What is a conference call

How does a conference call work?

Everything you always wanted to know about conference calls

The conference call - what you need to know about how it works,
Organization and participation

A telephone conference allows the quick, uncomplicated and personal exchange of several interlocutors. Employees, customers or partners can discuss professional matters without having to travel to a meeting with great financial and time expenditure. There are only a few requirements for setting up, organizing and participating in a conference call. A normal phone or smartphone is sufficient to participate and control the conference. Professional solutions such as CallMeeting from inopla are particularly powerful and offer you convenient functions for organizing and controlling your telephone conference. The following article explains what a conference call is, how it works and everything else you need to know in order to use this useful tool in your everyday work.

Definition and basic information about the conference call

For a better understanding, first some basic information about the conference call, its benefits, how it works, and the possible costs.

What is a conference call?

A conference call is an interconnection of more than two participants via the telephone network or a telephone system. A popular shorthand for conference calls is Telko. If only three participants take part in the joint conversation, this is also known as a three-way conference. If there are more than three participants, this is usually referred to as a conference call. The various participants can be at any location. The maximum number of participants in a conference call can be limited or unlimited depending on the provider. To participate in the conference call, a landline telephone, mobile phone or other telephone such as a so-called telephone spider (special conference telephone for several participants in one room) is required.

What are the typical advantages of a conference call?

Companies use the conference call, for example, for their internal communication, for project discussions with internal and external project participants or for other information and exchange purposes. Typical advantages of a conference call are:
  • efficient, location-independent collaboration
  • Reduction of the cost of business trips
  • Reduce the time spent on meetings
  • usable anytime and anywhere
  • low demands on the technical equipment - only normal telephones are required
In addition to these basic advantages of a telephone conference, professional conference solutions offer many useful and advantageous additional functions. For example, these are the following functions:
  • Tools to easily organize a conference call and invite participants
  • web-based control of conferences
  • Start of conversations
  • Opportunities to evaluate statistical data from the conference

What are the costs of a conference call?

There are big differences in the cost of a conference call. Different billing models exist depending on the provider, solution and configuration. With some providers there are monthly fees, with other providers the participants or the organizers bear the costs of the conference call via the individual connection charges for the telephone calls. Other billing models work with fixed prices or flat rates and with or without contract periods.

How does a conference call work?

The number of channels that can be used simultaneously on a telephone is limited. You can only have one call at a time via an analog telephone connection. ISDN offers a maximum of two channels. Voice over IP (VoIP) allows more, depending on the provider. In order to bring together a large number of participants in a telephone conference, the participants are interconnected within the telephone network or the telephone system. Only one call channel is occupied on the line of the respective participant, regardless of how many people are participating in the conference call.

The dial-in and dial-out process

How a conference call is initiated can basically be divided into two procedures:1) The dial-in procedure: Each participant in a telephone conference calls the telephone number given to him at the agreed time, also known as the dial-in number or conference number. The participant may incur costs for the telephone connection. After the connection has been established, the participant must authenticate himself in protected conferences using the PIN or password that was also given to him.2) The dial-out procedure: The conference system calls every invited participant at the agreed time. The participant incurs no costs for the telephone connection. However, the conference call system must know all the participants' telephone numbers in advance.

Basic functions of a conference call

Even if the conference call providers offer different solutions with different scope of services, the basic functions of a conference call are always the same. A participant in the conference is assigned the role of moderator and receives special control functions. He can add individual participants to the conference call or exclude them from the conference. It is also possible to temporarily or in principle mute participants. The virtual conference room can be protected by a secret PIN known only to the conference participants. This prevents unauthorized persons from dialing into a conference call and overhearing confidential conversations. General information about the conference call, for example when dialing in, is provided via individual announcements.

Extended features of a conference call

In addition to these basic functions of a conference call, many other solutions offer additional features. These ensure that the conference call is even more convenient and professional. For example, some systems offer international dial-in numbers for participants from abroad. These local numbers reduce the telephone costs as no international telephone connections have to be established. Recording functions are useful for documentation, post-processing or for non-participating employees. The entire conference call can then be listened to again at any point. Some systems offer the option of extending the conference call to a web conference. In a web conference you can unlock the computer screen, presentations or documents for other participants to work on together.

