Project Spotlight

Free iPhone App Brings LSU Admissions Team Together for Conference Calls

conference call

After struggling to hold meetings over conference bridges and Skype sessions, Louisiana State University's team of admissions counselors have found an app that helps them conduct conference calls easily and keep in touch at all times.

Challenge

LSU's team of 20 admissions counselors is split between employees who work in the office on the Baton Rouge campus and regional employees who live and work in different parts of the country. In the past, the in-office team would sometimes hold meetings and then the regional employees would receive a written summary of the discussion and could ask questions after the fact, but it was a slow process. The entire team would also hold conference calls, but with the regional admissions counselors busy in their local high schools talking to potential LSU students, it was challenging to coordinate 20 people in various time zones for a conference call between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Louisiana time.

The team typically used a conference bridge or Skype for those group calls, but conducting a meeting with 20 people on the phone created additional challenges. At the beginning of the call, it took several minutes to figure out who was there, who wasn't and whether it was okay to start the discussion. Once the meeting was underway, it was often difficult to determine who was speaking, which made it challenging to direct questions to the speaker or follow up with people after the call. The meeting participants also experienced problems with beeps and other audible interruptions, poor audio quality and frequent disconnections.

LSU added several new regional admissions counselors to its team this year and expanded across the country. With this larger team, one of the university's goals was to help the regional employees feel more connected with the main office and keep them updated on office activities.

Solution

In the fall, the team's supervisor, Trée George, saw an online ad for an app called Talko that seemed to have the potential to solve the team's communication challenges. All of LSU's admissions counselors have iPhones, so a few of them tried out the app in some test calls and were impressed. A final test call with all 20 admissions counsellors sealed the deal, and they've been using it ever since.

Talko is a free app that lets groups of people talk, text and share photos. In a conference call, everybody can see who else is in the call and who is speaking. The app records the calls, so if a team member can't attend or wants to review the meeting, he or she can listen to it after the fact and see and text messages or photos sent during the call. Participants can also bookmark key moments in the call to make it easier to review them afterwards.

Results

Brandon Guillory, a regional admissions counselor based in Washington, D.C., is a recent addition to the team. When he started, the group was still using telephone conference calls and Skype for meetings. The switch to Talko has helped him get up to speed. "It's impossible to walk down the hall and ask someone a question when the main office is in Baton Rouge and I live in Washington, D.C., so this has been a great way for us to get on a call very quickly," he said.

Talko has also helped him get to know his colleagues better by letting him attach faces to names and voices. "At the bottom of the app it shows you who is talking, which can get kind of confusing when you have 20 people trying to share, so it will show you who is speaking," he said.

Guillory also likes the way the app lets him stay in sync with the rest of the team, even when he can't attend the live call. "If I have to miss a scheduled call because I'm at a [college recruitment] fair or meeting with a student, I can just get on the call later and listen to it and make sure I have all the updates," he said.

In the months since the switch to Talko, the team has been meeting more often, both as a whole and in smaller groups. "When we started, we had the entire recruiting team on a call, and then we started to break that into smaller subgroups when there are specific projects that we need to do," said Guillory. "Just to chat with two or three people, instead of trying to figure out how to do a three-way call, we'll just use Talko because it's easier and you can see that conversation happening live, too."

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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