What is a conference call?
A conference call describes a phone call that connects several participants at the same time. It allows attendees from different locations to participate in a virtual business meeting instead of in-person meetings.
Audio conferencing is a globally available service, that can be accessed from any device, at any time. Its flexibility makes it the perfect communication tool for businesses with:
- remote teams
- multiple offices
- clients from afar
Utilizing conference call capabilities drives efficiency and improves business productivity.
Conference calls are considered one of the most effective tools for business meetings with no boundaries or physical presence. Their simplicity and high accessibility turned them into a much favored medium for daily business communication.
Learn about the advantages of conference calls and how the business benefits of them. Find useful tips on how to host effective business meetings over the phone.
Benefits of Conference Calls
Call conferencing benefits made teleconferencing a fundamental ingredient to all profitable businesses.
Optimizing operating costs
Cost efficiency is the primary benefit of voice conference calling. Conference call services are provided by vendors specialized in call conferencing and by cloud telephony providers. The latter offer competitive monthly rates and usually include free conference rooms in the company’s monthly package.
Conference calls are usually conducted via local access numbers, which reduces significantly their costs. Regardless of the call’s duration and time of day it is held the expenses for the audio conferencing are minimal.
Furthermore call conferencing reduces significantly the need for face-to-face meetings. This results in less business travel and accommodation costs. Colleagues, partners and clients from different locations can easily exchange information and ideas through a single call service.
Simplicity of Call Conferencing
Audio conference services can be configured and managed quickly and effortlessly. One of their main advantages is that they utilize a widespread technology – the phone. Creating a free conference room and inviting the users to join requires less than 3 clicks of the button.
The attendees of the business meetings can participate from anywhere. All that is required is a working telephone connection or Internet one. Simplicity of conference calls and their ease of use transform them into essential collaboration tool.
Call Conference is Highly Accessible
Dialing in a conference call can be performed from any device. Audio conferencing can be conducted at any location. Mobile devices with internet access can also participate.
No one is obliged to be in a specific place at the time of the business meeting. The people who are invited can join from a phone, mobile, tablet, laptop or an feature-rich conference phone system like Yealink CP960 .
Call conferencing saves time
Ease of use and accessibility of conference calls are essential features for businesses as they save valuable time. If an important decision should be taken quickly a conference call can be arranged at very short notice. Thus everyone can input their ideas and comments on issues to be solved, without even leaving their desk.
Efficiency of Audio Conference Calls
Conference calls bring people in charge together right on time for a real-time discussion. Audio conferencing enables the responsible people within an organization to conduct effective sales calls. It ensures good communication with existing customers as well.
Teleconferencing can be fundamental for delivering the company’s message to the right people. Written communication can be lost, ignored or misunderstood. While the conference meetings deliver clearly the message and guarantee that everyone stays on topic.
Frequent and effective communications
Audio conference services are widely accessible at any time. This allows the company to organise an urgent meeting with no effort. So an organisation is flexible and adjusts quickly to the business environment. Conference calls are a reliable collaboration tool that stimulates effective communication within and outside the company.
Audio Conferencing crosses geographical boundaries
Companies today are often globally present. Conference calls ensure that colleagues, clients and partners from afar stay always connected no matter their physical location. Thus they can discuss business issues even if the callers are not in the same meeting room. For any company this results in travel expenses reduction, time saving and resources optimization.
Features of Conference Calling
Audio conferencing service providers offer the business a variety of enhanced features. Any company can choose a package depending on the expected conference calls intensity.
Free Conference Call Services
Cloud telephony providers and conferencing service vendors may offer free teleconferencing for their customers. The free conference calls are included as an additional service to company’s monthly plan. This free of charge feature does not require any cancellation or deactivation fees as well as long term commitment.
If a company utilizes the teleconferencing the host of the meeting can easily create and manage a conference room. The participants are invited to dial in using a special access code and an assigned local telephone number.
Learn more about the benefits of MIXconferencing free of charge service.
Conference calls can be recorded and downloaded as MP3 file. Some advanced options of free call recording allow the information to be shared later via email among the participants. It is a helpful feature, especially for call analysis.
Conference calls services make it possible for a company to connect internationally through local phone numbers. This is a cost saving feature as usually the local call rates are applied no matter the destination or duration of the audio conferencing.
