Which conference call service should you choose?

How to Compare Conference Call Services

How to Compare Conference Call Services

Various features are available with free conference call services. The best way to compare conference call services is to take a close look at the features offered by individual providers. Common features include moderator and scheduling tools, interactive elements such as real-time polling and instant messaging, and file or desktop sharing. The kinds of features offered will depend on the type of conferencing service, such as whether it is a telephone or video conferencing service.

Instant Access

Free conferencing services offer quick and instant access to telephone or video conference capabilities. For telephone conference services, users are provided an access code or PIN to use when dialing into a meeting. This offers secure access to the conferencing site. Video conference services generally require users to download an application onto their mobile device or computer. This application will include a variety of tools, such as file and desktop sharing, instant polling and messaging, and other capabilities. When you compare conference call services, confirm whether billing information is needed when you register. The best free conference call providers will not require billing information.

Conference Call Allowances

Most free conference call services feature allowances. While some free services might include unlimited call duration and meeting participants, others set caps for each. Compare these caps when choosing a conference call service. Typically, caps or allowances are set high enough to meet the needs of most users. However, a careful comparison is needed if you use conference calls for large meetings or all-day meetings. Fees will often apply when users go over the maximum duration for a call or exceed the cap set for meeting participants. Users should also compare these fees to ensure they get the best deal and value when exceeding any usage allowances. If you regularly exceed allowances, consideration should be given for a paid conferencing service where caps are higher or not present.

Low-Rate Calling Charges

Certain free conference call services include low-rate calling charges. While registering with a free service does not entail access costs such as activation fees or monthly payments, local and international calling charges do apply when a meeting participant makes individual calls. Calling charges will appear on each individual user’s phone bills. Certain free conferencing providers offer national and international low-rate call numbers that can be used by meeting participants as a way to keep their costs down.

Conference Call Records

A common feature of most free conference call services is the ability to obtain a digital recording of the meeting. Meeting organisers can have an audio and/or video recording of their conference call sent by email or accessibly on the service provider’s website or software application. A record of the meeting provides an unbiased and accurate account of the proceedings, which can be useful when resolving disputes or seeking clarification on decision points and action items. Recordings also offer background when staff or team members depart, maintaining continuity and knowledge transfer.

Scheduling Tools

Conference call services typically feature scheduling tools. These convenient features help meeting organisers schedule conference calls and share information with meeting participants consistently and efficiently. The capabilities and functionality of these scheduling tools vary between providers, so it is important to compare conference call services. Scheduling tools can include the ability to send invitations and track responses from attendees, Outlook and other calendar interfaces, and automated reminders.

Facilitation Tools

While telephone conferencing services might feature basic moderator tools, video or web-based conferencing services generally include a broader range of features. For example, web-based applications might include the ability for a facilitator to transfer control of the desktop to different presenters. They might also feature instant polling for facilitators to gather information without interrupting the conversation. Web-based applications also feature hand-raising tools to better facilitate discussions. Other facilitation tools might allow chairs to start and end a call, limit a participant’s ability to participate, enable or disable automated announcements when a participant joins or leaves a conference.

Interactive Conferencing Tools

Free conference call services might offer basic to advanced interactive features that maximise productivity and enhance participants’ experience. These tools can include real-time polls and surveys, as well as instant messaging between meeting participants. Most web-based applications will also include the ability to share desktops, which is useful when multiple presenters have materials to share during their presentation. Interactive tools also include the ability to share documents, which allows meeting participants to see documents and make edits in real-time.

Technical and Customer Support

When choosing a conference service, carefully compare each provider’s customer experience. The best conferencing service providers will offer 24-hour customer and technical support. Reliable and helpful technical support is vital in order to address any problems quickly, including dropped calls, dial-in issues, or poor sound quality. The type of technical support varies between service providers, with some offering basic telephone support. Other providers might also offer email technical support, web chat, and real-time support during conference calls.

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