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The Best Conference Call Services of 2019

By
Chad Brooks
,
business.com writer
| Updated
Jul 22, 2019
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There are numerous factors to consider when choosing a conference call service. You’ll first want to decide on the type of service you are looking for – reservationless or operator-assisted. Then note whether it can host the number of callers you have in your meetings and whether it has added features like call recording and web controls.  And finally, make sure it fits in your budget. With so many options to consider in 2019, 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. Based on our research and analysis, we recommend Vast Conference, FreeConferenceCall.com, RingCentral and WebEx as the conference call services as our best picks for various business needs. If none of our recommendations work for you, scroll down to see a comprehensive listing of other conference call services.

Best Picks

 

Editor's Note: Looking for a conference calling solution for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

Types of Conference Call Services

Conference call services allow you to have groups of people join in on a phone call at one time. Most of these audio conference services can support hundreds, if not thousands, of callers at once.

While many of today's unified communications and business phone systems include audio conferencing services, you can also sign up for a separate conference calling service in conjunction with your phone system. With these add-on services, you are typically provided a local or toll-free phone number you and attendees call to access the conference line. Each caller is then prompted for a host or participant access code. Depending on how you set up the service, 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 call services: reservationless and operator-assisted.

Reservationless

Reservationless services are used for your everyday conferences 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.

These types of services generally include features such as call recording, the ability to manage calls online, options to dial out to attendees once a meeting has started, and a call-me tool that allows participants to have the conference line call them when the meeting is set to start.

Additionally, many reservationless conference call providers include the ability to host web meetings for no added cost. This allows for virtual face-to-face meetings via HD video, where you can also share screens, which can helpful when making presentations or discussing documents.

The benefit of this type of service is that it is simple to use and available whenever you need it. Need to host an impromptu conference call? The conference line is ready to go. These services are also very cost friendly; some are even available for free. Those that aren't free typically offer both unlimited monthly plans, which allow you to host as many calls as you want each month for a flat fee, or  pay-as-you go options that charge you for each call based on how long it is and how many people are attending.

The biggest downside to reservationless services is that the host has all of the responsibility of planning and running the call. An extra set of hands can be helpful in some situations, which is why businesses may prefer operator-assisted conference call services in some instances.

Operator-assisted

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 to assist you before, during and after the call. Before the call, they 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.

With that added set of hands for a large formal call, the host can focus on the presentation itself, instead of on all of the tasks that go with hosting a call, like sending out the invites and monitoring who is in attendance.

Note that operated-assisted calls need to be planned in advance. This isn't the type of call you could throw together at the last minute. In addition, these services are much more expensive than a reservationless service. Costs for operator-assisted services start at about 15 cents per caller, per minute. Depending on how many attendees you have, the costs could add up rather quickly.

 

Benefits of Using a Conference Call Service

Communication and collaboration – whether with customers or colleagues – are key components of any successful business in 2019, and conference calling services help facilitate these tasks. Whether it's for an impromptu brainstorming session or a formal presentation, conference calls mean dozens, hundreds or even thousands of people from anywhere around the world can be on one call at the same time.

Despite an influx in web and video conferencing, more than 60% of businesses dial in to audio conference calls and use a code to join a meeting, according to a study from LoopUp.

Conference call services provide the easiest way to connect with multiple people at once in real time. An in-person meeting requires everyone to be in the same location, and a web conference requires people to be in front of their computer. However, a  conference call only requires attendees to be near a phone.

Reservationless conference call services make it simple to set up and run an audio meeting efficiently. You can quickly send out an email invitation that gives your attendees everything they need to join the call: the date, time, dial-in number and access number or PIN.

In addition, many conference call services integrate with Microsoft Outlook, as well as other calendar programs. This means you can quickly schedule a call straight from Outlook. Once the meeting is scheduled, it will automatically be added to your digital calendar. This adds to the ease use and helps ensure your attendees don't forget about the meeting.

When run successfully, conference calls can greatly improve your business's communication. If you’re relying solely on long, drawn-out email chains, important things can get lost in the shuffle. In contrast, conference calls give multiple employees (or several employees and customers) a quick and efficient way complete tasks and answer questions, making sure everyone is on the same page in a quick and timely manner.

In addition, important feedback and discussion can take hours, or days, on an email chain; on a conference call, it can get taken care of in a half hour. This will greatly boost the efficiency of everyone involved. Instead of wasting time trying to decide what to do, a conference call can have  questions settled quickly so everyone can get back to work and complete the task at hand.

