Conducting Your First International Group Audio Conference

With an international teleconference, it’s often difficult to schedule a time accommodates everyone due to time zone differences.

Holding a group audio conference is a fantastic way to communicate with a geographically diverse team or group.

Group International Audio ConferenceNot only are group conference calls less expensive than meeting in person, they are much more convenient for everyone involved. If participants are located around the globe, you’ll appreciate the savings and convenience. However, holding international conference calls is a little different than holding domestic ones. Here’s what you need to know to make your first international group audio conference a success.

1. Start with an international conference call service provider. Since you’ll have participants calling from around the world, each will need a convenient method of reaching the conference. As you know, each country has its own dialing conventions. You want each participant to feel comfortable dialing your group audio conference. Working with a service provider who specializes in group international conferencing gives you access to local and toll free numbers for each of the countries involved.

2. Take advantage of “dial out” rates for high cost countries. Rates vary by country with some countries being dramatically more expensive per minute than others. For those with high costs, use the service provider’s “dial out” service to dial participants in those countries directly. You will almost always get a substantially lower rate per minute when you do this. In addition, you can preprogram these numbers so that the system automatically dials participants at the appointed time.

3. Familiarize yourself with moderator controls before the call. Invariably, someone on the call will leave his or her microphone unmuted, subjecting the entire group to distracting background noise. Fortunately, you can mute callers. Make sure you know how before the call begins.

4. Have an agenda. A group conference call is a cost effective alternative to other types of conferences. However, you will still be paying on a per minute, per participant basis in most cases. In order to ensure an efficient meeting, map out an agenda in advance and stick to it. Not only will this help you stick to your budget, your participants will appreciate a well-organized group conference call that respects their time.

5. Record your group audio conference call. With an international teleconference, it’s often difficult to schedule a time accommodates everyone due to time zone differences. However, if you record your call, you can later distribute the recording to those who were unable to attend in person.

Holding a group audio conference is relatively easy to set up and execute — if you choose the right international conference call service. Look for a provider that supports the countries involved, offers the best audio quality, and offers user-friendly calling features such as MP3 recording and automated dial out.

aitelephone.com does all of the above and more. With low calling rates, toll free support for over 100 countries, 24/7 operator assistance, and no contract, term requirement, or monthly fees, your next group audio conference is sure to be a resounding success!

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Global Conference Call Checklist

Planning a global conference call? Whether you’re hosting international conference calls with over 100 participants or just a handful, planning your call is the key to success. Use this global conference call checklist to ensure that nothing is left to chance.

           Determine the goal of the global conference call. A successful conference call is a focused conference call. Long before you schedule the conference, you should know exactly what you want to achieve. This will drive everything from who you invite to what’s on the agenda.

           Choose a reliable, high quality global conference call service provider. Next, you’ll need a means of conducting the teleconference. While you may have a conference room and a reasonably equipped phone system, global conference calls are tricky to pull off without a dedicated service. For starters, your phone system may be able to handle just a few callers at once.  Hence, many international companies choose to ‘outsource’ their global conferencing needs to a third party service that specializes in overseas conference calls.

In addition, international calling costs could deter some participants from calling in. With a global conference call service provider, participants can dial local or toll free phone numbers to reach the conference room. Make sure to choose a global conference call provider that offers the highest quality connections such as PSTN network connections rather than VoIP.

           Get familiar with the conference calling tools available to you. As the moderator of the call, you will be responsible for the behind-the-scenes technical details. For example, you may notice that there’s a lot of background noise coming from one participant’s phone line during the call. By familiarizing yourself with the tools in advance, you’ll know how to mute that caller’s line with minimal disruption to the conference.

           Create your participant list. Create a detailed list of the global conference call’s participants. Include name, position/department, phone number, and country. Evaluate this list against your goal for the call to make sure that you are inviting the right people.

           Evaluate possible times for your global conference call. Again, look at your list of participants. Which countries are involved? Which time zones have the most participants? Which times would be convenient for the majority of the group?

