Everything you ever wanted to know about making a conference call
In this article, we answer the common question “what is a conference call?”. There’s no denying that emails and instant messaging services have opened up a new – and faster – world of communication for everyone involved in business. Now we can all send and receive information instantly and effortlessly with a few taps of our fingertips or a couple of clicks of the mouse.
According to an article in Forbes, millennials much prefer to text rather than to talk. This fact led JPMorgan Chase to remove the voicemail option for employees who felt that they had no need for such a service, with a staggering 65 per cent take-up on the offer. It seems that everyone under the age of 40 nowadays has become accustomed to relying on texts, emails, social media and instant messaging services to communicate with each other.
But don’t imagine for a minute that the inexorable rise of instant electronic messaging is spelling doom and gloom for the telephone industry. Business managers know all too well how easy it can be to misinterpret the printed words of an electronic message, giving new and unwanted meanings to the communication. A text or an email presents stark words with no inflection to indicate tone and meaning, leading to frequent misunderstandings and misinterpretation of information.
Perhaps this is why, according to Conference Call Providers, a review website, the figures for conference calls are remaining steady in the face of electronic competition from digital messaging services. It seems that, when it comes to business discussions, the human voice wins out over electronic messaging every time. The human voice can portray meaning far more accurately than the written word, and information can be shared and disseminated quickly and easily when transmitted verbally, avoiding misunderstandings.
So if you’ve ever wondered, ‘what is a conference call?‘, keep reading to find out what it is, how it works, and why it could be the best thing that ever happened to your business.
What is a conference call?
In simple terms, a conference call is a telephone conversation between three or more participants. Companies specialising in providing conference call services provide all parties with a unique PIN code. At the given time, each phone participant dials a given number and then enters their code, which allows them access to the conference call. They can then participate in the telephone discussion, allowing them to interact with each other, even if they are different countries.
Again, what is a conference call? What is it really used for?
There are numerous reasons why people need to conduct conference calls. Large organisations organise them almost as a matter of routine, as it allows people across the world to communicate easily with each other. Every minute of the day, someone, somewhere, is communicating with personnel in another country, holding telephone meetings, conducting staff surveys, discussing business projects and closing those all-important sales.
Thanks to the many platforms for conference calls that are readily available, it’s possible to attend an important business meeting even if you happen to be on holiday at the time. The ease with which you can join in a multi-person conversation means that you can partake in conference calls just about anywhere in the world. Provided that you have a telephone and a good connection, you are able to interact with your colleagues, employees, employers, managers and clients.
As growing numbers of people choose to work from home, or away from the office, conference calling becomes an increasingly attractive option, allowing communication with managers, and providing a sense of being part of the team, which can sometimes be lacking when a daily trip to the office is not possible.
What is a conference call service provider?
There are plenty of conference call services that allow you and your colleagues to chat together, and they all operate in a similar way. The person organising the call sets up the time for the call, and is issued with a PIN code, which must be distributed to everyone who plans to participate. At the agreed time, each participant dials into the call provider’s service number and then enters their PIN code. They are then connected to the call, and can begin their discussions and communications straight away.
Each company chooses the best conference call service for their particular needs. Some organisations make use of the service on a daily basis, whilst others only need to make occasional use of the conference calling model. In the United States, the technology is extremely popular, with many business managers using the facility to announce their quarterly results,
The advantages of conference calls
Organising a group conference call is the next best thing to having all participants in the same room for a meeting. Whilst you’re unlikely to need to explicitly answer the question ‘what is a conference call?’ as you make the arrangements, some invitees may wish to better understand the benefits of participation. Perhaps the greatest benefit is that tone of voice offers a clear indication of intent, and any potential misunderstandings can be cleared up straight away, ensuring the avoidance of doubt.
The conference call process saves significant sums of money that would otherwise be spent on travel costs, in trying to arrange for all participants to be in the same place at the same time.
Many users of the service also choose to be online with their laptops or tablets whilst the call is in progress. That way they can call up graphs, documents and charts that are under discussion, providing greater relevance and allowing more work to be done. This approach also allows for a professional approach to presentations, where information can be disseminated to all participants in a timely and relevant manner.
The logistics of getting everyone involved in a project in the same room, at the same time, can be too complex for many large organisations, and even smaller ones where employees are not necessarily in the same location for any length of time. The conference call model allows for anyone, anywhere, to participate in and contribute to project discussions, in an easy and completely accessible way.
Video conferencing calls
Thanks to the inexorable rise in the use of internet technology, the video conference call is becoming increasingly popular but what is a conference call with video actually like? In addition to allowing participants to speak to each other, the video option allows users to see each other too, bringing a new element into the discussions. It seems likely that this type of conference call will see a steady year-on-year increase in volume as more and more people choose to conduct their business meetings in this way.
How to ensure a successful conference call
Whilst it’s easy to set up and organise a conference call, there are things you can do to ensure a successful outcome. The most obvious one is to be prepared, but it’s unfortunately one that many people seem to forget. Take time before the call begins to make sure that you have all the relevant facts and figures to hand. Assess likely problems and questions that may arise, and try to create solutions in advance where possible.
Make sure that all participants have the correct number and PIN code for the call, and double-check the timings, allowing for those who might be in different time zones. It’s a good idea to assign tasks to participants beforehand, if possible, to ensure that everyone is focused, and distribute any literature well in advance of the call, so that participants are up to speed with developments.
Don’t invite people to participate if the subject is not relevant to them, as this will engender boredom and a lack of productivity. By only inviting relevant people to participate, you ensure that everyone stays focused and engaged, which is more likely to lead to a successful outcome.
Many conference call veterans advocate a brief period of introduction at the beginning of the call. By asking everyone to spend a couple of minutes or so in introducing themselves and talking about their involvement in the project, you foster a sense of ‘belonging’ which improves engagement and makes for better outcomes.
What people actually do on conference calls
What is a conference call actually like? It’s all too easy to imagine that every participant engaged in a conference call is paying attention and listening closely to everything under discussion. In fact, according to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, the truth is somewhat different. An analysis of users in the United States shows that some participants are easily distracted. There are reports of people falling asleep, eating their lunch, checking their social media profiles and even playing online games while they are meant to be paying attention.
The same article lays bare the many places from which people have participated in a conference call, which includes unexpected locations such as DisneyWorld, a Las Vegas swimming pool and a wedding rehearsal. One participant even claimed to be chasing their dog down the street after it escaped during an important conference call!