Types of conference calls

What is Conference call? It is a telephonic call in which many participants join in. The minimum number of participants is 3 or more.  In an audio conference, usually one speaker speaks at a time and other participants are in listen only mode.  For participating in the call, one needs to dial a specific number. After that call operator connects the participant to the event. Conference Calls (CC) are used by businesses for conducing pan country sales meets, discussing business strategies, declaring financial results to investors, conducting research and surveys and conducting branch meetings.

Cisco conference

Cisco Video Conference

Types of Conference calls: CC’s can be categorized into audio type or video type. Audio conference calls can be subdivided into the following categories:

Operator Assisted conference call: In this type of call, operators are assigned who facilitate the call by recording details about the incoming caller, the time at which the participants exited the call, number of participant etc. They are also responsible for connecting the callers to the conference. Besides this they also are responsible for configuring the operation of the call which saves the initiator of the call a significant amount of time.  These type of calls are usually much more expensive compared to other kinds. However since a operator is assigned to do the non-core jobs, the productivity of such calls is much higher.

The calls are most popularly used in big businesses and events where number of participants is likely to be more than 10.

Key features:

  1. Introduction and closing by Operator
  2. Roll call attendance
  3. Participant Screening
  4. Moderated Q&A Session
  5. Declaring Poll results
  6. Important announcements
  7. Music on hold
  8. Custom introductory message.

Operator Dialled: In this type of call, the operator will call to each individual speaker and add them to the call. In the previous example, the caller will join the call by calling a specific number given in advance. A PIN or a access password is provided which needs to be entered.  In an OD call, the technical platform is much simpler in such that it does not require a password authentication. Besides the call remains secure and the operator confirms the identity of the caller before adding them to the meeting.

Key Features:

  1. Operator dials out to the participants.
  2. Operator can record minutes of meeting.
  3. Make important announcements.
  4. Maintain call logs
  5. Comparatively lesser expenses.
  6. Music on hold

Meetme Conference: Is a standard multi-participant conference call will allows maximum of 6 participants to join without the need of an operator.  Avaya Meetme conference calls are popular among university groups and departments for conducting inhouse seminar-conference meets.

Customizable options - Meetme conference

Customizable options –  Meetme setup pad

Three Way Conference calls: In a 3-Way conference call, the maximum number of people who can participate cannot be more than 3. It is best suited for organizing small meetings, discussions held occasionally.  This kind of option is also very popular among individual groups for calling friends and families and taking an additional member in call loop. Of all the types of calls, this is the least expensive option. Communication providers such as At&T,Verizon, Roger’s Wireless, Telus Mobility, Amcom Australia etc.

Scheduled Conference calls: In thin kind one needs to make necessary arrangements with a service provider before hand. The time of the conference, the date, number of participants, their contact number, the need of an operator etc are discussed. Then depending on the requirement a password or a PIN may be generated which is then given all the speakers. Speakers can then log on to the call at the specified date and time of meeting.

On-demand conference:  Commonly used by businesses, its perfect for holding an urgent meeting, discussing business strategies, financial results with investors or taking care of an important business matter.  These type of calls are popular in medical industry where a doctor might need to consult other specialists for discussing patients case. One main advantage of it is that one need not commit to subscription based plans. Though if the estimated requirements are huge, then this will prove to be an expensive strategy.

Web conferencing: Also called as Internet conferencing uses the IP or VOIP (Voice over Internet protocol) for establishing web based conferences. Web conferences can be free or paid for video and audio type. VoIP’s hold a significant advantage when it comes to prices. On a regular telephone call one needs to pay the long distance charges. On VoIP no such costs are incurred. One needs to have a suitable internet connection which can connect the users. There are many free and paid options available. Businesses have started using free option such as Skype, Google Voice conference etc. as an alternative in order to cut down on costs. These platforms offer good quality voice calls, video chats and recording with the necessary security and backend support.

4 Free Conference calls: FreeConferenceCall.com, Rondee, Wiggio, Google Voice conference, Google+ hangout, Yahoo Voices, Uberconferences and Skype.

List of common problems faced during conference calls:

  1. Background Noise
  2. Call Drops
  3. Unable to join conference
  4. Call setup problem
  5. Adding Mutliple Participants
  6. Voice Clarity
  7. Echo
  8. Music volume

Transcription services of conference : Some companies provide additional services of transcribing a conference call. Also termed as conference call transcription, it is basically the process of typing out what the participants are speaking into verbatim word transcripts. The job is done by a professional transcriber who types, proofreads and complies the text into a word document.  The rates for such services depends on the turnaround required. For rush turnaround, the cost of transcribing 1 hour of audio is around $120 charged at US$2 per minute.  Slower tat of 3 days or more are usually the least expensive and costs in the price bracket of $60 to $90.

Benefits of Audio transcripts:

  1.  Transcripts can be submitted to individual speakers.
  2. Word texts are quicker to read than listening to the entire audio session.
  3. Useful for adding to the archives
  4. SEO and Digital marketing: Text assists in marketing as they are much easier to be crawled by search engine crawlers.

Tips for a quality conference call:

  1. For participants more than 15 in number, choose an operator assisted conference call.
  2. If using Web conferences, make sure all the participants have broadband speed connections.
  3. Schedule the time and date after each person’s agreement.
  4. Generate PIN’s for each speaker. Distribute the Passwords 24 hours before the  schedule time of the meeting.
  5. For saving on long distance calls, use VoIP.
  6. Transcribe and archive conference calls wherever possible.
  7. Recording conference calls is a Must!
  8. Transcripts should be accurate without any typing errors.
  9. Use a Polycom device for table conferences.
  10. Big businesses should invest in buying their own call bridges for saving costs on the long run.

Google+ Hangout and Google Voice as a free conference service: Did you Google provides its own conferencing services free of cost. Google voice can accept a maximum of 4 participants (including the admin). The quality and stability of Google voice is excellent and one can enjoy secure transmissions without any hiccups.  Rates start at 2 cent per minute for India mobiles and goes upto 15 cents for Mexico mobile calls. Some added benefits are voicemail transcription, personalized greetings, ability to block users and support for android based apps.

 

Summary:  Bell labs first developed the raw version of audio conferencing back in the 1956. The device was called a Picturephone.  It contained a screen; the whole system was the size of a room. However the system was difficult to operate. A few years later AT&T worked out better systems and the evolution of conference systems began.

For small businesses and individual users such as researchers, students, authors, podcasters, news agencies conferencing plays a critical role in generating content, ideas and business leads. Which type of conference is best suited for ones requirements simply depends on – Number of participants, additional facilities one requires and the budget.  For most of the times, 3 way calling or web based conference calls should suffice.

About the Author:  George Wong is a professional online transcriber working in the field of medical and general transcription for the past 6 years. He specializes in general transcription work such as transcribing audio interviews, digital mp3 media, news reports, sermons, captions, subtitles etc. George wrote the article as a quick guide for those looking for a conferencing service but are not sure about the options available in the market. His personal motto in life is – A healthy mind is the center of the universe.  We recommend reading one of his earlier articles which provides tips on hiring a transcription company.

Save on audio call transcription: AllTranscript.com provides audio transcription service at fraction of costs compared to other US based companies. Find us at @alltranscript

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