The prevalence of working from home or working as a remote team in business is rising. Unsurprisingly, with this rise, we’ve seen an increased demand for a simple and effective way to keep communication channels open, that isn’t going to break the bank.
That’s where conference calls come in.
Simply put, they are the cheapest, easiest, and most straightforward way to get a bunch of people together to discuss business. Conference calling allows you to connect with the entire team without relying on the internet.
Setting up conference calling is extremely easy and will take only an hour of your time. So today, we are going to walk you through the entire process.
What to Expect When Setting Up a Conference Call
Setting up a conference call is a relatively straightforward process. The most time-consuming aspect is choosing a conference call provider and signing up for your account.
If you follow our guide below and do this entire process from start to finish in one sitting, it will take you approximately one hour to reach the stage of holding your conference call.
Some of the steps you’re going to take to get there include:
- Create an account with RingCentral
- Activate and set up your account
- Schedule your conference call
- Set up the conference call
- Start and hold the conference call
Although it may seem daunting if you’ve never done it before, holding the conference call is the easiest part of this process. Once the setup is complete, all you need to do is call in–no additional steps or equipment required.
The simplicity of using a single phone number to dial in to the conference from the phone of your choice is a great advantage of phone conferencing. There is no confusing technology required for users and thereby less of a chance of technical glitches.
Finally, scheduling your conference call is a breeze. Many online conference calling providers integrate well with systems like Microsoft Office and Google Workspace, allowing you to send a simple calendar invite to attendees with automatic meeting reminders programmed in.
The downside to phone conferences is that miscommunications can sometimes arise on the calls themselves. You see, most people struggle with communication that is strictly verbal.
There is so much else to be said through non-verbal cues like body language, eye contact, and head movement. So, without the visual component of video conferencing, you may find yourself handling some missed messages or miscommunications along the way.
Something else that cannot be done so easily via phone conferencing is content sharing. Although you can certainly email around the agenda or documents to be discussed prior to the meeting, the ability to share your screen or upload documents in real time is a key benefit to holding your meeting via video conferencing.
However, for those who don’t have access to video conferencing tools or phone conferencing simply suits the group more, there is still plenty to be gained with a great phone call.
Step 1 – Create an Account with RingCentral
There is a range of great providers who offer VoIP phone services as well as conference calling online. If you’re interested in learning about the best eight conference call services of 2021, you should check out this post we wrote about them.
For the purpose of this post, we are going to work with our number one suggestion, RingCentral.
They are a VoIP provider that offers both phone and video conferencing online.
RingCentral has a range of different pricing plans to suit anyone from small businesses through to enterprises. If you’re looking to hold both audio and video conferencing, you’ll need to consider at least the Premium plan.
Today, we are going to focus on RingCentral’s phone conferencing service, rather than video conferencing, but it’s great to know this company can offer you both options.
Once you’ve decided which plan is right for you, click Try Free underneath the pricing.
Start by entering your contact information and business details. When you’ve completed this, click Get Your Number.
When the page loads, you’ll have the opportunity to choose one free local business phone number. Type your city into the search box and the system will automatically suggest available numbers in your area.
If you want to keep your existing business phone number, tick Keep your existing company number. When you’ve completed this section, click Next.
Add Users to Your Account
If you’d like the rest of your team to enjoy the free trial of RingCentral, you can add them into the mix here too. Although, it’s important to note that you can only add up to five users on the free trial, so choose wisely.
In this section, you’ll notice a small box that says my team members will require phones. If you plan to use your existing hardware or mobile phones, don’t tick this box. If, however, you want RingCentral to provide you with new hardware, you’ll need to tick this box.
Enter Payment Details
The final step of the sign-up process will require you to enter your payment details. Here you have the opportunity to say whether you’d like to pay monthly or annually and the system will show you the price difference between the two.
It’s important to note that although you will need to enter your credit card details, you can cancel your plan at any time within the free trial period, without penalty.
When you’re ready, click Start Using Phone System. You should receive an email from RingCentral confirming your account and asking you to activate it.
Step 2 – Activate and Set Up Your New Account
At this stage, you’re halfway there to being ready to start setting up conference calls. But first, you need to activate your account and then complete your account set up.
Jump into the email account that you used to create your RingCentral account and find the email titled Please activate your RingCentral account. You only have 48 hours to activate your account.
