The Conference Call – How it Works

Conference Call features Telephony Technologies

A conference call allows for a quick, uncomplicated and personal exchange of information between several people. Employees, customers or partners can discuss professional matters without having to travel to a meeting at great expense in terms of time and money. There are only a few requirements for setting up, organizing and participating in a telephone conference. A normal telephone or smartphone is sufficient to participate and control the conference.

What is a telephone conference?

A conference call is an interconnection of more than two call participants via the telephone network or a telephone system. A popular short form for the telephone conference is telco. If only three participants take part in the joint call, it is also called a three-party conference. If there are more than three participants, it 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 may be limited or unlimited, depending on the provider. To participate in the conference call, a landline telephone, cell 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 advantages of a telephone conference?

Companies use the telephone conference, 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 telephone conference are:

  • Efficient, location-independent collaboration
  • Reduction of costs for business trips
  • Reduction of time spent on meetings
  • Can be used at any time and from anywhere
  • Low requirements for technical equipment – only normal telephones are needed

In addition to these basic advantages of a conference call, professional conferencing solutions offer many useful and beneficial additional features. For example, these are the following functions:

  • Tools for easy organization of a conference call and for inviting participants
  • Web-based control of conferences
  • Recording of the calls
  • Analysis options of statistical data of the conference

What are the costs of a conference call?

As far as the costs for a telephone conference are concerned, there are major differences. Depending on the provider, solution and configuration, different billing models exist. Some providers charge monthly fees, while with others the participants or organizers bear the costs of the conference call via the individual connection fees of the telephone calls. Other billing models work with fixed prices or flat rates and with or without contract periods.

How does the conference call work?

The number of channels you can use on one phone at a time is limited. You can only have one call at a time over an analog telephone connection. ISDN offers a maximum of two channels. Voice over IP (VoIP) allows more, depending on the provider. To bring together a large number of participants in a telephone conference, the participants connect within the telephone network or telephone system. Only one call channel is occupied on the line of the respective participant, no matter how many people participate in the conference call.

The dial-in and dial-out procedure

  1. How a telephone conference is initiated can basically be divided into two procedures:
    The dial-in procedure: Each participant in a telephone conference calls the telephone number provided to them, also known as the dial-in number or conference number, at the agreed time. The participant may incur costs for the telephone connection. After the connection has been established, the participant in protected conferences must authenticate himself using the PIN or a password also provided to him.
  2. The dial-out procedure: The conference system calls each invited participant at the agreed time. The participant does not incur any costs for the telephone connection. However, the telephone conference system must know all the participants’ telephone numbers in advance.

Basic functions of a conference call

Even though conference call providers offer different solutions with different features, the basic functions of a conference call are always the same. One participant in the conference is assigned the role of moderator and is given special functions to control. He can add individual participants to the conference call or exclude them from the conference. It is also possible to mute participants temporarily or in principle. 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 listening in on confidential conversations. General information about the conference call is communicated via individual announcements, for example, when dialing in.

Advanced features of a telephone conference

In addition to these basic conference call functions, many 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 telephone costs because no international telephone connections have to be set up. Recording functions are useful for documentation, post-processing or for non-participating employees. The complete conference call can be listened to again at any point after the call. Some systems offer the option of extending the telephone conference to a web conference. In a web conference, you can share the computer screen, presentations or documents with other participants so that they can work on them together.
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