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Best Practices for Audio Conference Moderators

Richard Desmarais
Richard Desmarais
February 26, 2020

Audio conferencing is simple and effective, and it’s been around forever. It really hasn’t changed much.

But like some things that have been around a while and are taken for granted, we lose sight of the best practices necessary to keep it secure and ourselves protected.

Moderators, those keepers of the code, the ones to whom a number is linked and are responsible for its use (and the charges it incurs) may do well to brush up on how to use their powers. Let’s take a deep-dive on some of the things they ought to consider.

But first:

Who Is Considered a Moderator?

This is usually the person who called the meeting, and is generally the leader of the meeting.  And if you called the meeting, you would have sent out a meeting invitation which includes your conference call dial-in numbers and participant passcode (a.k.a. Access Code).

The moderator has a code of their own that they use to sign into the meeting as moderator. The code provides access to features that may incur charges, like dialing out to long-distance numbers.

This passcode should be kept private and only be used by the person joining the call as the moderator.  Some customers like to give everyone the moderator code so they can use it host their own calls, but this like giving everyone the keys to your car: it might not be available when you need to use it, and someone might do something with it that could cost you a lot of money.

Your Moderator Code provides security and feature access

In my nearly 20 years in the conference industry, I have found that call security rarely gets the attention it deserves. Customers typically focus on making conferencing easier amongst colleagues; in its extreme form, customers want everyone to share one passcode and to be able to join a call without having a moderator present.  This is a recipe for security breaches, with callers potentially joining a call in progress, as well as a near-total lack of invoicing and administrative accountability.

Try this: Enable the Moderator Wait feature. Doing so means participants joining the call will not be able to conduct a call without having a moderator present on that call.  In other words, people will not be able to hold a call at your expense unless you are present for that meeting.

Remember – those you have invited to past conference calls know your conference dial-in numbers and your access code.  In a worst-case scenario, there is nothing stopping them from using those credentials to have their own conference call. With the Moderator Wait feature enabled, participants who join the call prior to the moderator will listen to music on hold until the moderator joins.

Make sure everyone is present – and that no one is listening in

Try this: Enabling the optional Name Record feature can help you conduct a roll call and confirm that the meeting participants are whom you expected.  Pressing *8 will invoke the Automated Roll Call and play back those recorded names to you.

Another optional feature is having recorded names announced when people are joining or leaving your call.  Common feedback is this might be too disruptive to the call when people arrive or leave at staggered times which is why having Tones played upon entry/exit is our default and recommended option. 

When you have the desired audience on your conference call, a Moderator can lock the call and restrict access to anyone else trying to join.  This is the *7 call security feature.

Set random passcodes

Although several other security options exist, the final option I would submit for your consideration is the Conference Password option.  This is a special one-time passcode set by the Moderator before the start of the call, and it is entered in addition to the Moderator and Access Codes.  This special passcode expires at the conclusion of the call and the moderator can reset it for the next call.

The Conference Password code also works retroactively in a call. Once the moderator joins and uses this special conference passcode, participants on the call will be forced to enter it as well.  If they do not know it, they will be disconnected from the call. In this sense, there is not cheating allowed. Joining the call early does not mean you will be able to trick the system and stay on a call you do not belong to.

Conclusion

As a general rule, a conference call should always have a moderator present.  This means someone has logged into the call with the moderator passcode.  Doing so grants this person special access to key features which are used to help manage the call.  For example: call recording, call lock, dial out, and automatic line disconnect are four key features only available to the moderator.

It is not uncommon to share your passcodes with colleagues so that they may benefit from Pragmatic’s audio conferencing service.  But doing so carries with it some risk. You might use the service at the same time. Someone might listen in. They could use it to call long-distance.  You should never have to worry about this kind of administrative overhead.

As a best practice, we caution against sharing your passcodes. Everyone in your association or organization can have their own passcodes at no charge.  You can set up a new user within minutes via our Customer Portal, or we’d be happy to do it for you.  Conferencing charges only apply if the passcodes are used; otherwise there is no set up fee and no minimum commitment.  We recommend creating a user account for everyone in the organization, or at least everyone running a team or department.

We recommend:

  1. Having one person log into every call using the moderator code
  2. Everyone one else should log in using the participant (access) code
  3. Enabling the Moderator Wait feature for your account
  4. Using Tones for the Entry/Exit setting
  5. Scrambling your passcode regularly
  6. Not sharing your moderator code unless you are delegating it to someone
  7. Creating a free moderator account for those in your organization who frequently chair meetings

Sign into the Pragmatic Customer Portal to manage your audio conferencing settings!

About the Author
Richard Desmarais

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