So, what is a mobile conference call?
Conference calling, audio conferencing, call conferencing – all of these processes exist so that we can connect and share information. Although audio conferencing has been around since the 1960s, back when Cassius Clay had only just take on the name: Muhammad Ali, which he went to immortalize. The point is that we’ve come a long way since then. The conference calling race began with people relying on wires and heavy-duty equipment, but has now transformed into the mobile conference call apps race, where digital solutions have overtaken physical systems.
A conference call is a call between 3 or more people. When it was first invented, a conference call would be made with the assistance of specially designed equipment. This equipment enabled participants to dial into an open bridge or to a specific phone number created for the purpose of the call. Sometimes, the equipment service provider would also dial-out to participants and let them know that they were on a conference call.
With a mobile conference call, all of this is done through your mobile service provider. The basic difference is that there is neither a bridge number to dial nor a special phone number. If you’re making a voice call through your service provider, you will need to follow these steps –
- Dial the first participant’s number and activate a phone call with them.
- Once they’re online, put them on hold
- Call all the other participants and repeat the same steps until you reach the maximum number of participants permitted on the call (this is usually 5 for iOS and 6 for Android).
Mobile conference call applications
Obviously, a call through your mobile service provider has its constraints. People understood this and that’s when they decided to harness the power of the Internet to provide the same feature through a mobile application. Of course, this application would use the Internet to make conference calls. When they started out, even mobile conferencing applications had a limit on the number of participants who could be called. However, they overcame the problem of dialing one person: putting them on hold and connecting to the next person.
With a mobile app, you can add multiple contacts to your phone at the same time, provided they’re all on the same application. Adding everyone simultaneously saves a lot of time for the host and is hassle-free. Most mobile conference calling applications also have a video conferencing feature. Being able to see the person and have a conversation certainly comes with its set of perks. Moreover, applications provide many features to simplify the process of conferencing and make it as seamless as possible. For instance, the entire call, can be recorded. Some newer applications also permit the sharing of documents and other attachments on the call. Of course, you can have a regular audio conference, chat with the participants personally if you need to – it depends entirely on the application.
What happens when you download an application?
Once you have downloaded a mobile conferencing application, you will need to register using either your mobile number or email ID or both. Then, you are led to create your profile. Most applications sync your mobile contacts with the interface, so you don’t need to keep switching between your Dialer and the app. Once you register, you can start calling.
Typically you are given a code which is what the participants will need to dial if they are to have a conference call with you. Participants will be unable to join the audio conference without entering this code. Additionally, they will also need to have the same application installed on their devices. Some applications like grptalk and Skype permit calls to participants who don’t have the app or are available only on a landline phone. grptalk does this by making all of its conference calls only through the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network).
How can you make the most of your mobile conference call?
While the conference call is ubiquitous today, it is that much harder to have productive conversations through it. We live busy lives and multitask all the time. As a result, there is little quality time we make for ourselves to have meaningful and productive conversations.
It always helps to remember a couple of pointers before you start off with your conference call.
1. Always have an agenda
Making an agenda, and keeping the conference relevant to it saves a lot of time. People are also less likely to decline the conference call and you can get more work done if you’re able to stick to the agenda. So, make sure you have a clear-cut agenda and you stick to it. Ensure that your agenda includes
- The topics that are to be discussed on the conference call
- Time for the participants to ask questions, if any
2. Send out detailed invitations
An invitation with details of the agenda, the time (in the participant’s local time, if possible), the likely duration of the meeting and the meeting ID to be entered- package all of these in a nice invitation email/text message to your participants.
3. Inform your participants
Sometimes, you may not have the time to make an agenda or even invite. While it is true that you may have a busy day, respecting the time and space of your workers is important. Even if it is urgent, try giving them an hour’s notice at least. This will allow them to prepare and move the rest of their tasks if they need to.
What do you do as a participant?
