How to Run a Successful Audio Conference Call with a Large Group
From international business meetings to religious services, audio conferencing for large groups has taken off as a popular—and often necessary—way for hundreds and thousands of participants to meet and collaborate worldwide.
While modern conferencing services offer new and exciting ways to communicate, there are always the challenges that come along when hosting large audio conference calls—from late arrivals and excessive background noise to fragmented audio and participants forgetting their mute buttons.
According to a 2017 study, about 52% of respondents have felt the negative impact of distractions on conference calls, either by decreased productivity, the inability to get through an agenda, or the lack of enthusiasm to participate. So how do you make a large virtual meeting run smoothly?
Conference calls can be intimidating, but with the right preparation and tools, you can learn how to organize and host large audio conference calls in no time. In this guide, you’ll learn how to set up and organize a conference call with:
You’re well on your way to hosting more effective and efficient meetings with large groups!
Why Hold Group Audio Conference Calls?
Large-group audio conference calls are on the rise for the way we communicate and do business. In fact, 71% of enterprise businesses use audio-only conferencing. While this may be surprising at first, a staggering 88% of people said they do not feel as comfortable using video conferencing as they do using audio, according to the same study.
As a more secure and comfortable way of doing business on a global scale, mid-size to large enterprises are relying more and more on large group audio conference calls for:
Group conference calls for non-profits and non-corporate organizations are also useful and affordable. They help unite the group and facilitate communication for conference calls with 1000s of callers. A few examples of large conference call use for non-corporate groups include:
Easy Tips for Hosting Large Audio Conference Calls
Large virtual meetings can be full of distractions, which impact the effectiveness of conference calls and ultimately your company’s bottom line. In a 2015 study, one-third of employees reported a moderate to major negative impact on productivity due to in-call distractions such as background noise and late-joiners.
Perhaps even more concerning, another study found that distracted behavior seems to be par for the course in meetings: a sizeable 91% of attendants admitted to daydreaming during meetings, 73% did other work, and even 39% of participants admitted sleeping during their meetings!
1. Create an agenda and stick to it
According to a 2019 study, 68% of respondents report losing time due to poor organization in meetings. But did you know that an average of 63% of meetings are conducted without even using an agenda? When nobody knows what is supposed to be covered on the call, or who is supposed to speak to which topics, you’ve created a recipe for confusion, unproductiveness, and time wasted.
Make sure you create an agenda to keep discussions on-topic and on-time. Consider creating a conference call template that gives a breakdown of topics and who will be presenting at that time. Be sure to leave room for adjustments, and schedule time at the end of the call for any comments or questions.
2. Provide a local dial-in number without PINs
When setting up an international conference call, use a local dial-in so participants can avoid paying long-distance group conference calling fees when joining the meeting. Providing a phone number that is local and familiar to your call participants will also reduce the confusion associated with having to type international phone codes, where applicable. Finally, consider using a PIN-free dial-in so you don’t have to worry about participants entering the meeting late because they entered the wrong PIN.
3. Send out detailed instructions
Send out a meeting invite with clear and detailed instructions for how to join the call, including all applicable dial-ins, access codes, and PINs. Oh, and don’t forget the screen-sharing links!
On average, 33% of participants say they spend more than five minutes trying to get screen sharing up and running. If you’re on a 30-minute call, you’re wasting one-sixth of your time on a task that should be fairly simple to accomplish. By sending everyone the screen-share link and all other applicable dial-in items ahead of time, your large virtual meetings will run more efficiently.
4. Send out a reminder shortly before the meeting
When hosting large group audio conference calls, chances are several people will lose track of their invites. Be sure to send out another reminder 5 to 10 minutes before the call with the original invite information to get people ramped up and ready to go.
5. Start your large virtual meeting on time
Start your meetings promptly. This will help set the tone for the meeting and help you stick to your conference call agenda. While the average conference call is 38 minutes long, 15 minutes are typically lost getting started and dealing with interruptions. That’s nearly half of your time spent dealing with the negative impacts of late meeting joiners!
Feel free to allow a few stragglers to join in the first few minutes, but make sure they are muted upon arrival. After five minutes have passed, you might consider locking out latecomers to cut down on distractions, and then allowing them into the meeting when there’s a break in the conversation. Remember, allowing people to join late can encourage future tardiness, and if you’re hosting a large audio conference call, all that time lost adds up.
6. Allow time for introductions
Not only is it a good ice breaker for large meetings, but introducing speakers allows all participants to know who’s leading each portion of the event. Keep introductions short so the you can stick to the agenda and keep things moving along. Have each speaker state their name, role, and a memorable fact about themselves.
7. Use the right tools for managing large audio conference calls
Invest in tools for large group audio conference calls that can help you manage your meetings more effectively. You’ll want to have the ability to:
8. Keep comments brief and to the point
Meetings are notorious for running overtime. Try to keep your comments on-topic and encourage others to do the same, but make sure not to interrupt or talk over anyone. Do encourage comments but agree to address lengthier conversations outside of the call.
