There are many times when a roll call leads to a more effective meeting:

1. The meeting leader may have received apologies for someone in advance who might have sent a deputy.
2. When introductions are necessary; perhaps a new person is joining a regular meeting, or possibly a you have a guest come to present their ideas/product for part of the meeting.
3. You might like to remind people that a particular person is part of the meeting who's first language is not the language of the meeting.
4. You might like to remind the team that your boss is on the line this time by exception!

As leader you should know who is there. The roll call is not for you, it is for everyone else, analagous to looking round a meeting table. People will be more willing to participate if they are sure who is taking part.

jwyckoff's picture

I agree -- I found the recommendation for no roll call odd. Granted, I think too many roll calls are way too long and can be expedited, but I don't see why a roll call hurts.

thaGUma's picture

Roll calls are replaced by introductions where new members or one-off conference calls.
Where it is a regular call. Then most people will dial in and be chatting pre-start and will know who's not there. If there is a stand in they will make themselves known at the eariest opp. I use this time to tick attendees by drawing a diagram of a table in my notes.

Having said that, I see nothing wrong with a role call and certainly wouldn't resist one. Nice to know who's out there in the dark.


asteriskrntt1's picture

I am a little confused here (nothing new on that though). Why wouldn't you know who is on the conference call?

You have done the inviting and sent out an agenda with a listing of everyone who is "attending". What am I missing?


cwcollin's picture

...the call spans organizations and you might not know who exactly will be representing the other organizations ( internal or external ) in this project. This happens often in my business and I am sure it is frequent in others as well.

ccleveland's picture

Should a distinction be made between “roll call” and “announcing” oneself when joining the call?

Before meetings start, folks in my organization announce themselves when they join the call: “Good morning everyone. This is Craig.” Sometimes folks chit chat; sometimes they do not. This is seems to be different than taking a roll call after the meeting starts.

Much like cwcollin mentioned, most of my meetings involve a very diverse group from different functional areas. It is more difficult to know who is present when the meeting is not a core group of people in one functional unit. My management expects me to know who “attended” what meetings and include in the minutes. (Yes, I know…it doesn’t mean that they were paying attention in the meeting.)

Additionally, what about after the meeting starts? Our conference system beeps when someone joins in. Usually, people announce themselves at a break in the conversation; if not, when the leader of call, I ask who joined. What are everyone’s thoughts about that?


simonjleach's picture

I think it is essential to find out who has joined a meeting as soon as possible because the "beep" switches everyone's thoughts to "I wonder who that is?" and until the question is resolved full attention to the meeting subject is even less likely than during the normal flow of the teleconference.

Only a short introduction is needed, but as meeting leader I would also give a very brief update as to where we were on the agenda. This is another item that goes contrary to the "meeting rules", but a latecomer has no chance to have the person sitting next to them point out where the meeting is up to, as they would in a normal meeting. It is just as obvious that they are late, so it shouldn't be too habit forming!


madamos's picture
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The roll call is a waste of everyones time if you are running a regularly scheduled meeting. If you need to know who is on the call because the call spans multiple groups/companies, then an introduction at the start of the call is appropriate.

If someone comes late to the meeting, you don't update them on what they missed...they missed it. Providing mid-meeting updates will just encourage this ineffective behaviour by rewarding latecomers.
If one of you agenda items needs information from a latecomer, you can skip the agenda item and return later. That will make the latecomer obvious to everyone.

I will admit I violate the roll call rule for one of the meeting I run on a daily basis. The meeting is an operational update meeting, and each team in the company is supposed to send one representative to review issues that occured on the previous day if any at all. Unfortunately the meeting became really ineffective due to late/non attendance. We had to institue a roll call to make everyone accountable for attending the meeting every day. This has had a positive impact by increasing attendance at the meeting. But I will admit it is a constant annoyance for me, since I have to do the roll call and I am responsible for reporting the results to management. It makes me into the teacher taking attendance. I just wish everyone took responsibility for attending the meeting. If only they all listened to MT!


US41's picture

I hate the roll-call on regularly scheduled, repeating meetings such as a virtual staff meeting. Roll-calling meeting leaders invariably stop everything and say, "Who just joined?" every time the phone beeps to indicate someone arrived late.

Who cares who joined? Just hold the damn meeting, and when you call on people and they aren't there, give them feedback later.

Nothing drives me crazier than having a meeting start fifteen times as the meeting leader indulges his controlling ADHD behaviors by announcing the meeting purpose over and over again for every late attendee.

Down with roll call!

Even on a non-regular meeting to resolve an issue, usually there are only a very few people who are required for a quorum and everyone else is just a meeting-crasher or invited out of politics. Just roll call for the key players, and once they are there, start the meeting, even if someone asks for you to wait for someone "important."