Convenience, increased productivity and reduced costs are among the top reasons organizations adopt conference calling. Research shows that 70% of employees prefer conference call services for their convenience and ease of use. In addition, 96% of remote workers believe access to conference calling improves productivity because it easily allows for increased collaboration.

How to Choose a Conference Call Service

When searching for a conference call service, there are various factors you may want to consider. First and foremost, you want to ensure the conference call provider you choose offers services that fit your needs. Among the specific factors you need to consider are:

  • 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 conference call to be managed online. These controls give the host the ability to know who is on the call, mute callers to eliminate background noise, 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 in progress.
  • Call me: Instead of requiring meeting participants to dial in to each conference call, some services give you the option of having the system automatically call them 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, making it easy for hosts and participants to join conference calls when they’re 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.
  • Web conferencing: Some conference call services include web conferencing, which features HD video, for no additional cost. With this, you can host online meetings that allow everyone to see each other via video web cams. It also opens up the ability for screen sharing, which is beneficial when conducting a presentation or discussing a specific document.
  • Customer support: Does the conference call service make it easy for you to reach support when an issue arises? Some have features that let you 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 your needs.

How Much Do Conference Calling Services Cost?

You also have to make sure the conference call service you choose fits within your budget. It is important to understand the cost structure and how these services work.

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 on a call. For a reservationless service, fees typically range from 2 to 10 cents per minute, per person. 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.

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, if yours does, it’s important that you closely read all of the details 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 cost to do so.

What to Expect in 2020

Similar to many other business-related services, we expect artificial intelligence to continue its expansion into conference call services throughout the rest of 2019 and into 2020.  

Providers are starting to offer real-time insights and analysis of conference calls by tapping into artificial intelligence. Having a conference call service that can essentially take notes for you is a tool many businesses would find quite valuable. 

Last year, phone system provider DialPad, which also offers the conference call service UberConference, acquired TalkIQ, a provider of speech recognition and predictive analytics technology. DialPad has injected the TalkIQ technology into its platform to provide users with better insights into their calls.  

For example, if someone on a call asks for a follow up action, the task can be recorded and noted as a future action item. This type of technology can allow people to spend more time focusing on the conversation as opposed to worrying about taking notes.  

We would expect more phone system and conference call providers to infuse this type of artificial intelligence into their offerings. Receiving real-time transcriptions of what’s being said and notifications of any action items that need to be followed up on can help keep participant focused on the meeting and keep productivity levels high.

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 can only host conference calls with just a handful of participants, while others can support hundreds.

Among the business phone systems and business VoIP phone systems we reviewed, 8x8Nextiva and Grasshopper all support fewer than 20 participants for each conference call. On the other hand, AvayaRingCentral and Phone.com all support more than 50.

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, a web conferencing service that allows 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.

Nearly all of the web conferencing services we reviewed allow participants to join meetings either online or by phone.  

Related Services: Webinar

Webinars are an important business tool that allow companies to find new customers, educate current clients and strengthen their customer service. With a webinar service, it's easy to create and share a PowerPoint presentation outlining certain products and services you offer or to allow customers to see screenshots or a live demonstration, making troubleshooting simpler.

Attendees can typically join a webinar from a browser or mobile device without downloads or complicated codes. Many of the services even allow you to present from a mobile device, making the platform even more convenient.

Webinar software has three main feature categories: presenter tools, moderator options and webinar features. These focus primarily on the attendee experience, including security, integrations and needed downloads (if any) before they attend your webinar.

Integration with Outlook is a great convenience, as it lets you invite, remind and schedule webinars straight from your email platform. Social media integration makes it easy to invite people at large, share webinars and have attendees promote for you. The best services also offer encryption and passwords for security.

With archiving, you can hang on to your recorded webinars and share links if you don't want to transfer files to your own website; though, most services allow you to download the recordings as well. Most webinar services have limited editing software for these recordings, usually just for cutting out sections. With this limited editing, you can remove dead time and off-topic questions for a higher-quality final product.

