Two things are supposed to happen.
First, the defense is supposed to notify the court what their settlement posture is. The judge wants to know if the defense will make a settlement offer and if not, why not. If the defense still has to set up an internal conference with their insurance company, the judge will want to know when the conference will be held in order to have all attorneys return back to court to update the judge.
If the defense is willing and able to negotiate, the judge will often engage the lawyers in a settlement conference in an attempt to resolve the case before trial. Other times, the judge will re-schedule the conference and advise the lawyers to return back to court for a settlement conference in order to allow both sides more time to negotiate.
Second, once the judge knows the settlement position of all attorneys, he will set this case down for jury selection to begin the trial. That date could be in a few weeks or even months following this pre-trial conference. This way all lawyers know the schedule and what is expected to happen in the near future.