The invitees simply connect using the available in-country access number, followed by the PIN code, provided by the host of the meeting.
Having control over the conference calls ensures its efficiency and success. During the audio conferencing using a mute button is an important option. It allows you to reduce significantly disruptions of the background noise, but it also implies that person whose line is muted will not be heard.
The host can also mute and unmute individual lines in order to minimize the disturbance during the meeting and to navigate the discussion. But again this excludes some of the attendees from the active conversation.
This is the reason why many companies prefer professional conference phone system in their meeting room. These advanced conferencing tools have a built in noise proof technology which suppresses unwanted ambient noise, while the speaker can still be heard from everyone.
Background noise is one of the major challenges of the conference calling. Read on to learn how to avoid it in order to have effective remote meetings.
Custom Hold Music
Some providers offer a business to personalize its hold-on melody. This improves the waiting experience of the attendees. Choosing the right music is part of the brand communication with partners, customers or colleagues.
Web-dial out feature allows an enterprise to arrange a conference call and conduct a company meeting right from a browser. Starting a business discussion over a softphone requires a high speed Internet connection and HD audio.
Creating Unlimited Sub-Conference Rooms
Some service providers offer the option to create multiple sub-accounts. This helps a company to structure better the communication flow dedicated to a certain project.
The sub-accounts authorize more than one person to create a conference call under the main account at the same time. This feature is useful for attendees who should continue the discussion in small group sessions.
Instant Conference Rooms
In case of an urgent issue that has to be solved organizing instant remote meetings is priceless. Within minutes a conference room can be set up without effort.
Analyzing Conference Calls
Analytics feature provides the company with accountable insights about its business communications flow. The included metrics give any enterprise a valuable information about conference usage by individual or department.
Dial out to add Callers
Dial out feature allows the host to call different users simultaneously and from the same device. Once the callers answer they are already connected and are part of the meeting. Depending on the specific companies communication needs some businesses prefer this option over Dial in conference calls.
How to set up a conference call?
Setting up and managing a conference call requires several easy steps:
- Service providers may offer a company a free access to a conferencing feature or it needs to own an account within their system.
Thus the host simply creates a conference room without the need to login first with username and pass. The other option requires the moderator to be logged into the company’s account to be able to start a conference call.
- The necessary equipment for holding the conference call has to be available
Depending on the device used for the audio conferencing, the required hardware vary. A soft-phone with a headset, a mobile phone or a tablet with built in microphone can be used. Many SMEs prefer a dedicated conference phone system with many advanced features
- Schedule a meeting
A conference call should be planned considering participants times zones (if they differ) and working schedules as well. Once a convenient date and time is chosen, the host has to invite the participants of the business meeting.
- Inviting the attendees
Invitations should be sent via email or instant message containing exact date and time as well as the corresponding time zones if needed. An access code for the meeting has to be generated and provided along with the access number list.
- The host and the participants should join the conference room
Audio conferencing requires callers to dial in to a specific access number and enter the access code (PIN). This PIN number adds an additional layer of security to the business conference calling.
- Start collaborating
Conference calls – a key factor for business success
Conference calls can be the core of a company’ success. Their benefits make them an integrated part of the business communications strategy of any company with remote offices, clients and partners.
There is a wide range of activities, where business conference calling applies to.
- Connecting employees with prospects or existing clients
- Discussing company’s strategy with people from different departments
- Solving fast important issues, that occurred unexpectedly
- Files sharing and expecting verbal comments and feedback
- Holding remote job interviews
- Providing internal training of employees or partners
- Conducting stakeholders’ meetings
The benefits of teleconferencing for any enterprise be it small, medium or large are really impressive.
Minimize business telephony costs
Cost savings are always the primary benefit for any profitable business. Switching to free conference calls, rather than paying for expensive pay per call conferencing services is an option every business should consider. Some cloud telephony providers include call conference as a free value added service in the offered business packages.
Reduce business travel expenses
Teleconferences are very beneficial in terms of reducing travel costs. Unlike face-to-face meetings, telecommuting does not require your physical presence in the meeting. Cutting down payments for business trips has a huge positive impact on the monthly budget.
Lower accommodation costs
Teleconferencing allows the meeting to be hosted and the attendees to join from anywhere. A company’s headquarters, a home office, a co-working space or a coffee shop – any convenient place. Reducing significantly business trip accommodation expenses allows company to allocate financial resources elsewhere.
