With jet-setting executives, the rise of the freelancer, and regular employees working from home, the conference call is more important than ever. Good thing, then, that there’s a healthy supply of options when it comes to choosing your conference call system.
Here’s a basic guide to some of the biggest names in the business. Each does its part to help make the world a smaller place for businesses who need to gather far-flung participants for meetings.
Skype Conference Calling
Everyone knows Skype as a video or text chatting app that comes with Windows. It’s a perennial favorite for staying in touch with old college buddies or relatives across the globe.
But Skype is also respected as a business tool for conference calling. The conference feature is built right in so there’s no need to download any additional software or upgrade your account in order to take advantage of this feature.
One stand-out feature of the Skype software has to do with how calls are initiated. If you’ve ever participated in a conference call, you’re familiar with the routine: you’re given a phone number to call at a precise time, and you must enter a code once you’re connected.
With Skype Conference, that whole process is turned on end. If you’re the originator of the call, you reach out to participants rather than waiting for them to dial in.
Be sure to activate the “Call Phones” feature. This allows people with land lines and cell phones to join your meeting. The free version allows up to 25 people on your video chats.
If you go all in and upgrade to Skype for Business, there’s a nicely padded assortment of features to make your meetings even better:
- Built-in instant messaging
- Screen sharing
- Integration with PowerPoint
- HD video
Free versions of conference systems will show their limitations during business applications because they weren’t meant for heavy use. For example, an hour into your conference you may find that your system decides to call it quits.
Paid subscriptions like the one offered by GoToMeeting are usually the preferred solution for businesses who rely on conference calling (are there any that don’t these days?). You can try GoToMeeting for free but you only get three participants and your conference will not be in HD.
For £12/month, the starter package allows ten participants. Upgrades will allow for recording, mobile app functionality, keyboard sharing, and more.
Citrix, the maker of GoToMeeting, makes an entire line of collaborative software tools. This makes the GoToMeeting product very attractive to businesses who see value in these other products:
Just a few cons: people who have Flash disabled on their browsers may be surprised to find that the Copy button makes use of Flash. There is no Polling feature, nor is there a “Raise Your Hand” feature.
From the minds of some former Cisco WebEx developers comes Zoom, an HD video conferencing system known for its easy interface. It integrates nicely with Dropbox, allows for recording of your meetings, and offers the REST API. This facilitates integration with other Cloud-based products.
The free version is generous, allowing for 50 participants and unlimited meetings up to 40 minutes long.
Communicate in HD video, text, or voice with Google Hangouts. It integrates with project management platforms like Slack and offers built-in screen sharing. Enabling Hangouts on Air brings conferencing to a whole new level with live video streaming calls via YouTube (participants will have to already be signed up with Google+ accounts).
Larger companies should note that Hangouts are limited to 25 participants. This is what makes the Hangouts on Air a handy feature: your conference can be broadcast to anyone.
The wonders of technology have brought easy HD video conferencing to the forefront of business culture. These are only a few of the options that are out there, but this should start you off on the right track when it comes time for you to choose the right one.