Expert Author Gihan Perera
There are a variety of technology options available for you to conduct conference calls, teleseminars and webinars. They can range from a simple two-way telephone call with participants on speaker phones at each end; through to calls with hundreds of participants in different locations, with visuals as well. Yours will probably fall somewhere in between.
When evaluating conference call services, it's difficult to simply choose one and define it as "best", because the services vary depending on your requirements. Here are some factors to consider:
  • Hosting cost: How much do you pay for the call service itself? And is this a single up-front fee, a fixed monthly subscription, or a per-use fee?
  • Call costs: How much do participants themselves pay to be on the call?
  • Connection type: How do participants connect to the call? Is it over the Internet or via a regular phone line? If the latter, are they doing it using a land line, a mobile/cell phone, using a free 1-800 number or a toll-free number, by making an international phone call, or calling from a hotel room?
  • Medium: Is the conference call conducted using the standard telephone system, or is it done over the Internet? The standard telephone system is usually very reliable, and is more than enough for typical voice conversations. However, Internet phone calls can be cheaper - or even free.
  • Meeting size: Is this for a few people, a medium size group or a large group? Some conference call technology limits the number of callers. Even if there's no limit, with a bigger group you might choose a system that gives you more control over the callers.
  • Call setup: Is it quick and easy to plan a call, or does it require a lot of advance planning - and perhaps booking a time slot for using the service? If you don't require the service for informal calls at a short notice, this might not make any difference to you.
  • Scheduling support: Would it be useful to use a conference call service that automatically e-mails all participants with the call-in information, sends them regular reminders leading up to the call, and perhaps even sends an automatic follow-up e-mail after the call? These services are available, though they typically cost more. So if you don't need them, you might choose a cheaper service.
  • Call control: What control do you want over the call? Some services offer additional features, such as recording, "muting" participants, a chat window, the ability to show visuals, and so on.
  • Operator support: Do you require an operator to assist you in managing the call? This probably isn't required for small meetings, but can be very useful as the group gets bigger, especially if it's not a tight-knit group of people or you know it's a controversial topic.
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