Conference call: Make the most out of your online meetings with conference calling solutions

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Since working from home is more accepted and encouraged, conference calls have become a necessity to keep processes moving. Beyond the convenience of working at home, conference calling provides opportunities for collaboration, communication across long-distance, and can save you serious time and money.

But before you sign up for the wrong service, it’s important to know what features you need to get the most out of your plan.

What is a conference call?

A conference call is a web-based solution where several people can join the meeting and talk at the same time, and many versions include both audio and video calling. Participants call in using a phone number provided by the conferencing call service and shared by the host.

What's the difference?

There are several types of conferencing calls, each with their own benefits and features, depending on what your needs are.

How do you make a conference call?

Making a conference call is incredibly easy, both if you’re scheduling future calls and doing on-the-spot instant conference calls.

Step 1: Log on to the site that will be hosting your conference call

Step 2: Click on “Host a conference call”

Step 3: Enter the call’s details

  • Name of the meeting
  • Date of the meeting
  • Start time and end time
  • Emails of the participants
  • International dial-in numbers (for international conference calling)

Step 4: Click “Confirm”

Step 5: An email should go out to you and your participants with instructions on how to join the meeting and start your call and any phone numbers or access codes associated with the meeting

If you’re joining someone else’s meeting, it’s even easier. Simply visit the conference calling service’s website and click on “Join meeting,” which is usually located next to “Host a conference call”.

Most services provide both free and paid versions. Free versions typically limit how many participants call in, duration of the call, conference call recording ability, among other things, so it’s always good to check out what the paid plans offer.

What is the best free conference call service?

A free conference call service is a great option if you have a relatively small team, won’t need international conferencing capabilities, or if you want to try a service out before deciding to pay for a plan. If you’re looking for basic tools with no add-ons that you’ll never use, then free tools will be okay.

With paid plans, you’ll get access to more conferencing features and better customer/operator assistance, if you are ever having trouble. Many of them also offer video tours, so you can get a look at the app in action before committing.

Advantages of business-focused conference calling solutions

Conference calling provides a huge benefit for productivity, communication, and collaboration. And as more parts of your business are transitioning to digital, a conference call makes it’s even easier to keep your company growing. Here are a few perks:

  • Save time and money on traveling
    Instead of driving, taking the train, or flying to see a client or have a company-wide meeting, save a ton of time and money wasted by having a conference call.
  • Flexibility where you can take a call
    Some days, you’ll be in the office, some days, you’ll be at home, and some days, you’ll be traveling. Luckily, you can start your calls or  join calls from anywhere. And many services offer handoff capabilities, switching from your mobile app to the desktop app if your location changes.
  • Easier to collaborate from long-distance
    Especially with video calls that offer screen sharing or for web conferences, you can work with colleagues across time zones with international conference calling.

Every essential conferencing feature your business needs

Our recommendations below are what we think every paid plan should have, since free plans with these features will be harder to come by.

  • A video option for a more personal call
    A video meeting can be much more effective than just an audio conferencing option, allowing a face-to-face connection (albeit, digitally). This will also come in handy when pitching to new clients, who may appreciate the more personal call.
  • Minimum of 100 participants for meetings of all sizes
    You may only have 50 employees now and work with mostly local, small businesses, but you should always anticipate business growth and landing large clients. And make sure your service provides international conferencing, so you won’t have any restrictions where you can pitch or find vendors. You could also use this to teach a class or have an online event like a webinar. Luckily, plans are upgrades if your web conferences start to get a little cramped.
  • Screen and document sharing for real-time collaboration
    Real-time collaboration with screen and document-sharing is super beneficial for team-building and finding solutions quickly.
  • Unlimited conferences for those on-the-spot meetings
    The need to join a call with multiple people can happen at any time (and several times a day). You don’t want to be limited by your plan and miss important opportunities.
  • Conference call recording for referencing
    For those who might have missed the call or for any time you may need to reference the online meeting in the future, the ability to record is a total must-have.