Optimize the time spent in meetings
Apart from the obvious financial benefits, teleconferencing is a great time saving tool. Conference calls ensure more valuable time spent in the business meeting itself, instead of time spent on business trips. This allows the company to adopt a more sustainable approach, scheduling business meetings on a regular basis.
Additionally while waiting for all the attendees to dial in the teleconference everyone can continue working on their current projects.Thus they avoid the frustration of wasting time in an empty board room before in-person meetings.
Increase meetings productivity
Teams, customers or clients scattered across different locations can effortlessly join the business meeting from anywhere. Leveraging teleconference capabilities helps participants spend more quality time during the meetings. As long as all attendees follow the established call etiquette , the outcome for the business is increased teams efficiency.
Improve teams collaboration
Call conferencing ensures that the teams involved in a certain project cooperate actively. The simplicity of hosting and joining a remote meeting as well as its high accessibility helps co-workers engage better. The option to meet at short notice for discussing an urgent issue, turns conference rooms into powerful real-time collaboration spaces.
No need for expensive equipment
Call conferencing is supported from most business phone systems devices. Their seamless integration with the existing telecommunication infrastructure saves a business additional investment in an expensive equipment.
Due to the advanced cloud telephony technology many companies do not need a dedicated phone line anymore. Teleconferencing is compatible with cell phones, tablets and laptops.
Conference call associated costs
Conference calls associated costs vary, depending on what type of call services a company selects. The choice depends on the business model and size of the enterprise along with its communication needs.
Several aspects should be evaluated before making the final decision about teleconferencing service.
- The expected audio conferencing frequency
- The usual number of the attendees of the remote meetings
- Typical average length of a conference call
- Implementation of VoIP services in the company’s business phone system
- If the cloud service provider offers conference calling as a feature
There are several types of audio teleconference services offered by providers, which differ in terms of costs and features.
Standard Conference Call Services
Large companies with higher volume of conference calls often choose a vendor specialized only in audio conferencing services. The organisation expects premium quality voice conferencing and the provider offers instant activation with no setup fees or long term commitment.
The associated monthly costs for such service are usually calculated depending on the number of meeting participants. Additionally long-distance charges per call may occur even if call duration is unlimited.
Free Software Conference Calling
This type of voice teleconference service is simple to manage and easy to use. It requires access to a device such as computer or laptop with working Internet connection. Registering account within the audio conferencing system and setting it up is completely free. The number of meeting participants is strictly limited and the call quality is inconsistent.
Toll Free Teleconferencing Service
Toll free service vendors provide the conference call attendees with a dedicated toll free conference number.
The teleconference participants dial in this free number through landline, mobile or cloud based VoIP system.
The account holder call rates charged by toll free service providers are calculated per caller, per minute. Additional fees may occur for mobile phone callers, depending on customized calling packages.
Cloud PBX Conference Call Service
VoIP telephony providers typically offer a Cloud PBX with integrated advanced features like free call conferencing for their customers. VoIP teleconferencing connects calls via conference bridge. This enables participants to dial in simultaneously a conference call using a dedicated local numbers.
For customers using landlines call conference is completely free of charge no matter their location. If the preferred conferencing tool is a mobile device – call rates fees may apply according to their specific business mobile plan.
Cloud PBX service providers offer unlimited call duration, multiple voice conferences happening all at once, accessibility from any device. A conference call reservation is not required.
If the VoIP provider does not include teleconferencing in the monthly plan, the company will be charged per minute.
Conference calls vs. Traditional Face-to-face meetings
Conference calls technology has considerably simplified the way companies communicate. Teleconferencing has shaped greatly the entire system of business meetings.
However there are still cases when in-person meetings cannot be entirely replaced.
Why more companies are choosing audio conferencing?
- Utilizing conference calls technology in the company’s phone system, reduces significantly business travel expenses.
- Gathering all the users, needed for the meeting, no matter their current location is easy to manage.
- Participants can join the meeting from anywhere, which also means lowering accommodation costs.
- Planning the meeting in advance is simpler, as the company should not consider travel and accommodation time needs of all attendees.
- A company may opt not to pay for a meeting room, a specific equipment or even a business dinner. The budget is optimized and can be allocated.
