Staying connected with your customers, clients and team members is of critical importance. While email and instant messaging are convenient and necessary components of your business's operations, there are many instances when talking on the phone is the best option. This is especially true when groups of people in different locations need to meet.
Often the simplest and most convenient way for these meetings to take place is via conference calls. Conference calls give professionals an easy way to meet with their peers or clients without having everyone in the same room. Whether it's an impromptu brainstorming session or a formal presentation, conference calls give dozens, hundreds or even thousands of people from anywhere around the world the ability to be on one call at the same time.
There are numerous factors to consider when choosing a conference call service, such as whether it can support the number of callers you have in your meetings, has added features like call recording and web controls, and fits in your budget. With so many options to consider, we want to help you pare down the choices.
This guide not only highlights what to look for in a conference call service and provides an overview of their cost structure, it also offers our recommendations on the services we think are best for different needs. Specifically, Vast Conference, FreeConferenceCall.com, RingCentral and WebEx are the conference call services we think are best for various business needs. You can read more about each below.
Vast Conference is our best overall conference call service because it offers everything a business would want from a conference calling provider. It offers both reservationless and operator-assisted services, multiple cost structures based on how often you use the service, and a wide selection of valuable features.
The reservationless service allows you to host conference calls at any time, without scheduling them in advance. This option easily hosts up to 300 callers (you can increase it by alerting Vast Conference to your needs), offers customizable greeting options and includes call recording for no added cost. Hosts can control these meetings from their phone or the service's online portal.
FreeConferenceCall.com is our choice as the best free conference calling service because it provides a robust service for no cost. The reservationless service includes many of the features businesses are looking for in a conference call service, such as web management, call recording and calendar integrations.
While there is a paid plan, the free service includes nearly all of the features the company offers. The biggest difference between the free and paid plans is that those on the free plan hear an advertisement for FreeConferenceCall.com each time they connect to a call.
RingCentral is our choice for the best conference call service within a phone system because of its support for up to 1,000 callers at a time, which is far and above what many other phone systems offer.
With RingCentral, each user has access to their own conference bridge, which can host unlimited conference calls with up to 1,000 participants. This is a reservationless service that allows users to host conference calls at any time, without scheduling them in advance.
Although this isn't strictly a conference call service, its flexibility to let participants join meetings by phone, combined with its robust web conference services, make it our top choice as the best conference calling system for businesses with a remote workforce.
The service is really a hybrid of web conferencing and conference calling services. The option to attend your meetings by phone opens them up to those who aren't always sitting in front of their computer.
While pricing varies by provider, most conference calling services use two main cost structures: pay-as-you-go and unlimited monthly.
With pay-as-you-go plans, there is a per-minute fee for each person. For a reservationless service, fees typically range from 2 to 10 cents. For example, a 30-minute call with 10 participants would likely cost $6 to $30.
Operator-assisted services are more expensive. These calls range from 15 to 30 cents per minute per caller. So, for example, a 30-minute call with 200 participants would cost between $900 and $1,800.
With unlimited plans, you pay a monthly fee and can host as many conference calls as you want, for as long as you want. Fees for unlimited plans range from $7 to $60 per month.
Some providers also charge extra fees for things such as toll-free calling, call recording and transcription services.
Editor's Note: Looking for a conference calling solution for your business? Click the Compare Quotes button below to have our sister site Buyer Zone connect you with vendors that can help.
Many conference calling services have set prices that don't allow for much negotiation. However, there are several questions you can ask each provider to ensure you are getting the best price.
Check to see if the service offers discounts for agreeing to a long-term contract. Some providers will cut costs if you agree to pay annually, instead of month to month.
If you're a midsize or large business, see if the provider offers discounts for businesses that have a high call volume.
See if the provider will match the price of one of its cheaper competitors.
While many conference calling services don't require you to sign a contract, it is important that, if yours does, you closely read all of the details. You need to ensure the contract has everything you agreed to and doesn't include any price increases after an extended period of time. It is also important to know how you can cancel your service if you need to and if there are any costs to do so.
Phone Systems With Conference Calling
Depending on the phone system you have, you might not need a separate conference call service. Most phone systems have some sort of built-in conferencing service. The main question you need to answer is whether the phone system's built-in conference bridge can support your needs. Some systems have conference calling that can only host meetings with just a handful of callers, while others can support hundreds.
Besides the number of callers these built-in conferencing systems can support, most offer many of the same features as dedicated conference calling services, such as call recording and web controls.
Web Conferencing With Conference Calling
While some conference calling services also offer web conferencing, most web conferencing services allow you to connect to meetings via phone. Depending on your needs, getting a web conferencing service and allowing remote attendees to join by phone could be a good fit. This gives you the flexibility to have web conferencing, which allows participants to see each other by video and share their screens, and conference calling in one service.
To determine the best conference call services, we started by looking at a comprehensive list of nearly 30 conference call service providers. To narrow that list down, we separated all of the vendors that had a good online reputation, such as those consistently ranked highly by other websites.
We also went through and visited each company's website. If a company stood out to us, we added it to the final list.
We ultimately narrowed down our pool to Arkadin, AT Conference, ConferenceCalls.com, Conference Town, FreeConference, FreeConferenceCall.com, Free Conference Pro, Infinite Conferencing, InterCall, No Cost Conference, PGi, RingCentral, Totally Free Conference Calls, UberConference, Vast Conference, WebEx and Zip Conferencing.
Next, we researched each provider by investigating its services, watching tutorials and how-to videos, testing out the service when possible, and reading user comments. After narrowing the list down even further, we contacted the customer support team of our finalists, posing as business owners to gauge the type of service each provider offers. In all, we analyzed each system based on the following factors:
Type of conferencing services: reservationless, operator-assisted or both
Cost and pricing structure
Better Business Bureau complaints and rating
What to Expect From a Conference Call Service
Conference call services allow you to have groups of people join in on a phone call at one time. Most of these services can support hundreds, if not thousands, of callers at one time.