Advantages of professional telephone conference solutions

The number of conference call providers is huge. Some are more or less free of charge or are only financed by the incurred telephone charges, for others you have to sign contracts or pay monthly fees. Basically, the scope and functions of the conference call solutions can be very different. For many, only the basic functions of a conference call are available or the number of participants and conference rooms is severely limited. If you use telephone conferences in your daily business and are dependent on secure, efficient and comfortable conferences, you should use professional solutions such as CallMeeting Easy or CallMeeting Pro from inopla. They offer you a high level of reliability and the best call quality with an almost unlimited number of participants. inopla realizes the telephone conferences on servers in Germany and offers a high level of data security. CallMeeting Easy is included as a free module in the inopla products ComDesk and virtuTEL. A conference call solution with numerous comfort features is available to you without the need for a separate administration interface. You can conveniently control all functions via the telephone keypad. CallMeeting Pro is an advanced conference call solution with many practical additional features. For example, you have international dial-in numbers, an unlimited number of conference rooms and participants, web-based, platform-independent interfaces for convenient control of the telephone conference and menu navigation in German or English. You neither need your own hardware nor install special software. Further features of the professional conference call solution from inopla are:
  • a crystal-clear conversation quality regardless of the number of people participating
  • Mute or remove participants and start recordings at the touch of a button
  • Protection of the conference rooms with a freely selectable six-digit PIN

Practical information on organizing and conducting a conference call

Now that you know the basic facts about the conference call, we will discuss how to conduct a telco in the following sections. You will learn how to choose a suitable provider and how to organize and conduct a conference call.

How do I find a suitable provider and how do I set up the conference call?

The first step, even before setting up a conference call, is to find the right provider. To do this, define your requirements and answer questions such as:
  • How often are conference calls used?
  • How many participants or conference rooms are required?
  • Which functions are necessary?
Select a suitable conference call provider based on your answers. Depending on which provider you have chosen, you have to register or you can start immediately without registering. Set the date for the conference, book or reserve a virtual conference room, choose an individual PIN to protect the conference room and find out about the available dial-in numbers. Depending on the provider, additional functions are available for your conference call, such as setting a moderator PIN or recording an individual greeting.

How do I organize a conference call?

After the conference call has been set up and a virtual conference room has been reserved with a PIN, you can invite the participants. For example, you can send the participants by e-mail the topic and the date of the conference call and the additional information required for dialing in, such as the dial-in number and PIN. Professional solutions such as those from inopla offer you helpful tools for organizing a conference call. An intelligent invitation tool with a web interface is available to you. It sends all the necessary information to the invited participants and adds an attachment for easy entry of the appointment in their calendar. You will automatically receive the acceptances or rejections and see who will take part in the conference call. The individual participants can be reminded of the appointment if they wish. If you change the date of the conference call or if the telco is canceled, all participants are automatically informed.

How do I join a conference call?

All you need to take part in a conference call is one phone. You can use a simple analog telephone, an ISDN telephone, a cell phone, a smartphone, a tablet with a telephone function, a VoIP telephone or a softphone on the PC. If several people in a meeting room are to be connected to the conference via a single telephone, the use of a conference telephone, also known as a telephone cradle, is recommended. To join the conference call at the specified time, dial the dial-in number provided and then enter the PIN code when prompted. You are now connected to the conference call and can exchange ideas with the other participants.

How do I control a conference call?

The moderator of the conference call has a special role. He controls the telco and sees, for example, the number of participants, their telephone numbers or their status. Depending on the conference call solution, control takes place directly via the keyboard of the moderator's telephone or via an administration interface on the computer. With the inopla web interface, all control functions can be conveniently operated in real time. Mute or give the floor to individual participants with a click of the mouse. The moderator can also mute or audible himself. Further control options are:
  • opening or closing the virtual conference room
  • starting and stopping the recording of the conversations
  • mute or audible others
  • end the conference