If you’ve received an invitation to join a conference call, you’re expected to be a part of it. Here’s what you can do for a productive and positive experience
- Go through the agenda, if it has been sent. If it hasn’t been sent, ask for one. You can choose to decline the invitation if there is no agenda and you think that the conference call might not be necessary. Use your discretion here.
- Make a note of the time and date, add it to your calendar and set a notification to remind you of the meeting.
- When it’s time for the call, find yourself an empty/quiet space with good connectivity. Make sure you are ready a few minutes before the call is about to commence. Dial-in whenever the bridge is ready. Keep your meeting ID ready in order to dial-in with no hassles.
- If your role is limited, mute yourself. Try to stay engaged. However, if you think you have little to contribute, you can silently finish off your work and speak when you need to.
Since most mobile conference calls require the participants to dial-in, a lot of time might be wasted waiting for them to dial-in. grptalk addresses this problem with its feature of dial-out. How does grptalk do it?
- If you’re the host, all you need to do is install the app, register yourself and make a group with the participants you’d like to speak with.
- Next, you must schedule a call with this group. The app allows you to set an agenda. Once you have confirmed the call, a text message is sent to all the participants informing them of the call, the time/date, and the agenda.
- At the scheduled time, you will receive a call from the grptalk server and so will your participants. Answer the call and you will be connected to the conference.
So, you can skip the entire dialing-in charade. If you checked the ‘dial-in’ button, the participants will also receive a PIN in the text message which has details of the call. This can be useful if the participants fail to answer the call the first time and need to join the conference call once it has commenced.
Mobile Conference Call Tips
As conference calls become commonplace in businesses, you must be aware of these tips that can help make this experience pleasant for you and for the other participants.
1. Make an agenda
Even if there is one item on the agenda, it is okay. Make one. Being agenda-driven leaves little room for irrelevant discussion and chit-chat. In fact, studies show that sticking to an agenda and starting the conference call on time can help reduce meeting time by 80%. So, agendas are inevitable.
2. Find an appropriate room/corner for yourself
Many conference calls are disrupted due to background noise. Avoid walking on noisy streets, being around the TV, in a crowded cafe while you’re answering/making a call. Instead, find yourself a quiet, disturbance-free zone for the duration of the call. If it can’t be avoided, then mute yourself through the call and speak only when it is your turn to do so. Also, let them know that the ambient noise is from your side lest they think the problem is at their end. Be considerate to the other participants.
3. Check whether the PIN and the bridge line are working
As the host, you may have to take on the additional responsibility of the logistics of the conference call. Ensure that the PIN you have provided to the participants does work by trying it out for yourself.
4. Introduce yourself and let others do the same
On a conference call with a lot of participants, it becomes difficult to identify who is speaking. So, make sure to introduce yourself or allow the host to introduce you before you start speaking.
5. Speak clearly and loudly
Clarity of speech is of utmost importance while on an audio conference. It is only your voice that the other speakers can hear. So, make it count. Speak at an even pace and enunciate. Account for accents if your call involves participants from other nationalities.
6. Account for silence
If you’re quiet for too long, the others might assume you’ve disconnected. Make sure to acknowledge whatever is being said and if you need time to look up something, let the others know what to expect by being communicative.
7. Record the conference call
Gone are the days of minutes. Most conference calling applications offer a call recording feature. So, make sure you use it and record your call. A lot of crucial updates are shared and recording is imperative. As the host, it is your responsibility to ensure that the call is being recorded. If you’d like to delegate this to someone else, educate them on how to record. Follow up with them after the call is done.
8. Summarize the meeting
Though the call is being recorded and details will be available, it is always good etiquette to conclude the meeting with a short summary of what was discussed along with action items that have been laid out for each participant.
9. Say a proper goodbye
It’s always nicer when you say goodbye and thank the others for their participation. Just imagine this to be a regular phone call where you end with goodbye.
If you need to schedule another call, do so immediately. You can even do it while on call and get the others to accept. If an email has to be sent, finish that off right after the call before you move on to other tasks. A productive mobile conference call is the need of the hour and by following these tips, you will find yourself enjoying getting on a group call.