Nice to haves:

  • Custom hold music to enjoy while waiting for a meeting to start
    Most hold music sounds generic and rather boring, so using custom hold music with a little more pop will help make the waiting more bearable for your customers.
  • Improved sound quality for clear conversations
    Not every conferencing call solution will have great audio, so if there is an option to upgrade, we’d recommend it. Fuzzy audio that cuts in and out is distracting and can ruin the momentum.
  • Improved video quality for uninterrupted lags
    Like with sound quality, not every conferencing solution has HD picture quality, but if you can bump up the quality, go for it. Of course, the quality of the video meetings will depend on internet speeds and quality of the webcam, but if you’ve got the specs, use it.

How do you organize a conference call?

The key to a successful conference call is organization. Coordinate with everyone who’s attending to find the best date (unless there are a lot of people, then maybe only reach out to senior-level executives). Once you’ve got a date figured out, schedule the meeting immediately—give everyone as much time as possible to get it on their calendars or prepare.

And don’t forget to send out a reminder with a link to the online meeting, access code (if it has one), and dial-in number (don’t forget to include international dial-in numbers). We recommend sending it a week prior and the day before. Don’t worry about annoying people, they’ll be more annoyed if you don’t remind them.

Conference call etiquette

Conference calling provides a convenient, centralized place for communicating and collaborating from anywhere in the world, but, like many things in life, there are dos and don’ts you should follow. Before you start your calls, refer back to these tips to help keep your meetings effective and enjoyable.

Conferencing dos

Do mute yourself when you’re not speaking
Try to find the quietest space in your home or office (or wherever you decide to take the call). A dog barking or chatter in the background can be very distracting.
Do show up on time
Always consider other people’s time. For most online meetings, you’re designated a certain amount of time, and the presenter may need every moment. Of course, there are times when you can’t avoid being late, so join the meeting as quietly as possible.
Do have an agenda if you’re leading the call (and send it to every before the meeting)
Always have an agenda whenever you’re leading a call. You’ll be more focused and can avoid the “ahs” and “ums” that happens to the best of us. And make sure to send it to everyone who will be on the call—you never know who may have value insight or suggestions.
Do turn off your alerts for your phone, tablet, AND computer
Avoid any unnecessary interruptions and silence everything, so your devices don’t go off while someone is speaking.
Do ask for feedback
Whether you are a seasoned professional or just starting your career, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. You won’t get better unless you know how you can improve, and reaching out to colleagues for their input will let them know you value their opinion and you’re focused on running a successful online meeting.

Conferencing don'ts

Don’t expect technology to be your friend
If you haven’t used the service before or are, generally, bad with technology, do a practice run or watch a few video tours of the desktop app beforehand (if  you have to download it), and set up the computer and mic. Also, know the dialpad controls beforehand. You don’t want to be pushing every button just to become the meeting host.
Don’t forget to take notes
Even if it’s just a weekly status call, it’s good to take notes on what’s going on in the company. And if you can’t make it, ask for someone else’s notes or listen to a conference call recording, if it’s available.
Don’t interrupt (or ramble on in response to someone else)
When multiple people talk over each other, the audio gets muffled, and no one catches what anyone was saying. Wait for the right moment to speak, or ask if you can jump in. And no need to get into too much detail, you can always have a longer conversation offline.
Don’t get distracted
This is especially true for video calls. If someone is speaking, it’s important to give them your attention. You don’t want them to see or hear you typing away, having a conversation with another person, or not responding to questions they asked you.
And if you are taking notes for the meeting, just mention it at the beginning.
Don’t eat during the call
We know that some calls happen at the worst times, but other people most likely don’t want to see you eating. It can be distracting, and some may find it less than appealing.

Get the best conference call service for your business

When deciding to sign up for a conferencing call solution, you have a ton of options to choose from, each with their own conferencing features and price points. RingCentral is a great solution with unique features—and you can take it for a spin with the free trial, too.

Our basic plan offers unlimited conferences for up to 100 participants and sharing calls between the desktop app and mobile app. Upgrading gives you unlimited group conferences, reporting, and 24/7, phone support, as well as advanced team messaging that provides task management and convenient access to video meetings and screen sharing.

Check out our features, and if you’re ever stuck or have a question, we have an extensive library of video tutorials and guides to help you out.

If you’re ready to open up new opportunities for collaboration and communication, while saving you time and money, check out our plans to find the best one for you.

And if you’re still deciding, sign up for a full product demo to see everything RingCentral can do for you and your business.

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