Your New Year’s Resolution: Less Shaggy Dog Calls

The Shaggy Dog (2006) - IMDb
Who’s a good boy? Follow my ask of you in this blog, and I’ll give you a belly rub.

As we approach almost two years of working remotely, I want to remind readers that we need to respect each other’s time on calls.

Less is more when it comes to meetings. Go in, get what you need, and get out. Simple.

Too often our customers are subjected to what I call “shaggy dog” calls. If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s essentially something that goes on too long and is anti-climatic. You know you’ve delivered a shaggy dog story when you tell an anecdote, and then your audience says something like “and then you found ten bucks.”

We want to build and expand trust with customers, not bore them. Being affable to customers is encouraged, but there’s a line that’s crossed when you start to meander – especially you you meander for 20 minutes straight without saying anything profound. If we were in person, the customer would probably firmly tell you to get on with it, but I believe we’re too kind with virtual meetings.

When someone on the call talks for extended periods of time, all of your talking points blur together and the customer, and your supporting teams, are held hostage to your monologue. Trust me I’d walk away and listen on headphones, but when everyone is on camera, I’m held hostage to your verbal screed. Also, nobody on the call is going to develop Stockholm syndrome because they all want the call to end so they can get back to their day and be productive.

As a solution engineer, I always consciously ask myself “how long have I been talking?” If the answer is say more than 3 minutes, I force myself to finish my thought and engage with the customer. 

I’m not a saint. I’ve told many shaggy dog stories in my life, sometimes on calls, but I always do my best to read the room and ask myself why am I on this call and what do I need out of this to be successful?

When it comes to meetings there are two golden rules: be prepared and be concise. Don’t milk a meeting that should be 30 minutes into an hour meeting just because you have time booked for an hour. If someone important can’t show up to the meeting, don’t make this meeting the prelude to another meeting. Reschedule it to when they’re available. And lastly, if it’s faster to be send an email in lieu of a meeting, do that instead.