When searching for webinar services, there are several features and tools you may want to look for. These include:

  • Monetization options: For businesses who use webinars for marketing and revenue, monetization features play an important role. Some services have lead-generation tools that go beyond simply asking questions during the registration or survey process. Also, some services, such as GoToWebinar, can integrate with customer relationship management (CRM) software so that your sales representatives can follow up with attendees interested in your company or service. A logout redirect lets you send attendees to a URL of your choice after logout, such as a survey, a buy link or a webpage with more information about your product.
  • Host management: Webinars are meant to be responsive to the audience, so it's useful for presenters to be able to see their planned slides before they post it for the attendees to see. This allows presenters to adapt the presentation to the audience.
  • Dial-in: All services have VoIP capability and webcam functionality, but being able to handle phone-ins as well is a plus. Making sure attendees can at least hear a presentation when not in front of their computer is definitely a plus.
  • Screen sharing: Most every webinar service allows for screen sharing and loading of documents, such as PowerPoint slides, into a webinar "library" for use in the webcast itself. Some of the services even allow you to share individual applications so that you do not have to reveal your entire computer screen to your attendees. This feature not only makes sharing more convenient but also adds a layer of security to the webinar.
  • Recording: A service that allows you to record the entire presentation is beneficial for sharing it with those who were unable to attend, as well as for the host to review to see where changes can be made.

Other valuable features many webinar services offer include analytics and reporting, drawing tools, email automation, and the ability to take polls and surveys and conduct Q&As.

Among some of the more popular and reputable webinar services include Webex, Onstream, Webinato and ClickWebinar.

Related Services: Webcasting

Webcasting services provide you with the tools and support to live stream anything from company seminars to press conferences. Using webcasting software, you can increase brand recognition and promote your company to a wide audience.

Webcasting services have great recording and editing capabilities and have become more mobile friendly so that your listeners can enjoy your material from any web-enabled device. This makes webcasting more on-demand and user friendly than webinar or web conferencing services that tend to be geared toward smaller and more defined audiences.

A successful webcast depends on the basics. Webcasts should be able to handle hundreds of attendees with the ability to expand to thousands if needed The fewer downloads needed, the easier it is for you, your presenters and your audience. Several services also have a phone-in feature for those who lack voice over internet protocol (VoIP) capability.

Webcasting offers much more versatility than webinars. Among some of the more valuable features webcasting services provide are:

  • Live streaming: Webcasts take place live. Webcasting apps allow you to live stream your presentation in HD video to anyone around the world.
  • Presenters: You can host a panel of speakers rather than a single lecturer; however, some limit the number of simultaneous video streams during a session.
  • Desktop sharing: You can share your entire screen or just specific applications. This is helpful when making presentations. Many services let you upload video to enhance your presentation. Other services, such as ClickWebinar, provide in-webcast slide preview, a useful feature that lets you skip or move slides during the webcast without the audience noticing. This lets you adapt your presentation on the fly.
  • Moderator tools: With webcasts that range between hundreds and thousands of audiences, Q&A chats may become overwhelming for presenters and confusing to attendees. Moderator tools can help you keep control of the chat while still receiving audience participation. The raise-hand feature makes it easy for the presenter to see who has a question. Muting or removing attendees can take care of troublemakers or those who simply don’t realize their background noise is bleeding into the webcast. Most webcasts rely on text-based Q&A, but a few have audio Q&A. Some services even provide operators who can serve as moderators for your webcast.
  • Monetization: You can opt to use webcasts for marketing and revenue, so monetization features can play an important role. Some services integrate with your PayPal to conveniently receive payments. In addition, some webcasting software integrates with Customer Relationship Management software so that your sales representatives can easily follow up with attendees.
  • Branding: The best webcasting platforms let you brand your webcast room so it reflects your company and services. You can also program a logout redirect to send attendees to a URL of your choice as they leave, so you can lead them to a survey or a webpage with more information about your product – or even a buy link.

Other valuable features include recording, analytics and reports, and administrator controls. In addition, some services also provide specialists who will help you plan and run the event.

Some of the more popular webcasting services include Webex, Onstream Media, Adobe Connect, Webinato, GoToWebinar, and GlobalMeet Webcast.

Methodology

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
  • Call controls
  • Call recording
  • Features
  • Integrations
  • Mobile apps
  • Cost and pricing structure
  • Customer support
  • International access
  • Better Business Bureau complaints and rating

Reviews

Common Conference Call Service Questions & Answers

Have a conference call service question of your own?
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Is video conferencing helpful for businesses?

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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. http://webinar-services-review.toptenreviews.com/...

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Hi Thomas, 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. http://ethree.ca/top-tips-virtual-teams/ In terms of your staff meetings, that can absolutely...

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Hey, Sheri! You can use solutions such as Zoom, or messaging softwares that have calling integrated within them, such as Skype and Slack, to name a few. As Chris mentioned below, GoToMeeting is a great solution, as well, as is Google Hangouts for basic and cost-efficient needs!

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List of the The Best Conference Call Services of 2019