Joining a conference call used to mean checking your watch and making sure you were seated at your desk next to a landline phone at the right time. Then you'd have to dial the assigned number and punch in an access code to join the group.
That's no longer the case. Companies have opened offices worldwide, and sales representatives and project managers may be off-site or traveling more often. Despite differences in location and time zones, groups still need to get together to discuss budgets, sales campaigns and projects.
Wireless communications have expanded to include smartphones, laptop computers and other mobile devices. Today, many participants may join a conference call using a mobile device – and the host may even be on a mobile device. Knowing how to conference call can be an important business skill, both in taking part in and hosting mobile conference calls. Here's how to join or host a conference call using your mobile device.
To make a three-way call from your iPhone:
- Make a call.
- Tap Add Call and make another call. The first call will be placed on hold. If you want, you can talk privately on the second line before merging the calls.
- Tap Merge Calls. The calls are merged onto one line, and everyone can hear each other.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 to add more callers to the conference. You can merge up to five calls for a phone conference.
- To add an incoming call to the conference, tap Hold Call + Answer, and then tap Merge Calls.
- To talk privately to one caller during the conference (or to drop them off the call), tap the blue 'i' at the top right of the screen. This will show you a list of all the people on the call with buttons that let you end the caller or speak to the caller privately. Tap Private or End as desired.
- To end the entire call, tap Hang Up.
To make a three-way call from your Android smartphone:
- Dial the first call, and wait for the recipient to pick up. Ask them to wait a minute.
- Tap the Add Call button.
- Dial the second number.
- Touch the Merge or Merge Call button.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 to add more callers to the conference.
- If you want to disconnect just one of callers, press the Manage button.
- To end the call completely, use the End Call button.
Hosting a Conference Call
If your group is just a few people (less than five or six), you can do it from your mobile phone using the steps above. With a bigger group, you'll need to turn to a conference call service.
Freeconference.com, freeconferencecall.com and a host of other companies will allow you to set up a conference call line for groups as small as three to as large as 1,000 callers for free. You simply set up an account and log in. Then, following prompts, add all the email addresses of the people who will be in the call, as well as the date and time of the call. The service will send email invites to all the participants along with a special number and PIN for them to use on the call. The call can be recorded for a fee.
These companies also offer free web and video conferencing if you want to take your conference call to the next level.
Joining a Formal Conference Call from a Mobile Phone
Joining a formal conference call from a mobile device is inevitable at some point – whether you're in a hotel room in Beijing, on a construction site in Dubai or outside your son's suburban hockey rink. Fortunately, it's easy to do.
The process of joining many formal business conference calls hasn't changed much since everyone participated on a landline. You're given a phone number to call to connect to the specific conference and a PIN to use for security. Specifically, you:
- Dial the number at the correct time.
- Wait for the prompt after you're connected.
- Enter the PIN you received.
- Announce yourself to the group when you're connected to the conference.
Whether you're paged or you dial in, take care of a few details before joining the conference so you can participate politely.
- Make sure your phone is charged before joining the call. Nothing is more frustrating than suddenly dropping out in the middle of a conference because you're out of power.
- Look at the signal strength bars on your screen. If you only see one or two, try to move to a better location.
- Right before the call, turn your mobile device's ringer switch to off to reduce distractions. This mutes systems sounds and alerts except for the microphone and phone speaker.
- If possible, don't use the speakerphone on your mobile device during conference calls. The sound quality isn't as good, and straining to hear you may frustrate other participants.
- Background noise also can be a problem. If you're alone, use a headset to keep ambient noise at a minimum.
During the conference call, keep your focus on what's being said. Most mobile devices will allow you to send text messages, check your calendar, play games or use other applications while you're on a conference call. Resist the temptation, and you won't find yourself saying, "I'm sorry . . . what did you say?"