The number #1 inquiry we get here at 24Conference is “How to set up a conference call.” As business, education, non-profit and religious organizations are making huge adjustments during these stressful times, more and more people are working at home or remote locations. The need for conference calling has skyrocketed. People are using Google and search engines to learn about conferencing and to find out the best, easiest and most affordable ways to incorporate it into their culture and practices. This article will provide you a general overview.
To set up a conference call, you need to:
1) Get a conference call account. You can fill-in this online conference call order form. (There is no cost to set up an account.)
2) You will immediately receive your conference call-in number and your host passcode and guest passcode. You can use the conference service whenever you want. There are no reservations and you don’t need to tell us when you plan to use the service.
3) Send an email to everyone you want to invite to the conference call, and tell them to call the call-in number and use the guest passcode (followed by the # sign) to enter the conference. Be sure to tell them the day and time to call in. It doesn’t hurt to email everyone a reminder a hour before the conference call.
4) At the time you want to start the conference call, everyone calls the call-in number. If you are the host, you enter the host passcode. You’ve already instructed your guests to enter the guest passcode. Once everyone is in the conference, you can conference as long as you want.
5) After the conference call, we will charge your credit card for the minutes used. For example, if 10 people were on your conference call for 10 minutes, that would equal 100 minutes. 100 minutes times 4.9¢ per minute, equals $4.90 plus applicable taxes. You can also get a detailed report and receipt online.
6) You can use the service whenever you want in the future and are free to continue using the same passcodes. Keep them safe and secure.
That’s it! We do offer other services as well, such as our Flat-Fixed Rate plan which provides you unlimited usage for one low flat rate every month. We also provide Operator Managed conference call services that have our professional operators dial out to your parties and place them into the conference. You can see the array of services on the upper right of this page.
Why a Conference Call?
So with all of our online technology, why do a conference call at all? There are actually a lot of situations in which a conference call would be preferred over web meeting services. As a general rule, the more people you have involved in a conversation, the more it makes sense to have a conference call instead. There are a lot of things to consider before settling on a method of communication. You want to consider the capabilities and locations of the attendees, the number of attendees, and the format of the meeting. Conference calling is a perfect solution that is often overlooked.
There are many situations in which you might benefit from conference calling. Anytime you have a number of people in different locations, conference calling can be an effective tool. Although some people prefer web meeting services, somethings there is no substitute for the old fashioned conference call.
Some of the most common situations that conference calling is the best option include:
• Holding management meetings across locations
• Making team wide, location wide, or companywide announcements
• Holding a Q&A session about new policies and other changes
• Provide a platform for feedback to assist in developing policies
• Mobilizing outside salesmen for promotions or competitions
• Team meetings while managing remote workers
The current pandemic gives us a unique perspective on these potential situations. Whereas you may not have considered holding meetings virtually in the past, these are now our new norms. But conference calling isn’t just an advantage during a shutdown. These situations arise in the course of normal business, and it is wise to remember your experiences now when planning for the future.
Special COVID-19 Considerations
If you are used to doing everything online, you might still be wondering if a conference call is really the best option. But consider the impacts that COVID-19 has had on technology already. Internet service is being slowed, interrupted, or disrupted completely in some areas. Not everyone can get online reliably at the moment. That makes scheduling video meetings a bit risky.
Let’s face it. There are more people working from home than at any time in history. There are more kids at home online for school than anyone would have ever dreamed. Yes, technology is amazing and service providers were prepared for a crisis. But there are still going to be outages and interruptions. It simply won’t be avoidable, at least for a while. This situation might prompt providers to expand services, which would especially be of benefit to those in rural areas.
In fact, many people in rural areas have no access to high speed internet. In some towns, you can’t get anything faster than 10 mbps. Can you imagine trying to be on a video chat with hundreds of people with that kind of connection? It just doesn’t work. It is for these reasons that telephone conference calling is the best option during these turbulent times.
Another thing to remember is that many of your employees and clients are also parents. Schools are closed, and that means their children are at home with them. With everyone working from home, there is bound to be a certain amount of chaos involved with meetings. But conference calling makes it much easier to keep background activities out of the mix.
Types of Teleconferencing Services
Most people don’t realize that there is more than one type of conference call. There are actually several different types of conference calling available. You should easily be able to set it up to meet your needs. Here are some of your options.
Operator assisted conference calls involve operators calling attendees and introducing them onto the call. Operators will be available to introduce attendees before they speak and allow different people than the host to participate in the call.
