Conference Call Anxiety

Am I the only person that suffers from anxiety before a conference call? I had a client call at 10am this morning, and for half an hour leading up to the call, I was pretty much bricking it. It’s ridiculous really.

Whenever I go on-site somewhere new with work – particularly to run training courses – I get nervous beforehand – expecting to be “found out” by the somebody. “Why are we paying the company you work for all this money for you to be here? You’re rubbish!”. Of course these nerves are smashed as soon as I go around the room doing introductions – it’s easy to forget that I’ve been a software and web developer for over 20 years now. I do forget though. Every time.

One of the places I have visited a couple of times recently has a developer in their team. He talked the talk while chatting in-between training exercises, but when I actually saw what he had done, I got a stark reminder of the difference between “professional developers”, and “people who can code”. I’m not sure if there is a parallel you can draw with other forms of work – I suppose it’s the same difference between an accountant, and somebody that can add up a few numbers.

Sometimes while working on-site, I’ll get sucked into rat-hole conversations that expose a little of what I know. It happened last week. While talking to the girl I was working with about her iPhone, a guy stood up in his cubicle opposite us, peering over the dividing wall.

“Of course Tim Berners Lee didn’t invent the internet”

Ok. Not what we were talking about, but we’ll go with it.

“NASA invented the internet. It was NASA. Berners Lee did nothing. It was called the ARPANET”

It was one of those awkward conversations where you keep your mouth shut, because you don’t want to expose somebody as an ignorant idiot in front of their co-workers. I put my diplomatic pants on.

“Actually, I think you’ll find that the first wide area network of computers was built by DARPA – the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency – although they weren’t called that when the project started.”

He frowned.

“The ARPANET and the Internet were actually quite different from each other though, weren’t they – because ARPANET didn’t have packet switching to begin with – each of the computers had to be wired directly to each other. Packet switching – TCP/IP – was invented by Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf in the early 1970s and added to ARPANET – that’s where you might say the internet started. Tim Berners Lee invented the World Wide Web in the early 1990s – maybe 20 years after the internet really began.”

He was now looking at the ceiling tiles above his head, and out of the nearby window. I turned back to the girl I was working with, who was trying not to laugh.

“How do you know all this stuff?”

“I read books.”

Anyway.

I’m now sitting back at my desk, the conference call is over, I wasn’t “found out”, and a massive sense of relief is washing over me. Time to make a celebratory cup of coffee, maybe?

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2 Replies to “Conference Call Anxiety”

  1. You are not alone in this. Perhaps it is something like “Imposter syndrome” (which has a Wikipedia entry). I feel it in my work as a consultant, even when visiting clients with whom I have previously worked. It feels a bit like a stage performance. One is playing a role and that involves preparation, rehearsal and consideration of what one will do when things fail to work as hoped. One is in the spotlight and maybe some of that anxiety sharpens the performance.- PNJ

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