Conference calls are an extremely useful business tool, and are constantly becoming more and more simple to make the most of. Still, that doesn’t mean that teleconferencing is always completely straightforward, and there are often a lot of considerations that must be addressed before hosting a call. One important thing to consider is the amount of participants that will be in your voice conference. There can definitely be such a thing as too many people in a call – after all, we have all heard the damage too many cooks can do to a broth.
Often, the more people you have, the more likely you are to have issues. If you look at simple probability, some reasons for this may become clear. For example, more participants means a bigger risk that at least one participant will have really bad reception and keep dropping in and out of the call, which can be extremely distracting and disruptive not just for them, but for everybody in the conference. Similarly, you’re increasing your chances that one of the people in the call will be in a very busy, noisy environment at the time of the conference, again creating a call during which it can be difficult for people to concentrate and communicate with one another. There may also be significantly more incidences of participants interrupting eachother, being unsure of who is speaking, feeling too intimidated to make contributions (or simply not getting a long enough pause to do so!) or losing track of the conversation.
Unfortunately, though, there is not a black and white piece of advice which can ensure you avoid these issues, and others which can arise from having too many participants. It isn’t as simple as one magical number which tips a call from just right to too many. There are lots of different conditions which can vary how many people is excessive in a conference call. For example, the number of people who will be muted during the call, possibly simply listening rather than participating, can greatly impact on how many participants are advisable. Of course, if this is the case, one useful alternative to consider might be making use of a call recording function, so that these people do not need to actually be in the call, but can simply be sent a file containing the recording of the conference after it takes place, and listen to this at a time that is convenient for them.
Another feature which can make a big difference to the appropriate maximum number of participants is how structured your conference call will be. If you have a very organised plan of how the discussion will go, accommodating more participants may be easier, as you can decide who will need to contribute at which time. If the call is supposed to be more of a free-for-all, open-discussion atmosphere, a large number of participants may not be ideal. Moreover, each participant’s experience of conference calling can be extremely important. If you have participants who know very little about conference call etiquette, you may be more likely to experience some of the issues raised in this article, such as intrusive background noise, interruptions, or people not properly introducing themselves to other participants, which is why it important that participants know the golden rules.
Clearly, then, conference calling isn’t always entirely straightforward. Next time it’s your turn to organise a teleconference, make sure you plan ahead and think carefully when selecting your participants. Sometimes, it’s great to make use of services which offer a large number of participants at no extra cost. However, at other times it may be more sensible to seek out a conference call bridge which is free to use, and instead hold multiple different conference calls, rather than one with a large number of participants. Or you could always find a provider that offers you both of these things, plus unlimited duration on your conference calls and an unlimited number of times using each conference room.