If you have attendees from overseas, you’ll need some special services to make sure that the call is successful. Teleconferencing services specifically designed for international conferencing should be utilized in these situations.
When choosing teleconferencing services, you also have options such as:
• Pay as you go or monthly usage plans
• Toll free, international, or local access numbers available
• Web conferencing available if you really need to be face to face, or if you need to do screen sharing
If you ever have questions about what features and type of call will meet your needs, it is always best to contact your vendor. Through a series of questions and lengthy discussion, they will be able to help you determine the best services for your purposes.
Preparing for Your Conference Call
Your first conference call will take quite a bit of planning and preparation. If you start using conference calls on a regular basis, such as weekly or monthly, you usually only have to go through the process of setting everything up once. You can set up your teleconferencing on a repeat schedule so that it is always ready when needed.
Your first step is to choose a vendor and determine what features are available. From there you’ll need to plan your call. Here are a few of the steps you may encounter.
Determining an Agenda
You probably have an idea of what you want to cover in your conference call, but it’s a good idea to make a formal agenda. Even if you allow for some flexibility, having an agenda will help keep you and the attendees on track. It is very easy for conference calls to run long. An agenda helps you stick to your time slot and avoids adding costs.
Think carefully about the features that you need during your call. If you want people to be able to interrupt and ask questions, you’ll need to go with operator managed conference calls. This is teleconferencing where operators dial your attendees at the appointed time, introduce them to the call, and take and prioritize their questions or interjections.
If you need to be able to have multiple speakers or hosts, make sure that the vendor you choose allows that capability without operator assistance. You also want to make sure that the service you choose can handle your attendance, especially if you are expected several hundred attendees.
Of course, your conference call will only be successful if your team logs onto the call. Most people notify attendees of a conference call by email. It is a good idea to send out several emails periodically leading up to the day of the conference call, especially if it is your first one. If you have recurring calls, you can simply send out a reminder the day of or the day before. These measures should be sufficient to make sure that everyone gets on the call.
Scheduling During Coronavirus
You know best how often you will need to hold conference calls during these unusual times. But when scheduling your calls, there are a few things to keep in mind. Right now, families are all home together, working and studying remotely. It is important to recognize that your remote workers will be better able to engage with a conference call at some times of the day than others. For most families with school age children, the best time to schedule a call is mid-morning. If you schedule too early, your attendees will be in the middle of feeding children breakfast, and around noon lunch. But mid-morning is likely to be the time children are working on schoolwork, and your remote workers will be able to actively engage in the call.
How to Do a Conference Call
If your conference call is operator managed, your call will begin when all attendees have been dialed and added to the “room.” They will introduce you, and you can then take over the call. If you want to allow Q&A or feedback, the operators will manage this for you. When you are ready to end the call, summarize, give any additional instructions, and end the call.
If you aren’t going to allow attendees to speak during the call, you don’t need to use operators. You can just dial into the “room,” and all attendees will do the same. When you and the other speakers are finished, everyone just ends the call. It is really very simple to use once set up.
Tips to Keep Conference Calls Professional
Everyone is on edge right now, and everyone’s routines have been completely disrupted. Especially with employees staying at home and working remotely, company culture and decorum is starting to slip. It is important to maintain as much normalcy as possible, and that means keeping things as professional as possible. Here are a few tips for keeping teleconferencing professional. If you will be allowing attendees to speak on the call, you might want to share these tips with your entire team.
• Make sure everyone is introduced when they come on the call, either by system automation or by operator.
• Encourage everyone to take the conference call in an otherwise empty room without background noise. This will not always be possible during this time, but hosts who will be doing all or most of the speaking should make an extra effort.
• Keep calls brief. It is very difficult for everyone to focus right now, and some parents may be snatching minutes here and there to handle business. The shorter you can keep the call the better it will be for everyone.
• Always keep your phone on mute unless you are actively speaking to eliminate background noise. This is especially important right now with kids at home with remote workers.
• Have an agenda and stick to it. Distribute the agenda to attendees in advance so that everyone knows what to expect.
If you and your attendees follow these tips for professionalism, it will go a long way toward keeping teleconferencing efforts productive and engaging.
Why You Shouldn’t Wait
In this crisis, every day is an opportunity to make a difference in your bottom line. The longer it takes you to set things up to manage remote workers, the harder hit your business will be by the pandemic. If you need assistance setting up your team for remote success, contact us today.