The development of various communication technologies is without a doubt bringing people closer together, almost eliminating geographic disparity and constantly improving telecommuting. International conference calling, in particular, is widely used as an alternative to face-to-face communication nowadays. Whatever field or industry you’re in, conferencing is surely a communication tool that you and your colleagues utilize on a regular basis.

A Research Now 2015 Survey proved the upward growth and adoption of this practice. They found out that 78% of respondents in the US reportedly joins about 1-5 conference calls each week, while another 16% joins between 6-10. Roughly 93% of the same respondents have even admittedly shared confidential information on a call.1 This just proves how much of a norm conferencing has become, as it assists various organizations with their endeavors to align strategies toward achieving company goals.

But it’s not always rainbows and butterflies with conferencing. As a user, you have to take several factors into consideration in order to conduct a productive digital meeting. This ultimate guide will discuss the following aspects to assist you in setting up an effective large conference call:

What is Conferencing?

Conferencing allows meetings be conducted and joined by several people in remote locations at the same time. Conference calls usually consist of not more than 50 participants. A call with a high volume of participants is categorized as “large conferencing”, which can consist of up to thousands of participants.

This could be designed where the party initiating the conference call (calling party) calls other attendees (call participants) and adds them to the call. Organizations in various fields typically use a conferencing provider to maintain a conference bridge, where the participants are hosted on as they’re added to the call.2 However, the term “conferencing” does not limit to a group telephone call. Conferencing may also pertain to web conferencing, video conferencing, or teleconferencing.

Audio conferencing calls can be set up interactively where participants can either jump in anytime and participate during the discussion, or have it hosted as a one-way event (e.g. reminders, announcements) where participants can only listen to the speaker/s and can only contribute and share thoughts or ideas later or after the call.

Uses of Large Conferencing

Businesses of all kinds turn to large conferencing to help meet business goals and objectives, as conference calls is considerably one of the key communication methods that the modern world cannot live without. It can be used for a wide variety of reasons, making it a necessity for companies and organizations worldwide.

There are many reasons businesses use large event calls. Conference calls for large audiences have become a vital collaboration tool for sales presentations, project updates, earnings calls, and periodic team meetings.

Large-scale conference calls are also helpful to training and recruitment. The cost-efficiency of conducting large conference calls, instead of in-person trainings or orientations, have also blessed businesses and other organizations with the capability to provide e-learning experiences effortlessly with anyone around the globe.

Conferencing is also beginning to foster new interaction patterns as it’s gradually influencing podcasting and social networking. Conference call broadcasting, also known as live streaming, enables a large audience to access the call without the need of a conference bridge. Some conference call organizers enable their audience to dial in and interact by publishing a dial-in number alongside the audio stream.2

Using large conference calls in conjunction with web conferences allows its users to share presentations or documents online via a web room that enables the presenters to give clear explanations about the subject matter. This could also be used for market research studies requiring basic or minimum stimuli.

Advantages of Large Conference Calls

The majority of businesses and other organizations consider adopting conference calls as an alternative mainly to save a significant amount of money spent in business travels - hotel accommodations, meals, airfare, land transportation, and other services concerning travel.3 Constant traveling also drains a lot of time from employees that they could have been spending on other pressing tasks like boosting sales. Conducting large conference calls both internally (local to global) and outside the company greatly increases productivity and can even save employees from sacrificing their personal time.

Maintaining a tight-knit international organization can be tough with communicating purely through emails and phone calls between global managers. Building rapport and enhancing communication among the different offices absolutely takes more than that. Regular communication efforts through large conference calls help global companies maintain their corporate culture and overcome remote work issues. Executives could even personally deliver announcements and sales activity reports to employees, adding a personal touch and encouragement towards achieving the company goals and objectives.

Large event calls also offer state of the art features to its users’ advantage. One of which is high quality recording that’s impossible with in-person meetings and conferences. Recording large conference calls is very important to keep participants completely focused and attentive to the call at hand, as this eliminates the burden of hurried note-taking and the pressure of writing every bit of detail down. Recording can also help you keep your colleagues who were unable to attend the call in the loop with critical information and business decisions.

Technical Requirements for Large Event Calls

First and foremost, the technical requirements for large-scale conference calls must be taken into utmost consideration. This pertains to both the host and participants’ ends. There should be a proper collaboration to ensure everyone is capable to fully participate in the upcoming call. All the hardware and applications or software (as needed) should be installed and ensured working seamlessly beforehand. Fortunately, the required equipment for conference calling are pretty much basic tools people use in a daily basis:

  • Mobile Phone

    Road-warriors and multi-taskers often join conference calls on-the-go. Mobile phones are probably the most convenient device to use in these situations, as you can dial-in hands-free by simply “saying” your PIN or passcode. These also require very minimal to zero setup.