           Decide whether to provide local or toll free access. The goal of your call as well as its audience will play a role in whether to provide toll free access. For example, if the call is a sales presentation to international customers and prospects, then toll free access is a must.

On the other hand, if participants are from your branch offices, a local number may be just fine. Your global conference call service provider will provide you with the appropriate access numbers for participants around the globe. Make sure to choose a service provider that supports the countries involved.

           Decide whether you want to record the call. Most conference calling services include a way to record the overseas conference call. You can record the call for your own purposes or make the recording available to others after the fact. For example, if the conference call is a training call, future trainees can listen to the original call in the future.

           Identify participants who live in countries with the highest calling rates. Rates vary from country to country, with some countries being dramatically more expensive than others. If you have some participants in these high-cost countries, consider dialing them directly using the global conference call service’s dial out feature which usually has much lower costs. You may even be able to preprogram numbers and dial times.

           Create an agenda for the global conference call. Next, review your goals for the call and create a timed agenda. If others will be presenting, communicate with them and let them know how much time they’ve been allotted and the topic you’d like them to address.

           Recruit a co-moderator. It’s helpful to have a co-moderator during the global conference call. Your co-moderator can take notes, keep track of time, and help participants who may be having technical difficulties.

           Invite attendees. Next, it’s time to invite your participants. Your invitation should include all of the pertinent details such as the time and date of the call (expressed in local time), access numbers and PIN codes, goal of the call, agenda, and who to contact should they have any trouble (your co-moderator or the global conference call service provider’s 24/7 operator).

           Conduct the call. Finally, it’s time to conduct the global conference call. Having already done all of the above, you should be well prepared and ready for a successful teleconference.

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Managing a Large International Conference Call

The operator can assist participants with any technical issues while your co-moderator can help with any other issues that may arise.

Managing a Large International Conference CallThe more participants involved in an international teleconference, the more difficult the call becomes to manage. For example, if you have just three or four participants, the “announce participant” feature is extremely helpful.

However, that same feature becomes a distraction when dozens of participants are involved. Use the tips below to minimize distractions and boost the success of your next large international conference call.

1. Send relevant call details to all participants. The success of your international conference call begins before the call actually takes place. Use the invitation to set the stage for your call by including all relevant call details including:

  • Time and date of the international conference call, ideally expressed in the participant’s local time.
  • Call-in details including local access number and the conference call’s PIN. Remember, with an international conference call, standard toll free numbers don’t work internationally and many participants will be reluctant to dial an out-of-country phone number due to concerns about potential costs. Thus, it’s smart to use an international conference call provider that provides local access numbers and local toll free numbers to the countries involved in the call.
  • Call details such as expected length of the call, general agenda items, and whether or not a recording of the call will be made available after the fact. This helps participants plan their days around the call as well as decide if their participation is warranted. You may also want to specify if participation in the international conference call is mandatory or optional.
  • Encourage the use of any easy connect tools if available. For example, if you have a plan that includes the “Connect App,” encourage participants to download and use it. Users of this particular app can set it up so that the conference call calls them at the scheduled time. Not only can this particular tool help callers ensure that they don’t miss the teleconference, the call appears as an inbound call on the participant’s phone rather than an outbound one which could use up their mobile minutes. It can also reduce the cost of your international conference calls because it uses the conference calling plan’s low dial-out rates.

2. Turn off any “announce participant” feature. This includes voice announcements (i.e., Bob Smith has just joined the conference) and join and leave tones. For large global teleconferences, it is common for participants to come and go, but it’s not necessary for everyone on the call to be informed as they do so. Not only is it distracting to hear all of those tones, hearing a lot of people leaving the international conference call could send negative messages to those remaining on the call. As the moderator of the teleconference, you can still keep a pulse on the call’s participation by using an online live teleconference viewer.

