Conference calls aren't just for big businesses

By: Andrew Pearce

Date: 14 November 2011

Telephone handset

Waiting for the phone to ring...(Image: Richard Stebbing on Flickr.)

If the nature of your business means you and your employees have to meet clients and associates regularly, then investing in a conference call service can be the best way to coordinate your business operations.

Conference calls are becoming increasingly popular with small businesses. A good conference call service will let you hold vital meetings with employees and clients without you all having to get together in the same place. It means you spend less time and money on travel.

What is conference calling?

A conference call is a telephone call which involves more than two people. They must be, of course, calling from more than two phones.

A conference call organiser can simple allow participants to listen to a single person speaking (good for giving presentations, and often called an audio tele-conference, or ATC). Or they can choose to allow everyone to speak, structuring the call as a meeting to which everyone is able to contribute.

Each participant in a conference call is given a special dial-in number which connects them to the conference bridge. This links all the participants together so the call can take place – even if people are in different countries. Once they've dialled the number, participants usually have to identify themselves by entering a special PIN number.

To hold conference calls, you need to sign up to a service provider which can provide the necessary dial-in phone and PIN numbers.

Why hold conference calls?

When people are far away from each other, conference calls can take the place of face-to-face meetings, enabling businesses to cut down on costs incurred by travel and the cost of the time it takes to do so.

They also make it easier for people working together to catch-up regularly.

What kind of meetings can we hold using conference calls?

Use them for sales presentations, client meetings, training sessions, team meetings, project meetings and regular catch-ups. Anything you like, in fact, that requires the presence of more than two people.

You can also use conference calls in conjunction with web conferencing. This allows you to share and display documents like corporate reports, company data and sales figures.

Why not use Skype or a similar service?

Instant-messaging and voice over IP software Skype does let you hold calls with up to 25 people. However, it's a free service which relies on everyone having access to the software and a fast, stable internet connection. With a paid-for service, you have the assurance that the service is of a high quality, and you have some comeback in the unlikely event of anything going wrong.

A good conference call service can save your business time and money. So why not give one a go?

Andrew Pearce is CEO of Powwownow, the UK's leading free conference call provider.

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