Ideally, when you create your account, you’ll leave enough time to complete the account set up too. But, if you don’t have time to do this, still make sure you open this email and click Activate Account before your 48 hours are up.
Set Up Your Account
When the page loads, you’ll be asked to finalize your account by creating a password, choosing a voicemail login pin, and creating a secret question to protect your account.
Once you’ve entered these details, you should receive a success message that says Your account is now active and ready for set up.
Take your time working through each of the steps. You’ll be asked to do things like:
- Add users
- Record and set company greeting
- Set up call forwarding (only applicable if you ordered hardware)
- Set office voicemail message
- Download the desktop or mobile app to use RingCentral from anywhere
What you decide to do with each of these steps is completely up to you. There are lots of guides and prompts along the way, so it is quite self-explanatory. If in doubt, just click skip this step. You can always come back to amend these settings once you reach your account dashboard.
When you’ve finished the setup, you’ll reach a screen that says Congratulations! From there, click Go to My Account.
Step 3 – Schedule Your Conference Call
When the page loads, you’ll land on your account admin portal. This is where you will come when you want to change account settings, add new users, add numbers, adjust company details, etc.
To view your own personal extension, click the arrow on the Admin portal button in the top right-hand corner. The dropdown will show My extension. This is your own personal phone extension and settings.
Take some time to explore your entire dashboard. Although it is not complicated by any means, finding where everything lives can take some time with a new software.
If you want to hold your conference call right away, you can skip the next step and head straight to step 4. If not, then follow on as these next steps are for you.
Set a Date & Time for Your Conference Call
If you use Microsoft Office or Google Calendars, you can link your existing calendar to RingCentral for easy scheduling. If you plan to hold video conferences in the future, this feature will come in handy.
But for now a simple phone conference call, it’s easier to use your existing calendar setup. So, jump into your usual office calendar and create an invite for your conference call on the date and time you have in mind.
Send Conference Call Invitation
When scheduling and sending your conference call invitation, make sure to include as many details as possible in the invitation.
For example, if required, you should include the agenda of the call, documents to be reviewed prior to the conference, tasks for attendees to complete prior to the meeting. You want your attendees to be as prepared as possible for the conference call.
Also include a note in the invitation that the login details for the call will be sent five to ten minutes prior to the scheduled start of the call.
Step 4 – Setting Up the Conference Call
Depending on how much time you have between issuing the invitation to your attendees and actually holding your conference call, we’d highly recommend doing a test run of this next step before the call itself.
The last thing you want is to have everyone expectantly waiting on you, while you face technical difficulties.
Send Conference Call Details
Firstly, it’s really important to remember to send these details out to attendees around five to ten minutes prior to the start of the conference.
To send the conference call details, login to your RingCentral account portal and click the third symbol from the right–a circle with three smaller dots surrounding it. This is the conference button.
Select the applicable locations in which members will have to dial in from and click Invite by email.
This link will automatically create a new email for you in your email app with all the details for participants to join. Enter the required email addresses and click send.
Dial In to the Conference
Using the applicable phone number for your area, dial in to the conference. The system will automatically ask for your nine-digit login code followed by the pound key.
As the host, don’t forget to enter the host number found in the conference call details highlighted in the screenshot above. You’ll then be able to use the below conference commands to configure the call to your desires.
This is another area where doing a practice run of the conference call will come in handy. You’ll give yourself a chance to make sure you know how to mute and unmute callers and how to start the recording if you wish to record the call.
Step 5 – Start and Hold the Conference Call
If you’ve followed the previous steps to a tee, your attendees will start to dial in right on time. You can greet them individually and mute them after they reply, or you can wait until everyone has dialed in before muting them as a group.
Why You Should Mute the Attendees
The reason we consistently mention the step of muting attendees is purely for the sake of call quality. The microphones on phones and computers will pick up every last sound, from one attendee slurping their coffee to another’s dog barking in the background.
This is both disruptive to the call in the present moment and painful to listen to after the fact. Most attendees will understand this reasoning and you can let them know how to unmute themselves when they want to contribute (by typing * # 6 into their keypad).
Announce Your Intentions to Record the Call
Finally, before you get down to business, it’s really important that you announce to the group that you will be recording the conference call. If you’re holding this call amongst team members, it’s likely that it won’t be an issue.
But if you’re holding this call among customers, clients, or random attendees, it’s important to give people the heads up, should they prefer not to be recorded so that they can remain muted.
After that, you’re ready to get started on your call!