- Attendees feel more comfortable and focused. They are not stressed about flight delays, transport chaos or missing hotel reservations.
- Conference calls enhance business productivity and increase team efficiency as the meetings can be conducted daily if needed.
- Solving an urgent issue over a conference call is easy. The responsible people can dial in effortlessly at a short notice.
- If the conference call has a recording feature the meeting process could be analyzed and improved in the future.
- Including teleconferencing as a standard tool in the company’s communications strategy shows that the business is environmentally conscious.
When Face-to-face meeting should be held eventually?
- In-person meetings are favoured when all attendees occupy the same premise and the meeting is expected to be brief. Then it is a matter of short conversation to coordinate and conduct an informal meeting
- If the meeting is supposed to continue the whole day long and it involves too many participants.
- Sometimes non-verbal communication and body language can give a hint about the real opinion of the users, attending the meeting. Discussing highly sensitive topic that impacts a lot of participants is considered to be more effective in face-to-face meetings.
- Interviewing job applicants over the conference call is widely adopted method for recruiting nowadays. At later stages human resources may insist on in-person meeting to see if the candidate will integrate smoothly.
- Conducting multiple conference calls with a prospect at the early stages of a new business deal is always recommended. However its closing requires a physical meeting. Typically there are lots of documents to be signed by the contracting parties.
- Receiving instant feedback while the face-to-face meeting is still progressing could be vital for the direction certain project evolves.
Etiquette for effective conference calls
Conference calls are a productive and efficient communication tool to organize and manage business meetings. In order to maximize their use certain rules for conducting a remote meeting should apply.
Organizing of a conference call
Good planning and on time preparation are essential for the success of conference calls. Choosing the most convenient time for arranging the call is vital for the attendees. This excludes early morning, late in the evening or lunch time.
Another important issue to be considered are the time zones of the remote participants. If the meeting is not an urgent, a poll can be created to find the most convenient time for everyone.
Scheduling the meeting with written invitations
Calendar invites, instant messages or simple email – there are multiple ways to request a presence confirmation in the conference call.
Participants should be informed about the precise date and time of the conference. A link to the conference call app or website with access data has to be included. A day prior to the meeting a kind reminder about the future meeting should be distributed.
Preparing and sending the agenda of the teleconference
Well thought agenda is the core of a productive and effective conference call. Sending out the schedule in advance allows the participants to ask questions prior to the meeting. The plan has to be very detailed as it will help callers to follow the development of the conversation easily.
If files have to be transferred between the parties, they should be sent before the meeting so everyone is fully prepared.
The conference call should start right on time
The host of the meeting is expected to join earlier for the final preparation before the meeting. Sound and microphones have to be tested as well as all taking points. In case an assistance is needed, he can always contact the service provider support for help.
Choosing a quiet location
Background noise can distract the participants and turn the meeting into ineffective gathering.
Muting any kind of ambient noise is obligatory not only for the host but the other parties as well. For the consistency of the meeting process putting the conference call on hold is not recommended and should be avoided.
Strict guidelines have to be announced in the beginning
Starting with the role call will help everyone to get acquainted and to know who is participating in the meeting. The members should be introduced with a name and the reason why they attend. An important rule they should follow is to state their name prior to speaking. This helps avoiding miscommunication and makes it clear for the audience who is talking.
The host has to cover briefly the agenda and to set the time limits of the virtual meeting.
Staying focused, connected and engaged
The host of a conference call has to keep the attendees engaged and involved in the conversation. It is easy for participants to get distracted if they are multitasking during audio conferencing.
To minimize its negative effect the host should ask more questions, directing them evenly among attendees. There should be enough intervals during the discussion for questions, comments and feedback.
Summarizing the key points of the meeting
Before the end of the conference call the results of the meeting should be outlined. Furthermore new tasks should be assigned and deadlines have to be set. The host is expected as well to thank the attendees for their active participation. This gives the participants the confidence that the remote meeting was useful and successful.
Follow-up email – for an effective conference call
Sending the attendees a follow up email allows to engage and motivate them for future collaboration. Writing down the achievements of the last meeting along with the future goals is a professional way to finish the meeting. A personal positive feedback from the host included in the email, usually boosts participants satisfaction of the meeting.