  • Touch-Tone Phone

    Touch-tone phones enable hosts and moderators perform control functions by a simple press on the telephone keypad. Each key represents different functionalities - recording included.

  • Headset

    Investing on a high quality headset is a great way to improve the audio quality of large conference calls. This enables the user to hear define audio, the same way his speech will register clearer to the other participants’ end.

  • Laptop or Desktop Computer

    Some meetings are impossible to conduct effectively without showcasing visual materials to participants (i.e. sales figures and company data). Integrating audio to web conferencing creates stronger impact, increases participant engagement, and even drive attendance.

  • Webcam

    Webcams make it possible to incorporate video technology to large conference calls, allowing attendees from different offices globally hold face-to-face meetings without the need of costly travels.

  • Good Reception

    Mobile phones usually have unstable data networks when the user is traveling, which instigates technical problems like statics and broken speech. That’s why using landlines or touch-tone phones are more advisable for joining conference calls.

Overlooking even one of the aforementioned technical requirements might lead to a disastrous event call. For instance, bad reception causes participants to consistently drop off the call. A faulty headset can push you to be in speakerphone instead, capturing a wealth of background noises and audio disruptions which can lead to misunderstandings or useless sessions at the worst. Just imagine more than one participant causing problems! Stress to say, proper technical equipment plays an important role in ensuring a smooth sailing and effective large conference call.

Choosing the Right Large Conferencing Service

Let’s face it - any company, brand, or service over-market themselves in the hopes of standing out among their competitors, and the large event conferencing market is unfortunately not an exemption. The rise of audio and video conferencing for large audiences brought a multitude of conferencing services to life, but not all of these are robust enough to handle a colossal number of participants all at once. In fact, many free conferencing services online can only support 10 people per session at most. As a conferencing host, you should know how to recognize if a provider is willing to go the extra mile to provide the perfect service for you. You should strategically assess if a conference call provider can really handle large conference calls.

To help you with that, listed below are the essential attributes of an ideal conferencing provider for large audiences:

  1. Reliability

    It’s difficult to tell if an event conference call service is highly reliable, especially when you don’t know anyone who’ve tested and used their services. You might be able to gauge their reliability by testing the volume of participants their system can support with no trouble. Furthermore, a reliable event conference call service must have built-in system redundancy and auto failover in case of service outage. The provider should be able to address any possible connectivity issue during natural disasters, even when participants are in geographically dispersed locations. Communicate your needs and expectations, then investigate if they’re fully committed to their contingency plans.

  2. Security

    Large-scale conference calls often contain crucial information for the internal use of the company - be it earnings conference calls, monthly sales updates, or brand development discussions. Getting hacked on a conference call is probably the worst experience any organization could ever come across. Security for large audience calls should be well-thought out. Choose a large conferencing service with fool-proof security measures and valuable security features like unique single-event, semi-permanent, and permanent passcodes for controlled restriction of access.

  3. Operator Expertise

    People hosting high-profile large event calls tend to go for operator-assisted services to prevent cringe-worthy mishaps and to ensure a smooth-sailing session. Hiring a professional operator helps your company make a great impression with other high-profile companies on your behalf. If you don’t have enough resources in your organization, look for a conference call provider offering optional concierge services that could handle other tasks for you such as speaker training, call rehearsals and pre-conference coordination.

  4. Best-in-Class Features

    You know the common conferencing features. Mute/unmute, record, chat, polling, etc. - all very handy, right? These features ensure the productivity and maximizes the effectivity of the meeting. However, there are also other premium conferencing feature sets with after-event capabilities like generating large conference call reports or compilation of participant details leveraged for sales, marketing, or other purposes.

  5. Integrated Audio, Video, and Web Options

    Not all meetings or discussions can be properly supported by just an audio experience. Sometimes you have to integrate it with video or web options to provide the full experience or imitate in-person meetings.

  6. 24/7/364 Customer Support

    It’s always nice to have that peace of mind knowing there’s someone you can run to, or like a safety net, when things don’t go as planned. Round the clock customer support is critical for situations when you’re in dire need of immediate assistance - this is in case you choose to manage large conference calls yourself.

  7. Pricing Structure

    We all know how expensive it is to conduct large event calls when thousands of participants are attending. The best solution is to make your large conference call pay for itself. It will be of great help if you choose a conferencing provider that can take care of that for you. After you determine the amount you want to charge, it’ll be on them to charge the participating parties and then send you the collected fees which is a fantastic, easy way to collect funds if you want to charge for a course or host a renowned speaker.

