The Pretrial Conference is the opportunity for the defendant, his attorney, the prosecutor and the judge to meet and discuss whether the case is going to be settled or whether it is going to Trial.
If the case is going to Trial, the judge will want to know the number of witnesses and the amount of time that will be needed on the docket. Note that a defendant does not have to inform the Court if he intends to testify himself.
If the defendant intends to enter a guilty plea, the Pretrial Conference is often the time where this plea is entered. Depending on the charge, the defendant may enter a written guilty plea at the time of the Pretrial Conference. Otherwise, the hearing will be before the judge.
Sometimes, even with a plea agreement and a written guilty plea, the judge must set a separate Sentencing Hearing.
If no agreement can be reached, and the defendant is not willing to enter a guilty plea, the case can be set for Trial.