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A conference call is a telephone call in which the calling party wishes to have more than one called party listen in to the audio portion of the call. The conference call may be designed to allow the called party to participate during the call, or the call may be set up so that the called party merely listens into the call and cannot speak. It is often referred to as an ATC (Audio Tele-Conference).
Conference calls can be designed so that the calling party calls the other participants and adds them to the call. In other cases, the participants are able call into the conference call themselves. They do so either by dialing into a "conference bridge" (a specialized type of telephone that answers multiple calls), or by using a special telephone number set up for that purpose.
Three-way calling is available (usually at an extra charge) for most customers. This option allows callers to add a second outgoing call to an already connected call.
Conference calls are used by nearly all United States public corporations to report their quarterly results. These calls usually allow for questions from stock analysts and are called earnings calls. A standard conference call begins with a disclaimer stating that anything said in the duration of the call may be a forward looking statement, and that results may vary significantly. The CEO, CFO, or Investor Relations officer then will read the company's quarterly report. Lastly, the call is opened for questions from analysts.
Conference calls can also be used for entertainment or social purposes, such as the party line. People call in to a specified telephone number, and are connected to conversations with other callers. This serves as a way to talk to and perhaps, subsequently, meet new people. However, conference calls are most commonly used by businesses.