What Is a Conference Call & Best Practices
This article is part of a larger series on VoIP.
A call conference enables multiple participants from anywhere to join the same call simultaneously. It can be in the form of an audio, video, or web conference, depending on your team’s requirements and budget. It is almost like any business meeting, but the difference is that it is conducted through a desktop, laptop, or mobile phone—ideal for businesses’ evolving communication and collaboration needs.
How Conference Calls Work
Conference calls work in much the same way as a telephone call, but connect more than two participants. They also offer additional controls, such as the ability to block unwanted guests. There is also more than one way to start a conference call, making them a more flexible option as well as a more powerful option for group calls. The two main ways to start a conference call are:
- The host adds participants to the call: The host initiates the call by dialing the number of each participant. Other participants join the call as the hosts dial additional numbers.
- The participants connect to a conference bridge: Invited participants are able to join a meeting by dialing a number or entering the meeting ID, which will connect them to a conference bridge. Conference bridges serve as virtual rooms that enable users to host or join meetings.
Voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) conference calls provide even more additional functionality compared to landline solutions. For example, once a VoIP-based conference call begins, the participants will have access to various features, such as screen sharing, the mute button, meeting recording, and co-annotation. Only the host is allowed to end the meeting, while participants may leave at any time.
Types of Conference Calls
When we talk about what a conference call is, there are three types that come into mind: audio, video, and web conference. Knowing the difference between the three is important to learn how to utilize each tool for your conferencing needs.
Types of Conference Calls
How It Works
Connects multiple users together to communicate via landline or any VoIP-based phone service.
It is a cost-effective conferencing tool since it only relies on telephone lines. It’s also very accessible and easy to set up.
This conferencing medium doesn’t support visual images, so it’s not advisable for meetings that require AVPs (audio-video presentations).
Participants join a shared virtual space through webcams to engage in a real-time, audio-visual call.
It curbs the lack of face-to-face interactions by allowing participants to see everyone else’s facial cues and body language.
Network instability is a common problem in video conferencing, which leads to blurry images and loss of visual cues.
Enables users to conduct a presentation or event online, while participants interact through screen sharing or whiteboards.
The sophisticated features of a web conference enable teams to share information while bringing an immersive experience.
The cost of web conferencing is a little expensive because it involves a suitable software provider, initial setup fee, and adequate training.
Conference Call Best Practices to Follow
Now that you know how conference calls work, let’s discuss the best practices to follow during a meeting. All these tips apply to audio and video conferencing, so remember which ones you’ll be doing with your team.
1. Test Equipment & Connection
Before setting up a conference call, make sure your phone system and internet connection are fully functioning. For hosts or presenters, important files and screen-sharing tools should be accessible. Check whether your webcam, speakers, and microphone are working properly and ensure your visual background is not too distracting.
2. Manage Background Noise
Choosing the place to call in is an essential consideration when hosting or joining a conference call. If you’re calling from your home, children yelling or barking dogs are a potential source of distraction. Participants should practice putting themselves on mute if they’re not speaking or in a noisy environment.
3. Record the Meeting
Save everyone’s time from taking notes by recording your conference calls. It’s a convenient way to save meeting content, rewrite project details, or share with teammates who couldn’t make it. It will also serve as a record for future meetings or for verification of decisions.
4. Invest in Appropriate Conference Call Software
When looking for a new conference call provider, choose the ones with a high uptime service level agreement (SLA) of at least 99.999%. This way, the chances of call dropping are almost zero. Additionally, look for providers that offer high definition (HD) voice in their packages to ensure optimal voice quality during conference calls.
5. Use the Right Collaboration Tools
Enhance your conference call experience by utilizing the tools offered by your service provider. Screen sharing is particularly useful if you’re using the platform for presentation or training purposes. If you want to keep track of the entire conversation, look for providers offering a live transcription feature to convert audio into a written text document. Other tools include co-annotation, whiteboard, in-meeting chat, and virtual background.
Top Conference Call Providers
The best conference call services provide businesses with impressive sound quality, a user-friendly interface, multiple collaboration features, and a secure platform. With so many conference call services on the market, it’s tough to choose which one suits your team’s needs. To help you decide, we provided the top four providers for small businesses based on cost, features, and ease of use.
RingCentral is among the best conference call services thanks to its comprehensive features, suitable for businesses looking to scale. Its audio and video conferencing capabilities enable users to hold instant meetings with access to various collaboration tools, such as document sharing, team messaging, and call recording. Plans start at $19.99 per user, per month for up to 20 users.
Check out our RingCentral review to learn more about its calling and unified communications features.
Nextiva ranks high on our list of the best business phone systems because of its powerful VoIP platform. By subscribing to the Professional plan, users have access to unlimited conference calls for up to 40 participants, while video conferencing allows up to 250 attendees. Since it comes with a mobile app, it works best with teams wanting to manage their communications from anywhere at any time.
Learn more about Nextiva by checking out our Nextiva review. It includes an in-depth discussion of its packages and feature sets.
GoTo Connect is a unified communication software that lets users host video conferences and online meetings. For its audio conferencing features, Nextiva allows users to dial into meetings with numbers from over 30 countries. All plans include number porting, unlimited extensions, and call forwarding. It also offers collaboration capabilities such as screen sharing, remote desktop control, and drawing tools.
To learn more about its service offerings, check out our GoTo Connect review.
Zoom is the industry leader in the video conferencing market and ranks as the top provider in our list of the best free conference call services. Its free plan allows users to host unlimited group meetings for up to 100 participants with access to a wide variety of collaboration tools. These include meeting recording, co-annotation, screen sharing, and breakout rooms.
Check out our Zoom review to learn more about its conferencing features.
Looking for a conference phone instead? Check out our guide on the best VoIP conference phone and find which provider offers the right call management functionalities you need for your business.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How much is the minimum cost of a conference call service?
Conference call fees are divided into two cost structures. Some offer pay-as-you-go plans, while others charge a flat monthly rate for unlimited use. With pay-as-you-go plans, rates typically range from 2 to 10 cents per minute for each participant on the call. Meanwhile, monthly plans range from $15 to $40 per user, per month. However, some providers will charge extra fees for additional features, such as transcripts and call recording.
Should I get a free or paid conference call service?
If you’re looking to save money or a budget-friendly way to communicate with your teams, getting a free conference call service is a practical choice. However, it’s important to note that they offer fewer features than paid services. Invest in a paid plan if you want to support more call participants with access to various collaboration features, such as call recording and co-annotation.
How do conference call services benefit remote workers?
Conference call services provide multiple benefits to remote workers, specifically in making communication more accessible within a company. Even if everyone is geographically distributed, a good conferencing call service makes it easy to connect all employees without being in the same location at the same time.
A conference call is an audio call or an online video meeting that enables multiple people to communicate simultaneously from anywhere in the world. As we shift to online spaces, it’s time to utilize conference calls to connect with our teams and facilitate collaborative work experiences. To make your conference call sessions more efficient and productive, make sure to look for providers offering tools and features that will make team communication easier.