A conference call allows multiple participants to join the same call at the same time. Although the term is mainly used to describe multi-party telephone calls, advances in Voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) technology have made it possible to host and join conference calls from smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop devices.
Below are the types of conference calls, how the technology works, and things to consider before choosing a provider.
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What are the types of conference calls?
Whether you’re part of a startup, a sole proprietor, or a corporation, you probably participate in at least a few corporate calls every day. More companies have recently adopted video conferencing to keep teams connected, but 71% of enterprise businesses still only use audio conference calls to conduct business.
As a result, the term conference call has expanded to include three different types of remote collaboration:
Traditional conference call: Participants call into an audio-only conference call with a group of three or more. Participants can use a landline or a VoIP-powered device to make a call.
Video conference: Participants join a conference call that includes real-time video of the participants.
Web conference: Participants join a conference call and the presenter gives the presentation to the group over the Internet. It is primarily a one-to-many live call, but participants can usually communicate in a limited capacity that differentiates a web conference from a pre-recorded video.
Ultimately, teams need to stay connected, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to have face-to-face meetings with increasing remote teamwork. Therefore, no matter what type of conference call you use, using this technology has become an essential part of the business world.
How does a conference call work?
Conference calls work essentially the same as telephone calls, but with three or more participants. There are two main ways to start a conference call:
Caller adds participants to the call: The caller starts the call by dialing the participant’s number. Then more participants join the call as the caller dials more numbers.
Participants connect to a conference bridge: Participants dial a number that connects them to a conference bridge, a special server that can answer multiple calls simultaneously and link the audio so that all callers can listen and participate.
As a result, conference calls are a fast, simple and affordable way for people all over the world to communicate. While texting, emailing, and messaging apps continue to grow in popularity, nothing beats the ease and efficiency of jumping into a conversation, provided you’re using a quality service.
Conference call providers
Basic conference call capability is a feature found in most of the best business phone systems. However, operators have been able to differentiate themselves by offering additional services to upgrade your calls. For example, some have a higher maximum number of participants, while others allow additional features such as call recording, polling, video conferencing and more. Each service differs in price, features, functionality and scalability.
There are plenty of conference call providers on the market, but here are some of our favorites:
Nextiva is a business VoIP phone system that provides a set of communication and collaboration tools for businesses to connect with teammates and clients. It allows companies unlimited voice and video calls, unlimited number of participants, business SMS, team messages, call recording, file sharing and much more. Plans start at $21.95 per user, per month for 5 to 19 users with a 36-month contract, but volume discounts are available as more users are added.
You can learn more about Nextiva and other high-quality traditional conference calling providers in our article on the best conference calling services.
Zoom is popular as a video conferencing tool for both business and personal use, but its platform also provides businesses with high-quality, reliable, and affordable audio conferencing. The platform’s easy-to-use interface combined with its multi-functional capabilities make it the conferencing choice for both small businesses and enterprises. Dial-up toll plans start at $14.99 per license per month, but you’ll need to upgrade to Zoom’s Audio Plan to get access to free calling options as well as dial-in and outbound calling features. .
For more information on Zoom and other video conferencing options, check out our guide to the best video conferencing software.
GoToMeeting is an audio and video conferencing platform that gives businesses the tools they need to create professional meetings. Features like meeting lock, business messaging, cloud recording and call transcripts take every conference call to a new level. Participants can join calls from their internet-connected device or landline. Plans start at $14.00 per organizer per month and include a maximum of 150 participants.
How to improve your conference calls
Not all conference calls are managed equally. Some can lead to effective teamwork that expands communication and opens doors to new opportunities. However, many conference calls can waste valuable time and resources.
Here are some ways to make your conference calls more productive:
Enter a local phone number: If you have international participants on your call, provide a local connection so they don’t have to avoid paying long-distance conference call fees.
Sending instructions: Don’t assume that everyone knows how to join and participate in a conference call. Platforms like Zoom and GoToMeeting provide step-by-step instructions on how to join with call invitations, including all phone connections, access codes, links, PINs, and more.
Use the right tools: Conference call providers will provide the host with features such as participant mute, noise suppression, caller ID, and meeting locking. You can use these tools to create high-quality professional calls.
Record meetings: Record conference calls and eliminate the need for aggressive note-taking. Most providers will offer this feature and allow you to upload locally or in the cloud.
Frequently asked questions
How do I get a conference call number?
Your VoIP or conference call provider will provide you with a phone number for your conference calls. Most providers assign each licensed user a personal meeting number and also allow you to create a unique conference call number for each meeting. This allows your business to host more c