What is a conference call

These days many companies have added the possibility for employees to communicate via various services, which allow gathering many people in the same virtual room for a chat. If your work involves such meetings, you’ve definitely heard about conference calls, but may have not engaged in one. Let’s figure out what it is, how to start one, and answer the following question: how does conference calling actually work?

What is a conference call

Basic information

There’s little difference between a traditional conference call and modern teleconferencing. The first is conducted in person, while the second through several devices (mobiles, tablets, desktops) via a conference bridge. It’s a convenient way to keep in touch with your colleagues, partners, and clients without the necessity to set up face-to-face meetings.

What is a conference call? Simply put, it's a phone call involving multiple participants. These people are connected by a single number that serves as a “conference bridge”. After dialing it, everyone enters a virtual room, where they can host or join conference calls.

There’re three types of conference calls, depending on a connection type:

Traditional telephone calls

It’s an audio telephone call, conducted through a landline or VoIP-powered gadget. Usually, the number of participants is strictly limited, and a mobile operator takes a per-minute charge.

Video meetings

It’s a more advanced event, which involves real-time video of the chat members. Calls are organized through a phone as well, the only difference is the possibility to see everyone you’re talking to. Meeting participants dial a conference bridge number that connects them into one conference call.

Web conferences

A web conference is the most popular option for at-home business teams nowadays. It’s a call made through the Internet, connecting all the participants online. Primarily, it’s set up live and involves three or more participants. 

The application market offers a great variety of services, but the most popular are Zoom, Skype, Slack, and Whoosh. We’ll discuss their key features later in the article.

How to do the conference call?

When you want to start using a new function, it’s easy to get lost among its settings. Let’s figure out how to set up a traditional conference call involving several participants.

First, make sure you have the following:

  • Any device (iOS and Android phones, tablet, laptop, PC)
  • Dial-in number
  • Access code
  • PIN code (optional)

No matter which type of conference meeting you want to organize, online or offline, these components are a must-have. The only exception is a PIN code, which is unnecessary for using several services, but it’s better to get one for greater safety. 

Let’s take a closer look at each type to better understand the difference between them. 

Dial-in numbers

All the chat members are required to dial a particular number, given by a software provider to enter a conversation room. 

You should bear in mind that most often dial-in numbers are not free of charge. So make sure each member has a positive account balance.

Moreover, if you’re calling abroad, besides having a telephone number with an access code, you should enter a unique country code. Usually, it’s written in parenthesis.

Access codes

Along with a dial-in number, a host provides other participants with access codes. It should be entered when connecting to a teleconference.

PIN codes

PIN codes serve as an additional feature, which allows hosts to ensure conversation security while using any conference call software. They’re given access to special tools like room locks, contact information, and more.

Why do we need conference calls?

Conference calls perform no less important functions than traditional methods of communication, especially under the COVID-19 social restrictions. So what are the most common cases for arranging a web conference?

Communication and collaboration within a business team

Many modern companies have multiple offices located in different corners of the world with employees working from home or in hybrid workplaces. If you’re a part of such a team, you probably take part in web-based meetings every day - daily/weekly/monthly briefings, all-staff meetings, team brainstorming, and other meetups.

Online webinars, presentations, masterclasses, and other virtual events

These days, when many large in-person events are strictly forbidden, web conference services come in handy. They allow organizing various kinds of virtual events inviting as many participants as you want. Along with gathering many people together without violating social restrictions, video conference services also offer many useful collaboration tools that make the virtual experience more interactive and engaging: screen sharing, whiteboarding, virtual backgrounds, and more.

Customer service and support

Conference calling can also be helpful for a modern customer service team. By using the latest video conference apps, support agents can serve customer needs better and much faster. Moreover, many popular conference call providers offer special software for support teams with an all-in-one remote call center, business numbers, and other essential features required for high-quality customer service.

What are the most popular conference call providers?

With the growing popularity of remote work, many conferencing services for virtual meetups appear on the market. Here are our top five picks that are on the rise today, having millions of satisfied customers.

1) Zoom

The popularity of Zoom has increased recently due to the global pandemic, which had made everyone look for a more effective and professional conference call software. Other reasons for its high rating are a user-friendly interface, reliability, and a low price tag. Moreover, Zoom offers a toll-free plan with the possibility to set up a 40-minute video conference call with up to 100 participants. It has a wide range of paid plans as well, being suitable for large global corporations businesses, small startups, families, and individuals. It’s a cloud-based system that boasts high-resolution video, a stable connection, and the possibility to hold large-scale virtual events.

2) Skype

Being familiar to every modern user, Skype keeps holding the line. Like many other similar services, it also offers HD audio and video conference calls to help people stay connected with distant colleagues, partners, and clients.

After several updates, it now offers many advanced features: 

  • Free group video calling with up to 100 other participants
  • Smart messaging with fun reactions, @mentions, and file sharing
  • Call recordings with live subtitles
  • Online whiteboarding tool and screen sharing

While there are some restrictions, the free Skype plan is a useful option for small-scale teams, providing sufficient service for any kind of modern device: Mac, Windows, iOS, or Android.

3) Slack

Slack is another app that has become trendy due to the rise of remote work. 

It’s widely used in international organizations that have employees working from various parts of the world. Slack offers to hold HD audio and video conferences, engage in talks and negotiations and chat in private or public channels on different topics. 

A basic plan allows making free conference calls to 15 people at once, but for larger events, buying a paid plan is advisable.

4) Whoosh

If you’ve already used a couple of apps for online meetings, consider Whoosh as another effective way to communicate on the web.

Even being quite new to the market, this application perfectly suits all the requirements the modern business market demands. It offers industry-leading audio conferencing and the latest AI-powered video conference calls that let each team enjoy high-quality video meetings and stay on top of deadlines. 

As always, clients may choose from different service plans and try a free one to familiarize themselves with the basic functionality of the platform.

5) GoToMeeting

What makes GoToMeeting different from other video conferencing software is that it doesn’t offer its users a basic chargeless plan. Nevertheless, clients may use a 14-day trial version.

After installing the application, you’ll get access to high-quality conference calls, instant messaging, screen sharing, speech transcription, room lock, and cloud recordings. Bear in mind: the paid plans have a limitation of 150 participants.

Short QA

Is it free to make a conference call?

It depends on the software and the type of connection you use. Usually, each service provides a plan without any fee. That doesn’t concern offline communication, where a mobile operator may take a per-minute charge.

How do I get a conference call number?

Your service provider or a meeting host must share it with other participants.

How many people can I invite to the conference?

It’s all up to the software you use. The minimum number is three, while the maximum may exceed a thousand.

Can I make international calls?

Yes, but bear in mind that landline connections typically cost a large amount of money, so the better solution is to use online applications.

Is it safe to arrange business conference calls on the web?

Install only verified software from official websites. Each popular service offers professional security tools to encrypt the shared data.

What are the major principles of conference call etiquette?

Conference call etiquette includes the following guidelines:

  • Go on mute while keeping silence
  • Introduce yourself before starting talking
  • Join the call before it starts officially
  • Move mobile phones and other distractions away
  • Provide all the information about an online meeting beforehand (and don't forget to mention any changes regarding a conference bridge number)

To sum up

Whether you want to talk one-on-one with colleagues or you are a part of a large company that needs to communicate remotely every day, conference calls are your most useful go-to. It’s a perfect complement to businesses of any size, but especially to those with a global team working remotely from various locations. Being able to stay in touch even when being far from each other is essential for keeping distant relationships closer.

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