internal management team etc. Basically, if you wanted to have a meeting, all you needed to do was put it in everyone’s diaries and find a location to sit down and catch up. I used to see all of my team leading managers at least twice a week. My boss would hold meetings with myself and the other TDs with a similar frequency – sometimes even more. I got very used to this scenario. We would solve all the show’s problems and then some, face to face, oftentimes with whiteboards in tow, in an extremely collaborative environment.
Now my work life is filled with conference calls.
I suppose one of the benefits of being back in the US is that you really can live anywhere as the clients will just fly you to wherever the gig is. Obviously in the US, we aren’t going to fly people in just to discuss things but I feel like in-person I am far more productive. Most of the gigs I have done here, I didn’t meet any of the clients until the actual gig. You may meet a few at the site visit but it is often only just a few people.
This means that in the planning phase I spend hours and hours just sitting on phone calls, often on mute, waiting my turn to discuss what is pertinent to me.
I have a much smaller team in the office. We do meet face to face quite regularly but with our client calls I have had to learn how to filter what isn’t important, work out who is running the show, practice my multi-tasking skills whilst still paying attention and make sure my list of questions all get answered, all via my speaker phone. Sometimes the calls are extremely productive but often they have so many people on them and not enough time. We basically end up learning nothing. I am sure plenty of others are just on mute, working through other things. It has been quite a different way of working for me.
I did find this quite accurate YouTube clip of a Real Conference Call
I have gotten a bit better at all of this since returning to the states but I do feel like I have a bit more to go.
And next, I will try to tackle ‘working from home’.
Do people really do that? Can you be productive? Does it get old having no interactions with humans ever? Anyone else an expert at the Conference Call or Working From Home?? I would love some advice!