How to make a conference call seems simple enough. All you need is to distribute a phone conferencing number and access code–right? It could be that simple if your conference call is small. On such a call everyone has arrived and it’s just like a conversation amongst a small group and it can go very smoothly. But sometimes calls can get really big like some government conference calls. Once the group gets up to 20, 30, 40, or 1000 people you are dealing with an entirely different animal. Chaos will become the main feature that includes background noises from various participants that includes but does not exclude the office, home, airport or mountaintop. Other things include everyone starting to speak at once. Cell phones with bad connections can also bleed static noise into the conferencing calling service system. At this point you have to start integrating effective “crowd controls” into your conference call. These include:
- Guest codes and speaker codes– Guests come in on a certain set of codes and the main speakers come in on another set. With this arrangement the speakers can mute out all guests. This really reduces the call entropy on a large call. What if you want guest interaction? You can open up the call to everyone by unmuting everyone. Ask your guests to use the mute feature on their conferencing system if they intend not to speak.
- Do it yourself web based controls– Conferencing services now provide an elegant system of allowing the host to know who is on the call and to mute out all non-speakers. If someone wants to speak they can press a button on their phone and it shows up as a raised hand on the web monitor. The host can then unmute the caller and ask him to speak. And then mute him again. Also if unwelcome noise becomes part of the call it is easy to identify the offending line and mute it.
- Operator Assisted Calls– These are the gold standard of the conferencing industry. Professional operators monitor your call and are ready to assist a host in identifying line problems with any guest, cueing up your guests for questions and answers, plus they are ready to give you a great introduction at the beginning of the call. They can also record the call and post it on the web on a password protected site for the host.
About the Author: Steve Heaton is the Founder and President of Conference Calls Unlimited. Steve has been in the telecommunications industry since 1995.