Conference calling is a tool that helps to connect business professionals in a setting that allows for three or more parties to interact and communicate. Whereas traditional phone lines had limited the number of parties that could effectively be involved in a business call or discussion, conference calling has broken down that barrier and allows for more communal discussions.
In many cases, if not all, companies use service providers that specialize in conference calling services to meet their business needs. These service providers offer phone and pin numbers that participants can use to access conference lines securely. Some service providers may also maintain a conference bridge, proprietary equipment that links to phone lines, to facilitate a conference call.
Businesses that communicate and provide service on a regional, national, or global scale often find conference calling to be an effective way to connect with their vendors and/or clients with whom they would otherwise have a difficult time communicating. Any business that needs to communicate with multiple people, simultaneously, can benefit from conference calling services; they allow for all parties to be involved, communicate, and listen in order to convey important information. A few specific examples of the types of business situations that benefit from conference calling include, but are not limited to:
- Large franchises that need to communicate with multiple franchisees
- Large businesses that have two or more physical locations
- Vendors and clients that wish to communicate regarding services rendered or received
- Web-based conferences during which participants may also use screen sharing to disseminate documents and/or presentation material
Conference calling has become a staple in our global business landscape, as it allows parties to connect via a conference line instead of in the boardroom and brings together vendors and businesses on a greater scale. It breaks down any distance barriers to allow for easier, more collective discussion. By simulating a traditional conference or boardroom setting in concept, it is an effective way for all necessary parties, regardless of their location, to be active participants in the call and hear the important information being discussed first-hand, not as a brief by a single person after the call has already taken place.
When hosting or participating in a conference call, there are a few considerations and steps that need to be taken in order to ensure that the call is productive and meets the needs of those involved. Firstly, securing a space conducive to a conference call is necessary to ensure that everyone can hear and speak effectively. A closed office or quiet conference room may be best and allow for maximum ease of communication. Having access to any necessary equipment, be it the conference equipment or a computer, is also important. It's best to speak audibly and clearly and to limit the amount of side conversation; if side conversation is necessary, etiquette dictates that one mute or disable the speech function of the call without interrupting or neglecting the conference callers at hand.
Planning ahead is also critical to an effective conference call, as it will help to keep the call on track. Prior to a conference call, organize and have ready any talking points or questions that pertain to the purpose of the call. This may include notes from previous calls, documents, etc. It's important that one anticipates the needs of the other professionals on the conference call and has ready information and materials needed to move the conversation forward. Should the conversation get off track or stall, it's important that the person who is leading the call take action to shift the focus to the matter(s) at hand. It's certainly acceptable for the leader to take note of spontaneous or off-topic talking points and ask that the group table the discussion to be addressed at a later time, as not to ignore questions or concerns of participants.
When a conference call is coming to a close, it's beneficial for all involved if the leader recaps to-do items that may have resulted. This may include scheduling a follow-up call to address other, tabled issues or next steps to be taken by specific participants as a result of the conference call. Email follow-ups are also a great way to remind participants of information covered during the call and get in writing any needs or steps to be taken.