Conducting an Effective Large Conference Call

Whatever your role, position, department, or field is - if you’re in an office setting, regularly conducting conference calls in a variety of volumes is probably one of your corporate rituals. Large conference calls, in particular, are essential in remote work environment as attending to one allows you to connect and, be updated, and feel part of the team, imperative to team collaboration and decision-making processes. Therefore, conducting them effectively is highly important for project planning and executions, most importantly meeting the company goals.

Conducting large-scale physical meetings is already tough, let alone large conference calls where the stakes are higher. Being digital can limit the capabilities of hosts and moderators in a way, making it more challenging to conduct them effectively. In lieu to that, we’ve compiled the most useful strategies that could help you lead an effective large conference call:

Have participants register via an online registration page.

It’s difficult to virtually keep track of large audiences, from hundreds to thousands of participants, especially if there’s a demographic disparity. It surely is time-consuming to manually invite and collect the information of everyone attending the call. Gather names and all the necessary details by sending out departmental invitations with call-to-action (CTA) links directing them to a registration page. This won’t just help you manage the attendance, this is also a fantastic strategy for participation tracking and streamlining complex contact building processes. Sending out follow up email invites will be a piece of cake of too!

Prepare and set out the agenda and meeting outline in advance, then do your best to stick to it.

Sometimes hosts fail to establish and disseminate clear, concise agenda and meeting outlines resulting to confusion on who’s supposed to attend the call. The importance of having a meeting agenda at hand extends to being on call itself, as this also helps the moderator and speakers keep the meeting on schedule without sacrificing any discussion points. Not only that, this also helps participants keep up, which ensures that everyone is on the same page and prevents them to give a short shrift. A well-planned agenda and meeting outline, and actually sticking to them, leads to more productive large event calls. Without these, any large-scale event call, be it short or lengthy meetings, will surely be on the brink of becoming a disastrous session.

Opt to have operator-assistance to ensure a smooth flowing large-scale conference call and save time to prepare for the actual presentation.

Hosting a high profile large-scale conference call around hundreds, yet alone thousands of participants, can be daunting for beginners to handle. To avoid cringe-worthy mishaps, they tend to ask assistance from conferencing providers with proven reliability to ensure a successful large conference call. Using an operator-assisted conferencing service streamlines tedious tasks such as registration, debriefing, Q&A coordination, and even dialing out to participants to directly connect them to the call. What’s even more helpful with reservationless conferencing services is that they tailor their service to fulfill specific needs. For instance, you can request for a conference specialist to provide speaker training, rehearsal and pre-conference coordination. Expert operators can even create a script complete with branded greetings to welcome participants, which is of course pre-approved by you clients.

Be prepared to deal with possible difficulties throughout the call and strategize solutions to keep the meeting on track.

The most uncontrollable obstacle to conducting large conference calls is dealing with technical difficulties. Constantly dialing out to participants dropping out the call is a time-suck. It’s not only laborious, it also breaks the meeting’s momentum and disrupts the focus of both presenters and listeners that can lead the discussion going off on tangents. You’ll lose your audience’s interest too! In order to conduct an effective large conference call, hosts should be quick at their feet with figuring out how to keep the meeting on track. Although be attentive with picking up other non-technical difficulties along the way such as excessive background noises among multiple lines, crosstalks, and even participants forming “sub-meetings”. It is only a must that you as a host or moderator is equipped with skills and readied solutions for common large conference call difficulties.

Get people to actually attend the call.

All the preparation and planning efforts are useless if people are unable to attend the call. What’s worse is this even adds up and doubles your responsibilities. For instance, non-attendees would be demanding for meeting reports and notes for them to keep up with any new arrangements and decisions made during the call. It is only imperative that you attract people to attend large conference calls right off the bat to instantly eliminate communication gaps and misinformation. Some of the proven techniques to drive attendance are scheduling in favor of the majority, sending compelling email invitations, and of course inviting only the necessary employees or departments to join the meeting.

Self-Managed Large Conference Calls

Large conference calls are inevitable in the business world and international organizations in general. This might be the smart alternative to costly travels, but conference calls for large audiences can be expensive in the long run too, especially if you utilize them in a regular basis.

If premium conferencing ever becomes too expensive for you to continue using it, you can broaden your options and opt for cost-effective large conference calls instead. Managing a large conference call without an operator becomes one of the great options. It may sound daunting but it’s actually easy as pie once you choose the right, dedicated conferencing provider with robust yet easy-to-use platforms. You will be trained to become a skillful large conferencing moderator yourself and master how to use their tools and features best for specific situations. They won’t let you bring a knife into a gun fight.

No need to worry about possible difficulties you’re not prepared for. Technical support will always be available for you at any time of day, enabling you to self-facilitate like a pro!


Sources:
1Understanding the Impact of Conference Calls on Business, Research Now 2015 Survey
2https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conference_call
3http://techcrunchies.com/conference-calls-statistics/