3. If the call is lecture-based, mute all phone lines other than the speaker’s. With a small group, if a single participant forgets to mute his or her line, the resulting background noise can be extremely distracting. Now imagine that multiplied times many un-muted phone lines! As the call’s moderator, you can mute and un-mute individual lines as well as all of those other than the designated speaker’s using your online conference viewer tools.

4. Designate a co-moderator. Make sure to use an international conference call provider with operator assistance as well as designate a co-moderator on any conference call with a large number of participants. The operator can assist participants with any technical issues while your co-moderator can help with any other issues that may arise.

5. Start small. The more familiar you are with your international conference calling plan, the better able you will be to manage a larger call. With that in mind, don’t start with a huge conference call! Start with smaller international conference calls. This allows you to become more comfortable with the system and the nuances involved with communicating with a global audience.

Large international conference calls have their challenges. These challenges can be overcome by choosing the right global teleconference provider, careful planning, and practice. Make sure to start small, learn how to use the call’s tools, and take advantage of operator assistance. Once you’re ready for a larger call, designate a co-moderator and turn off announcements during the call.

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International Conference Calling for Human Resources

When an employee is transferred to a different region, international conference calls can aid in the transition at various stages including the interview stage as well as before, during, and after the move.

International Conference Calling for Human ResourcesWhether you are part of a large organization or a small one, international conference calls can help you tap into an international talent pool as well as expand your knowledge without incurring excessive costs.

Below are just a few of the many ways that human resources managers are using international conference calls to their advantage.

1. Virtual job fairs

Virtual job fairs are online events where employers and job candidates come together to learn more about each other. While a virtual job fair typically starts in an online environment, several channels are commonly used in conjunction with the event itself including chat rooms, instant messaging, and teleconferencing. One option is to host an international conference call as part of the event and invite job seekers to call in to learn more about your company, its culture, and current opportunities. Depending on which countries are involved, you could order toll-free access numbers for each country you are targeting.

2. Prescreening recruitment calls

International conference calls are a cost-effective tool that you can use during the interview process. Early in the process, you could hold an international conference call with a job candidate and various decision makers located around the world. Each participant simply dials a local access number, enters a PIN, and joins the conference call. This is a fantastic way to get acquainted, learn more about the candidate, gauge how well the candidate responds under pressure, and share more about the job opening. The cost of international conference calls is minute compared to flying candidates to your headquarters at this stage of the process. As you narrow the field of candidates down through prescreening, you can then bring in only the most qualified.

3. Virtual orientation meetings

International conference calls are also a cost-effective choice once you’ve hired a group of new employees. Use an international conference call in conjunction with other tools to help your new hires get started. For example, you could hold an international conference call focused on your company’s employee assistance and wellness program or other benefits.

4. Training classes

International conference calls can also play an important role in your training program. For example, you could use an international conference call to deliver training or as a live enhancement to video courseware. Since you can record your international conference calls, you may be able to repurpose a single call multiple times.

5. Relocations and transfers

When an employee is transferred to a different region, international conference calls can aid in the transition at various stages including the interview stage as well as before, during, and after the move.

6. Exit interviews

When a key employee leaves the company, it may be useful to hold an international exit interview. This allows managers from various regions to get their questions answered even if they are located in different countries.

7. Virtual leadership retreats

You can also use international conference calls as virtual leadership retreats.

For example, instead of sending executives offsite for a few days of leadership training, schedule a series of international conference calls that cover the same topics. Again, these training sessions can be recorded and reused as you see fit.

These are but a few ways that international conference calls can be used in your human resources department. With budgets tighter than ever, using an international conference call allows you to accomplish the same thing but at a fraction of the cost.

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International Conference Calling – A Team Collaboration Tool

If a team leader would prefer to preschedule an international conference call, this is easy to do.

International Conference Calling - A Team Collaboration ToolWhen it comes to collaborating with international team members, you have a number of great choices including instant messaging, web conferencing, online file-sharing tools, interactive whiteboards, and more.

