Credit: Andy Dean
Technology has made it easier than ever to communicate with colleagues and customers from all over the world. It's also made it easier than ever to make ourselves look very, very stupid.
Thanks to modern electronics, all it takes is a single split-second slip-up for an embarrassing error to be broadcast globally. No matter how hard you try, that kind of error can never be taken back.
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These seven tales show just how humiliating one little lapse can be. Some of the names have been changed to protect the guilty, but the stories themselves are all too real.
Stupid user trick No. 1: Who has the fuzzy bottom?
Conference calls can be both an indispensable business tool and a virtual booby trap for embarrassing moments.
Just ask Lauren, a reporter at a major tech publication. Lauren found herself on a conference call with IBM one fine day -- a dull briefing with about 50 other reporters from around the globe. The call dragged on and on, and with each passing minute, Lauren found herself drifting off more and more.
Much to Lauren's pleasure, her dog walked into the room and provided a much-needed distraction. The dog wanted her backside rubbed -- and Lauren was more than happy to oblige.
Lauren recalls, "I rubbed her hind legs and said in a silly voice, 'Fuzzy bottom! Fuzzy bottom!'" It didn't stop there. "The more I said it, the more excited she got, so I continued to say it -- until I realized that the call had gone silent."
You guessed it: Lauren had forgotten to mute her line. The execs from IBM and all the other reporters heard her excitedly saying "fuzzy bottom" over and over without any context as to what was actually going on.
"The operator came on and said, 'Obviously, the listen-only mode isn't working,'" Lauren confesses.
Lauren did what any sane professional would do in that situation: stayed dead-quiet and thanked her good graces she'd been using a silly voice no one could possibly recognize.
The moral: Always -- always -- double-check that you've muted a microphone, whether you're on a conference call or wired for an in-person presentation. If you somehow slip up and say something mortifying, follow the unspoken rule of public gas-passing: Shut up and act as surprised as everyone else. They'll never know it was you.