How to Host a Conference Call

Though fast and simple, conference calls can be messy and confusing without the right guidelines and preparations.

Missing visual cues, you don’t know who’s speaking, when it’s your turn, what someone really meant and what page of a document everyone else is on. These are common conferencing calling traps that, when left unchecked, can collapse the productivity of your entire call just like a gaping sinkhole.

Control the chaos and avoid these mishaps by getting a little more organized. Use the following tips to experience better conference calling and collaboration.

10 Steps to Organize a Conference Call:

  1. Set a clear meeting agenda. Organize meeting objectives in an outline for a clear path to follow. This way, you’ll be able to get your audience back on track and remind yourself when you’re chasing too many tangents.
  2. Find the best time to meet. Conference calling that’s too early or too late winds up with late arrivals or participants hanging up early, as well as callers that are too distracted or too tired to participate. To make it easy (especially if you’re dealing with multiple time zones) send a free/busy poll to everyone at once with options for them to select.
  3. Send a calendar invite. Creating calendar invites is easy, but consider adding these extras for a more productive meeting. First, include the agenda and let your attendees know how they should prepare. Should they brainstorm ahead of time, come with questions or read over other attachments beforehand? Also, make it easier for mobile callers by including links to apps with one-click access. Don’t forget to set a reminder notification at least 15 minutes before the meeting.
  4. Find the mute button. If you’re new to playing host, practice with the technology. Find all the buttons on your visual conference calling controls, as well as your speaker phone, like how to mute a single line or all callers at once.
  5. Join early. Dial in at least five minutes before the start time to welcome participants and ensure they have everything they need to participate.
  6. Kick off with ground rules. To minimize disruptions, set quick guidelines. For instance, let callers know that putting the call on hold initiates hold music, that they need to state their name before speaking if it’s a large call or new group and to mute themselves at all times unless they’re speaking. In fact, include this conference call flowchart in your invite so they get the picture.
  7. Ask questions. This is a surefire way to get engagement and to make sure participants understand the conversation. Using your visual display of who’s on the call, direct your questions to someone new each time so everyone pays attention instead of multitasks.
  8. Jot down ideas, questions and feedback. Many conference calling solutions provide a recording and meeting summary afterwards, but if you want to be an active listener and better host, take notes during the meeting, too.
  9. Wrap up with action items. Outline any next steps your participants need to take so everyone leaves with a clear understanding of their responsibilities. In addition, use wrap-up time to review what was and was not accomplished and to ask callers what they think could be improved on the next call.
  10. Follow up with an email. Recap your meeting, next steps, assigned roles and deadlines in an email so everyone has a clear, written summary to cement what they learned and what’s next.

What else can you control for better conferencing calling? Your technology. Request a demo today of GlobalMeet® Audio to find out why PGi is one of the most trusted audio conferencing providers!

6 Hacks to Effective Conference Calling

Conference calls are a part of every modern day workplace, which is why it’s so important for professionals to understand the art of conference calling. Whether it’s a weekly sales pipeline meeting with various offices or a marketing strategy session with outside vendors, conference calls are pretty much inevitable when working with multiple entities across different locations

And while conference calls remain a staple to continuing daily business, sometimes it can be hard for guests to see them as the most efficient means of communication. To fire up your conference calling skills and make your conference calls more effective, try these six tips and tricks:

  • Prepare an agenda before your meeting starts. By creating an agenda, you’ll be able to control talking points of the meeting, keep the call productive and have documentation of the meeting’s outcome. Make sure you provide the meeting agenda to your guests before the call so they have a better understanding of the meeting’s purpose.
  • Start your call on time. It may sound like an obvious tip, but everyone has experienced a conference call that has started late, and because of this, the call spills over the allotted time for the meeting. Be respectful of your guests and their time and stick to the schedule.
  • Take attendance of who’s on your call. If you’re missing guests or attendees are late, you can make sure someone either takes minutes, or, if you’re using an all-in-one online meeting tool with audio like PGi’s iMeet®, you can record the meeting and distribute it to those who weren’t able to make the call.
  • Host calls only when needed. Understanding when to host a meeting and when to have a brief conversation is extremely important. Before you even send out an invitation for a call, make sure you have a clear and defined purpose for the meeting.
  • Dedicate your full attention when on the call. Sometimes it’s far too easy to multitask when conference calling. Make sure you shut down any distractions on your laptop, turn off notifications for texts and emails and make sure you are giving your guests your undivided attention.
  • Send a follow-up email with a summary of the call shortly after your meeting ends. Keep solutions, feedback and ideas fresh on everyone’s minds. If necessary, create a list of next steps and responsibilities for those that were on the call. Encourage feedback and questions about the call with the group.

Going forward, remember these six hacks to improve your conference calling skills and make your next conference call more successful. Ready to try an audio solution that’s effective as well? Check out PGi’s GlobalMeet® Audio, a fresh new take on audio conferencing that combines the highest quality audio with a user-friendly interface all accessible from your computer, tablet and smartphone.

Free vs. Paid: Choosing a Conference Call Solution

When evaluating a new conference call solution, one of the most common questions is this: why should I pay for conference calls when there are free solutions available?

Free conference calls may seem like an attractive option, however it’s important to understand the sacrifices you’re potentially making by choosing a free provider. You may ultimately end up hindering your organization’s ability to effectively communicate and collaborate in the interest of saving on cost.

Here are some reasons why you should choose a paid conference call solution over a free one:

1) Choose a paid conference call solution if quality and reliability are important to you and your business.

If you only conduct the occasional audio conference, you may not be worried about scratchy quality and dropped calls. However, if conference calls are a core component of your organization’s communication and collaboration, you need a consistent, high-quality audio experience backed by enterprise-grade network infrastructure that only a paid audio conferencing service can provide.

The spoken word is the foundation of collaboration, and without a consistent audio experience, you simply can’t have effective meetings.

2) Choose a paid conference call solution if you’re a global organization or conduct business internationally.

One of the primary benefits of a collaboration solution like audio conferencing is it lets any business, regardless of size, expand to a global footprint. Unfortunately, free conference call services may not have the global reach, network infrastructure or support capabilities to ensure seamless audio conferencing for your globally dispersed business or your international clients.

However, paid audio conference providers have the resources and infrastructure to support bridges and audio nodes in multiple countries, can provide local dial-in numbers and can offer in-language and in-region support options.

3) Choose a paid conference call solution if you want access to support and service guarantees.

With a free solution, you’re generally left to your own devices should there be service interruptions or technical difficulties. And with no contract or Service Level Agreement (SLA), the provider is under no obligation to ensure that your conference calls work when you need them to.

On the other hand, paid conference call providers offer 24/7 in-meeting, email and live chat support in addition to other support avenues like phone, email and online customer communities.

4) Choose a paid conference call solution if you want full-featured control over your audio meetings.

Free conference call providers often offer minimal additional features, or place mission-critical collaboration features behind an optional paywall or subscription. You may be able to communicate, but any robust scheduling or meeting management features won’t be available.

Paid conference call solutions like GlobalMeet Audio provide a wealth of features, including Microsoft Outlook integration and scheduling, mobile applications, visual meeting controls on your desktop, laptop or mobile device, subconferencing support and more.

While it may be tempting to leverage a free conference call solution for your business, the additional features, network capabilities and support that come with an audio conferencing purchase more than justify the expense.