Teleconferencing has long been the gold standard for team collaboration, and it continues to deliver.

Teleconferencing is especially helpful when teams are geographically dispersed as the entire group can come together to brainstorm in a real-time, voice centric environment.

In a world filled with technological marvels and the latest apps, the humble international conference call may not have the wow factor of its competitors but it shines in its simplicity. For example:

  • Just about anyone can easily participate in an international conference call. All you need is a telephone, mobile or landline or even Skype. There’s no special software to download or equipment to buy.
  • With a voice call, you can hold dynamic group conversations and gain a deeper understanding based on verbal cues such as tone of voice, pauses, and pacing. With instant messaging, email, and threaded discussion boards, nuances are often difficult to catch and misunderstandings all too common.
  • You can call into the international conference call from virtually any location on earth. Whether you’re assigned to a remote outpost or traveling on business, a quick phone call immediately connects you to your team – even if you do not have Internet access or a computer.

As with other team collaboration tools, international conference calling is only effective if teams are empowered to use it.

With this in mind, many worldwide companies make it as easy as possible for team leaders to hold scheduled and impromptu global conference call. One way to do this is to set up easy-to-use international conference calling accounts for your teams.

Reservation-less conference calls can be held at the spur of the moment, allowing your team leaders to hold a group conference call any time the need arises. If a team leader would prefer to preschedule an international conference call, this is easy to do.

You can even set up the conference call so that the system automatically dials each participant if desired. Using automated dial-out is a great way to reduce the per minute cost of the call as well as help ensure that each participant is promptly connected. =

Many international conference call service plans are available including pay-as-you-go so no prepayment is required.

Help your team leaders choose the right collaborative tools for the task at hand by holding a basic collaboration training session. For example, your design team may find that using an online collaboration tool is best for task management and file sharing but cumbersome for requirements gathering, brainstorming, and problem-solving. You may find it helpful to create a matrix detailing the various collaboration tools available and when to use which one.

Finally, the golden rule of choosing a worldwide team collaboration tool for any given situation: When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with an international conference call!

Delegating International Conference Call Tasks

Planning an international conference call does not need to be a one-person job. Determine which tasks you can delegate to others and then seek help from your team.

Delegating International Conference Call TasksHolding international conference calls on a regular basis can bring your global team together and improve collaboration.

However, coordinating international conference calls requires a great deal of work. Delegating some of this work can free up some of your time as well as improve participation. Use the tips below to improve your global team teleconferences.

1. Identify what tasks need to be done. Though task lists vary, some tasks are fairly common to all conference calls such as creating an agenda, scheduling the call, inviting participant’s and distributing the call’s details, recording the call and later sharing the recorded file, and keeping track of time and agenda items during the call.

Once you’ve identified each task, figure out which tasks can be automated, which ones you absolutely must handle yourself, and which tasks could be assigned to someone else.

2. Ask for volunteers. A few weeks before your next international conference call, ask for volunteers to help you coordinate it. Briefly explain what you need help with and what’s involved. For example, if you need a time keeper, explain that the time keeper will use a stopwatch to time each agenda item and will provide notice when the speaker has three minutes left to wrap up the discussion.

3. Assign a different “host” team each month. An alternative to asking for volunteers is to rotate responsibilities amongst different “host” teams each month. For example, you could put your Italian team in charge of scheduling and coordinating your team conference call in January and then have your Brazilian team do the same the following month.

By rotating responsibilities, each team could bring its own unique talents to the call and experience the various challenges involved in scheduling global teleconferences. With each team experiencing some of these challenges firsthand, you may find that teams become more accommodating and more invested in making the teleconference a success.

4. Ask for feedback. Efficient global teleconferences don’t happen by accident. They’re the result of careful planning and continuous improvement. Ask your delegates what they thought of the planning process. Ask them what they might do differently and why.

