If you were leading a brainstorming session or a departmental meeting of ten people, you would plan very differently than if you were leading a gathering of hundreds of people across your company. The same should be true for a meeting’s digital counterpart, the conference call.
Conference calls are a staple of small teams, particularly when they are geographically distant from one another. But they are also crucial at a company level when hundreds or thousands of people cannot physically gather in the same space. These large event calls have a very different feel to them and are often of much greater consequence than routine conference calls. The increased magnitude of participants and significance makes it more important for you to understand and leverage conference call features.
This guide will discuss the following aspects of large event calls:
Large conference calls, also called large event calls, refer to scalable, high-profile or C-level event conference calls which often consist of a few hundred to a couple thousand participants. These large-scale conference calls are used as a communication tool by companies and organizations with employees and offices scattered in different states or around the globe.
Due to their extraordinarily high number of participants, large event calls are more prone to the types of technical difficulties which non-professional hosts find challenging to solve. An event conference call typically requires expert support from knowledgeable specialists who can reliably assist with call execution. For this reason, the majority of people who host event conference calls prefer to use a conferencing service specializing in large and international event calls to ensure their events run smoothly rather than handling the large-scale call on their own using free conference call services.
Large conference calls have a wide variety of applications and uses, but following are some of their most common functions within companies and organizations:
Analyst and Industry Calls
Large event calls are a highly effective method of communicating with stakeholders outside of the company. Information can be shared with industry analysts, prospective and existing investors, and media representatives who are seeking information about financial performance, company changes, and relevant industry shifts. A large conference call enables a company to distribute this information both efficiently and equitably to a massive audience. Company leaders can determine the level of interaction they want on the call, selecting which participants have an opportunity to speak versus those that only have access to listen to the call.
While mass emails and company newsletters can reach everyone in a highly dispersed organization, these tools are often not the best format for sharing certain types of news. A large event call is an ideal method for delivering major company news that is either highly sensitive (e.g., announcing downsizing) or highly transformative (e.g. a major shift in leadership or strategy). These types of calls can also be critical to maintaining a coherent corporate culture within global corporations and organizations.
Trainings and Seminars
When people are highly dispersed geographically, congregating for trainings and seminars can be an extremely expensive endeavor. Large event calls are a more cost-effective alternative that still allows a high level of participation. This is particularly helpful when trainings are mandatory company-wide (e.g., workplace harassment training) and not specific to particular teams or departments.
A large event call can be used for product launches to increase visibility and buzz when attendees can’t be physically present. These types of calls help companies build brand awareness and boost engagement levels among both internal and external customers.
Running Board Meetings
Board members are typically busy executive-level professionals who may not always be able to coordinate gathering in-person. Large event calls facilitate constructive board meetings with features such as recordings for legal purposes and transcriptions to assist with note-taking.
You don’t have to be a highly seasoned businessperson to recognize the overall benefits of conference calls; they save on time and travel costs, improve the productivity and fluidity of long-distance communication, and foster greater team cohesion across geographic boundaries than alternatives such as email.
When conference calls have a large audience, however, there is typically more at stake than when they are being used for more routine internal purposes such as ideation sessions or project management. For higher-profile events, an operator assisted conference call offers you the best opportunity to make a strong and positive impression by providing some key advantages:
Operators add an additional layer of professionalism to a call by acting as experienced facilitators. Before a call, operators can manage registration and compile a list of registered attendees and their affiliations. On the day of the call, they can greet and screen participants as they enter the call, start the conference with a branded greeting, make introductions, and handle the recording of the call. Operators are available throughout a call so that you can remain focused on the agenda, message, and discussion occurring.
Operator-assisted conference calls always occur on a conferencing service’s platform. This means that the infrastructure and technical equipment being used will not become overwhelmed by a high user volume. When a call encounters too many technical interruptions, it no longer translates into cost-savings, time-savings, or effective communication. Reliability is paramount to a successful large event call.
When you are conducting a higher-profile call for industry analysts or a product launch, technical assistance is invaluable for peace of mind. If anything does go wrong, you won’t have to scramble to resolve the problem. An operator’s team ensures that there are no embarrassing mishaps, distractions from the agenda, and helps you make a good impression with a streamlined call.
If your budget requires you to find a more affordable large conference call or you want to play the role of operator yourself, it’s important to go into the role with eyes wide open. Conducting a meeting with a large and remote audience presents additional challenges beyond large in-person meetings where body language, eye contact, and visual cues can assist you. Here are five key suggestions to make hosting a large event call a worthwhile endeavor:
Whether you choose to have an operator-assisted conference call or host it yourself, you should look carefully at the guarantees, capabilities, and features large conference call services offer before you decide on a provider. What initially looks like a crowded field of conference providers is actually far more differentiated once you’ve considered your requirements more specifically. If you plan on holding a large event call, here’s what you should be looking for:
The greatest obstacle people face when planning a large event call is finding a provider which truly has the capacity to host hundreds to thousands of participants without compromising on audio and visual quality. High quality large conference call services are never operating at full capacity and always have contingency plans in case of natural disasters, service outages, or highly dispersed participants.