While many of today's phone systems include conference calling, you can also sign up for a separate conference calling service that is used in conjunction with your phone system. With these services, you are typically provided a local or toll-free phone number that is used to call in to the conference call line. You are then prompted for your host or participant access code. Once you enter that number, you are immediately transferred to your conference call. Depending on how you set the service up, participants are either placed immediately in the meeting room or put on hold until the meeting's host enters the call.
There are two separate types of conference calling services: reservationless and operator-assisted. Reservationless services are used for your everyday calls and meetings. These calls can be planned in advanced or held in an instant without any scheduling. Your conference line is free to use 24/7.
Operator-assisted services are generally used for more formal meetings, such as an investor call, and can support thousands of callers at a time. This type of service provides you with a dedicated operator who helps you before, during and after the call. Before the call, they will help you plan the meeting and send out invitations. During the call, they greet callers and manage speakers and Q&A sessions. After the call, they provide you with participant lists, recordings and transcriptions.
When searching for a conference call service, there are various factors you may want to consider.
Number of callers: How many callers can the service support at one time? Some can support dozens, others hundreds, and others thousands. Make sure the service you select can host the number of callers you may need on a call at any given time.
Call controls: Some services allow the host to control the meeting by phone, and others allow the meeting to also be managed online. These controls give the host the ability to know who is on the call, mute callers, start and end recordings, and lock the call so no one else can enter the room.
Call recording: Most conference call services offer call recording. Some include it in the cost, while others charge extra for it. In addition, some allow for playback online, while others make you download the recording before listening to it.
Dial out: Some services allow you to dial out during a conference call to add more people to the meeting while it is going on.
Call you: Instead of requiring meeting participants to dial in to each conference call, some services give you the option of having the system automatically call you when the meeting is set to begin. This frees you up from having to remember the dial-in and access numbers.
International access: If you plan on hosting meetings with participants from outside the U.S., make sure the conference call service you use offers them an easy way to connect to your calls. Many services offer local and toll-free numbers in countries around the world.
Mobile app: Some conference call services have their own mobile app. This gives hosts and participants easy ways to join conference calls when out of the office.
Integrations: Many services integrate with Microsoft Outlook and Google Calendar. These integrations make it simple to send out conference call invites.
Customer support: Does the conference call service make it easy for you to reach support when an issue arises? Some offer you the ability to contact support team members in an instant during your calls should a problem arise.
Free trial: Many services offer you the opportunity to test out the service for a few days or weeks to ensure it meets all of your needs.
State of the Industry
Conference calling has been around in some form for more than 100 years. According to Clique, the first conference call occurred in 1915. On the 3.5-hour call was AT&T president Theodore Vail in Georgia, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson from Washington D.C., and the mayors of New York and San Francisco.
Since then, conference calling has become a staple in most organizations. Despite an influx in web and video conferencing, more than 60 percent of businesses dial in to conference calls and use a code to join a meeting, according to a study from LoopUp.
Convenience, increased productivity and reduced costs are among the top reasons organizations have adopted conference calling. Research shows that 70 percent of employees prefer conference call services for their convenience and ease of use. In addition, 96 percent of remote workers believe access to conference calling improves productivity because it easily allows for increased collaboration.
The rise in remote workforces has also increased the demand for conferencing services. Conference calls are just one of the tools mobile workers have at their disposal to stay connected with their co-workers.
Even as web conferencing becomes more popular, the need to join meetings by phone remains. Almost all web conferencing services allow participants to call in to a meeting, instead of via computer.
Common Conference Call Service Questions & Answers
Have a conference call service question of your own?
I really like Team Viewer seems to work good and smooth with lots of features in the free version. Also it never fails irrespective of the environment and OS it runs on.
Ammyy is a great alternative as well http://www.ammyy.com/en/index.html
Many company professionals prefer VNC viewer because of its features and quick access.
For Free conferencing
Free conference call is one of the option https://www.freeconferencecall.com
Uberconference free package is a good option as...
Jason, I am reading a couple of things going on here, let me know if I am on track or not:
1) Miscommunication regarding best practices and where resources should be spent, is more a strategic discussion on the company mission, vision, and directional plan for the business, that should be communicated to the entire team. And being the beginning of a new year, this is the perfect time to have you and your management team get clear on that, lay it out in a clear communication and have a company...
Absolutely! When used properly, this method of communication is fantastic for building business relationships both within the company (if you have offsite workers) and with customers/clients. Treat a video conference just like a normal in-person meeting: dress appropriately, be conscious of what the camera is and isn't picking up at all times, and make sure that you know how to use the video conferencing software/interface like a pro--enough to help others in the meeting if they have...
If you have never seen yourself speaking on camera before, the first step is to create a video and then watch yourself to see where you can improve. Watch for your posture, nervous movements you may not be aware of like playing with a pen. Chose a chair that you cannot swivel in. Many people start to swivel when they talk, Keep hand gestures to a minimum because it distracts your audience. Look into the camera and remember to smile occasionally and show expression on your face in response to...
I work a lot with leaders building high performing teams, both in the same office and virtually.
The core components of what someone needs from their leader are the same, the difference with virtual teams is how you do them, and a few other nuances. There's lots of good suggestions here about tools. Here is a link to a blog I wrote about top tips for leading a virtual team.
In terms of your staff meetings, that can absolutely...
In my experience there are many websites dedicated to answering this question where they provide details supporting the top 5-10 products. With this high level of competition it is more true then ever that there is no one best choice. Rather, each of us is likely to react differently to the available choices. Here in my opinion are the 5 best review sites.