Planning an international conference call does not need to be a one-person job. Determine which tasks you can delegate to others and then seek help from your team. Doing so provides others with the opportunity to contribute to your team-building efforts and can improve participation.

It may also improve their own team communications and collaboration skills. Your team members may suggest some creative ideas that you can incorporate into your future calls as well.

Managing Time During an International Conference Call

Meetings, whether they take place in person or are held remotely, are notorious amongst participants for taking up too much time. Whether you’ve rented a conference room or are holding an international conference call, each participant likely has time constraints.

With an international conference call, each minute of your meeting impacts the meeting’s total cost as well. Plus, many participants will be calling in outside of their normal work hours, making the call an infringement on their own personal time.

Managing an international conference call’s time is respectful of your participants’ time as well as economically smart. Use the tips below to keep your next international conference call on track.

  • Hold shorter, more focused conference calls more frequently rather than “catch-all” conference calls at longer intervals. A tightly focused conference call often requires fewer participants and will have fewer agenda items. Thus, the meeting will be more relevant to those who attend, and it will take much less time than a more generalized international conference call. In addition, participants will appreciate short international conference calls that only take a few minutes each time instead of long, involved calls that require several hours of their time.
  • Limit the number of participants. The more participants on any given international conference call, the more difficult it becomes to manage both conversations and time. Consider inviting just a handful of leaders to each international conference call and then distributing a MP3 recording of the call to others who need to know the information that was presented.
  • Create a timed agenda. Holding short, tightly focused international conference calls requires staying on track. A timed agenda is a great way to ensure that your call doesn’t last longer than scheduled. If you’ve allotted 15 minutes to the call, then your agenda needs to reflect that. Write down each agenda item and assign a realistic time limit to each one. During the call, keep track of the time as you move through the agenda.
  • Share your agenda in advance. Each participant should know what to expect before the conference call so that they too can prepare. Email each participant a copy of the agenda and let everyone know what’s expected of them. For example, if you need input about a recent change, let them know that’s what you’re looking for so that they can gather their thoughts and ask their teams if they have any suggestions or feedback.
  • Start and end your international conference call on time. If you have a 15-minute teleconference scheduled and you wait five minutes for a latecomer to call in, your meeting just became a 20-minute meeting. Five minutes may not seem like much, but it is multiplied by the number of participants left waiting. Waiting for latecomers also sends a signal to those who were on time that the latecomers’ presence is valued more than theirs. Let the latecomers pay the consequence for their tardiness, not those who arrived on time. Again, you can record the call and let those who missed out catch up later.
  • Become comfortable with your international conference call service before you use it. You may want to hold a few practice calls with a co-worker before holding your first live international conference call. This can help you avoid any time-consuming mistakes.

Because conference calls are usually billed per minute and per participant, managing time can also keep your meeting within its budget. Keeping your meeting focused, following a timed agenda, being selective about who you invite, recording the call, and starting and ending your meeting on time are but a few easy steps you can take to improve your next global conference call.

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Audio International Conference Calls vs Web-based Conferencing

Today’s web-based conferencing tools may be newer and visually compelling, but they don’t always deliver on their promise.

Audio International Conference CallsInternational conference calls have been the communications method of choice for businesses for decades.

Today’s web-based conferencing tools may be newer and visually compelling, but they don’t always deliver on their promise.

When it comes to communicating with an international team, an audio international conference call remains a winning choice.

Here’s why:

You don’t need fancy equipment to participate in an international conference call.

In fact, all everyone needs is a telephone. Participants can call in on landlines, mobile phones, and VoIP without any issues. In contrast, web-based conferences require Internet access, a compatible device, a web camera, and a microphone; some even require the installation of software. Every participant must ensure that they are adequately equipped to participate.

International conference calls are easy to access and use.

In addition to bypassing all of the setup steps outlined above, international conference calls are simple. There’s no learning curve whatsoever. Participants simply dial the access number, enter the PIN number, and begin interacting with one another.

Participants do not need to appear on camera with an international conference call.