Depending on the sensitivity of the information being transmitted on a call, you will want varying levels of security to ensure that only those invited gain entrance. An event conference call service should be able to adjust the level of security accordingly. If you are hosting a seminar or panel discussion, you may be comfortable with emailing participants a link which they can easily click and connect to a call without remembering specific phone numbers or passcodes. However, an earnings call, board meeting, or company-wide announcement will contain highly sensitive information, making security against hackers essential. Find a service that can accommodate unique passkeys for each participant on a one-time, semi-permanent, or permanent basis depending on how you want to control access. Furthermore, inquire about how any recorded calls will be saved and secured for future reference.
Common conference call capabilities include the ability to mute/unmute, chat with participants, and conduct polls on a call. However, there are a wide variety of features of other features you can leverage conference calls. Consider having a conferencing service generate post-call reports or compile participant details for future marketing initiatives. Have them segregate presenters from conference participants to hold private discussions before and after the call. Create a host PIN so that participants cannot hear one another until you’ve entered the passkey to initiate the call. Ask a conferencing service how they can maximize your return on a large event call.
One way to make the most of a large event call is to record and transcribe it. In cases such as board meetings, a recording can serve as an important legal record, documenting that an agreement was made or adhering to regulations. In cases such as training sessions—where participants are likely to experience information overload—recordings can be used to refer to later and improve recall. Or a recording may simply help people stay in the loop who are not able to attend. Recordings and transcripts eliminate the need for note-taking in all call scenarios and allow those who are participating to stay focused on the call. Some services can even summarize transcriptions, creating a succinct and useful set of notes that is easily distributed to attendees and non-attendees alike.
Do you want to charge for your large event call? Have a service register participants and collect the fees to send to you. Do you need assistance planning a call? Utilize speaker training or a call rehearsal. Do you want help running a call? Have an operator screen participants, start the call, make introductions for you, and start the recording. Large conference calls tend to be the most stressful types of conference calls because there is more at stake. Make sure you have a conferencing service that has your back around the clock.
You may be wondering why you would opt for a paid large conference call when there are so many free conference call services. While these “free” services are tempting and can be useful for small group conference calling, their reliability is questionable when it comes to international conference meetings and large audiences. In the interest of saving a few dollars, you may unintentionally sacrifice valuable features which hinder the intent of the call, whether that is communication, collaboration, and/or education.
The first thing you should know that free conferencing providers don’t tell you is that they offer no performance guarantees. Use them at your own risk. If you try to hold a large meeting with a free conference call service and it actually works, you have obviously saved some money. The catch is that you never know when the platform will become faulty. And when it does, then what will you do?
This level of uncertainty may be tolerable for small teams using free conferencing platforms for applications such as ideation sessions and task coordination. Large event calls, on the other hand, cannot afford any unforeseen technical glitches, especially for important events like product launches and earnings calls. Inconsistencies are what people will remember most rather than the content of your message.
Free conference call services are particularly risky if you have any international participants or more than ten people on a call. This is because free services do not share the same resources or network infrastructure as paid services. Free services rely on VoIP or Internet lines for functionality which are prone to disruptions and distortions such as crackling, echoes, and drop-outs, particularly when they’re being used at peak times or when participants are highly dispersed.
In contrast, paid services own the technology they use. Furthermore, they never push their digital lines and conference bridging technology to capacity. With both local and international dial-in numbers, they can ensure that audio and video quality is consistently faultless regardless of the location or number of participants. They can offer guarantees about service delivery because they own the infrastructure they rely on.
You saw that right! “Free” conference call services are not entirely free. These free services are usually based on toll numbers, meaning that they are subject to long distance charges and taxes among other fees. International participants would also be subjected to extremely high long distance charges as these are U.S.-based toll numbers. On the other hand, paid conference call services offer toll-free numbers. Large event calls are usually charged by minute of the call, billed in whole minutes.
It’s also worth mentioning that free conferencing services are never full-feature platforms. Free conferencing services have minimal functionality and require you to purchase additional features if you want them. These are often crucial to the productivity and flow of the call. Free services are often just a gateway to buying features a la carte, potentially resulting in a more expensive but less effective call. Perhaps most importantly, you would lose access to round-the-clock customer support if anything ever goes wrong. Would you still consider free conference calls as offering you a greater value?
Free conference call services not only have the opportunity cost of lost features and lack of support; a free call that is more time consuming or less productive because of background noise and drop-outs has a less tangible but much higher true cost than a flawless one that was paid for. Particularly when a large event call includes participants outside the company, a poor call can have snowballing reputational costs.
Preparing for and hosting a large event call is a daunting but important task in any company or organization. Let the purpose and needs of your large event calls determine how you maximize the features offered by a conferencing service. Ask yourself the following:
Make sure that the conferencing service you choose doesn’t transform a large event call into a largely missed opportunity.