9. Record your meetings
Remembering details from a large conference call can be challenging. Just trying to keep up with a conversation in a large virtual meeting is a feat in itself! Add to that the possibility for distractions, and you have at least a few participants who aren’t going to remember anything from your call. In fact, according to a 2008 study, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to refocus after a distraction. If you’re holding a 30-minute call, just one distraction can derail an entire group’s focus for a majority of the call.
While distractions may be impossible to avoid at times, recording your large audio conference calls is a sure-fire way to retain an accurate account of what was discussed. Use your recording to draft a detailed follow-up email with a summary of the discussion and next steps. You can also opt to send out a direct link to the call recording for participants or team members for review.
Tips If You’re Hosting Your First Audio Conference
If you’re hosting your first large group audio conference call, use these additional conference call tips for beginners to take charge and get the most out of your meeting:
- Check your equipment and be familiar with your tools. Surprise technical issues are bound to happen, but you can minimize their effects by taking precautionary steps. Prior to the call, check your wi-fi connectivity and do a test run of your microphone. Know how to use all of your conferencing tools before the meeting starts to ensure the presentation goes smoothly.
- Set conference call etiquette guidelines right away. While you’re creating your conference call agenda, also create a set of conference call etiquette guidelines to send out prior to the call. A few etiquette items you might want to call out for your participants include:
- Do a walk-through of the meeting if you have multiple speakers. This allows the call to be executed smoothly from beginning to end. The walk-through should cover who is saying what and when they will be speaking. You can then avoid speakers stumbling to unmute themselves or forgetting it’s their turn to talk.
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Must-Have Features for Effective Large Group Calls
To ensure your large virtual meeting goes smoothly, make sure you have advanced conferencing tools that can handle audio conference calls with thousands of members and manage them effectively. Here’s a list of must-have features to put you in control:
How to Host a Large Conference Call with Branded Bridge Line
Use Branded Bridge Line’s powerful dashboard to take hosting large group audio conference calls to the next level. Follow these steps for setting up your meeting, managing your participants, and following up after the call:
Preparing for the call
As the large conference call moderator, you’ll first need to set up your welcome greeting, so participants know they’ve dialed into the right meeting. You have a few options when it comes to setting up your audio conference welcome greeting:
Option 1: Request a professionally recorded greeting. Our voice artists will record the text you specify and upload the greeting to your line. To request a professional greeting.
- Go to your dashboard.
- One the left-hand side, click the Request a Greeting button below the settings menu.
- Enter what you would like your greeting to say, and it will be professionally recorded and uploaded to your line.
Option 2: Upload a greeting. If you have a pre-recorded greeting you’d like to use for your audio conference, follow these steps:
- From the conference call dashboard, select Line Settings in the left-side menu.
- Under Greeting Options, locate the Uploaded MP3 field and select Choose Files to change/upload your personalized greeting.
Option 3: Use an automated greeting. If you don’t have a pre-recorded greeting you’d like to use for your audio conference, you can choose to have a humanlike, automated voice greet your meeting participants. To manually add an automated greeting:
- From the conference call dashboard, select Line Settings in the left-side menu.
- Under Greeting Options, locate the Call Answer field and select Robovoice Text from the dropdown menu.
- Type your automated greeting in the Welcome Text box
Option 4: Use a live operator. If you’d like a live operator to greet and assist participants on your call, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org that includes:
Next, you’ll need to send out a dial-in number and screen-sharing links to your participants. To send out the dial-in numbers and WebMeeting links:
- Go to the number tile (with the phone number) at the top of your dashboard.
- Click the three-dot menu and click on Bridge Details to view the Connected Lines (phone numbers associated with the meeting) and WebMeeting Join Link.
- Click Copy to clipboard to send out the dial-in number, screen-sharing links, and PINs (if available*).
*No PINS are required, but you can request individual PINs be if you want to be able to see names instead of phone numbers on the dashboard and distinguish moderator(s) from the participants. If you would like to request individual PINs, please send an email to email@example.com for assistance.
Starting the call
To start your call:
- Log in to your BBL account.
- Turn on Lecture Mode*: Go to Line Settings in the left-hand menu. Turn on Lecture Mode and set a Moderator Pin for speakers to enter so they are unmuted.
- If you are the host, dial in your Moderator Pin to allow you to speak and mute/unmute callers. If a caller does not enter a Moderator Pin, they are automatically muted.
- If you would like to record the call, make sure the Record Calls box is checked.
*Lecture Mode optimizes the conference call experience with a large number of callers. It’s designed to eliminate background noise and echoes, making large calls more effective.
During the call
Use these tips for managing participation during the meeting:
Debriefing the call
You can access call recordings and transcriptions by going to General Options of the left side of the dashboard and selecting these options:
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