While web cameras make it possible to see others, not everyone is comfortable appearing on camera. In the case of an international conference, time differences mean that many participants must participate after normal business hours. With an international conference call, those who participate in the middle of the night can do so in their pajamas if desired – and no one will ever know. On the other hand, if they had to appear on camera, they’d need to change into professional attire.

It’s easier to connect participants to an international conference call.

A feature unique to audio conference calls is the “auto dial out” feature. You can preprogram each participant’s phone number into the auto dialer and let the international conference calling system automatically call all participants at the appointed time. This takes forgetfulness and tardiness out of the equation and can maximize participation.

In addition to the advantages listed above, international conference calls share many of the advantages that their web-based counterparts have. For example:

  • You can schedule international conference calls in advance. Not only do international conference calling plans include scheduling tools, you can use your existing meeting scheduling tools to invite and remind participants of an upcoming global teleconference.
  • You can record your international conference calls. MP3 recordings are usually a simply matter for the moderator of the call. Once recorded, the international conference call can be listened to by others at their convenience. You can use call recordings in any number of ways including historical documentation, training, or as a backup for those who were unable to attend the call at the time.
  • Anytime, anywhere access to the conference. Audio teleconferences may even have the edge here as Internet access is not required. Both technologies allow participants to participate in the conference from their homes, offices, or other locations (assuming that they have the appropriate equipment and access, that is).

Finally, audio international conference calls using well-established, high quality telephone networks deliver crystal clear sound quality. When every word counts, it’s important to choose a proven delivery method. Next time, choose the tried and true: an international conference call.

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7 Tips for International Conference Call Newbies

With an audio call, you don’t have the benefit of visual cues, so listen carefully and patiently.

7 Tips for International Conference Call NewbiesHave you been invited to an international conference call for the first time?

An international conference call is similar to a domestic one in that the conference takes place over the telephone.

However, with participants located around the globe, international conference calls tend to have a few more challenges. Here’s what you need to know before participating in your first global teleconference.

  • What time is the international conference call in local time? Though most international conference call hosts clearly list the time of the call, it’s not always obvious when the call starts in your specific time zone.
  • For international conference calls with a large number of participants, it’s impractical for the host to break down the call’s start time in each country. In this case, the host will likely express the call’s time using Greenwich Mean Time or Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). From there, it will be your responsibility to figure out the call’s actual start time in your time zone. Use an online time and date converter if needed.
  • What language will be spoken? It’s easy to assume your native language will be spoken, but that’s not necessarily the case with international teleconferences. For example, what language might be used between a Japanese electronics company and its operators in Mexico, USA, and Brazil? With four possible languages, it’s important to find out for sure. If you do not speak the language, find out if there will be another call in your language or if a translation will be made available after the call. If you must participate in a call where language is a barrier, it may be smart to have a translator join you.
  • What will your role be? Will you be expected to actively contribute to the conversation or is the call more informational in nature? If the call will take place at an inconvenient time, is not urgent, and you are not expected to actively contribute, it may be possible to listen to an MP3 recording of the international conference call after the fact.
  • Who else will be participating in the call? Because of the international nature of a global teleconference, it’s also helpful to know which other countries will be involved so that you can be sensitive to any cultural differences.
  • Prepare to be patient. It’s often difficult to communicate with people from other countries. Not only is there the issue of language, heavy accents can interfere even when everyone speaks the same language. With an audio call, you don’t have the benefit of visual cues, so listen carefully and patiently. When it’s your turn to speak, speak clearly and slowly and avoid using slang which can cause confusion.
  • Ask for an MP3 recording or transcript of the call. Many international conference call hosts record their calls and distribute recordings afterward. Others will transcribe the call as well. If you had difficulty understanding portions of the call due to language barriers, a recording or transcript could be beneficial.
  • As with any conference call, you’ll want to mute your phone line any time you are not speaking. This ensures that any background noise at your location does not interfere with the international conference call.

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