A teleconference is a meeting or conference held via a telephone or network connection between participants in remote cities or work sites. Many types of teleconferences exist, with the simplest form involving the use of a speaker phone at each location to conduct an audio conference. More sophisticated teleconference meetings involve the exchange of audio, video, and data. The term teleconference can also refer to a live event that is transmitted via satellite to various locations simultaneously.
Although teleconference is a broad term that includes a variety of options, the basics for all teleconferences involve the use of telecommunication equipment, users at multiple locations, and collaborative communication between the participants. The basic audio conference is in essence a conference call. Audio graphics, another form of teleconference, allows participants to share graphics, documents, and video in addition to audio; and involves additional equipment such as electronic tablets, scanners, and voice data terminals.
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Email is a common example of a computer teleconference. Through the use of additional equipment, primarily a TV camera, a video teleconference most resembles a face-to-face meeting, incorporating the ability to view the participants at all locations. Many businesses have a videoconference room permanently outfitted with the necessary equipment.
The many advantages of teleconferencing for schools and businesses include the savings in travel time and costs to get all participants to one location. In the event of an urgent matter, holding a teleconference can be much quicker than arranging a meeting. Another advantage is that, due to accessibility, a teleconference allows large groups of participants to feel included in meetings and decision making. If necessary, a school or business can encrypt the signals to ensure the security of communications during a teleconference.
When choosing equipment for a teleconference, consider several factors. If using a web camera, test it in advance to determine that the camera is at an acceptable distance. A wired phone line is best for clarity. If a cordless phone is used, be prepared to change frequencies in the case of interference during the teleconference.
Cellular and speakerphones should be used as last resorts. Cellular phones frequently encounter interference and speakerphones pick up background noise and often produce echoes. Microphones are helpful in reducing background noise.
A teleconference requires specific rules of etiquette. Each participant should announce when he or she signs onto and off of a teleconference. Those involved should speak clearly and slowly, avoid monotone speech, and describe any body language important to the conversation. Due to the sensitivity of phone equipment, participants should avoid extraneous noises such as thumbing through paperwork or tapping one's fingers or a pencil.
It is helpful from an engagement point of view to use the participants' names during the meeting. Frequently vary the speaker so that attention is not lost. Regularly ask for feedback or response.