Written by Zoe Levy
Conference calling technology has developed dramatically since the days of sitting around a long board meeting table, hoping that the suit on the other end did not hear your little outburst, commenting in a manner that should be saved for happy hour or for your last day. Technology has people connecting in new, vibrant ways across all of platforms: social media, email, mobile apps, group video, global teaming and other such innovative ways. Sort of makes you think for a second, why bother having an office building?
“Hello? Hello! Can you hear me? It’s me, your teammate! Can you repeat that?”
Skype’s first appearance in 2003 rang in a new era of doers. Currently, there are hundreds of ways for teams to communicate, now it is a matter of finding the perfect balance. Technology is constantly upgraded, allowing us to get fancy; employing new web-based technologies as well as appealing aesthetics, and there is now a modern spin on conference calling services. Here are eight powerful alternatives worth checking out.
LiveMinutes can be used for hosting video conferences, sharing documents and keeping track of minutes. LiveMinutes supports conference calls using dial-ins, Web calling, Skype or calling a specific phone number; however, there is some web chatter about poor audio. It’s a web-based collaboration tool and has an integration with one of our other favorite apps – Evernote. You can now save all your LiveMinutes reports and meeting recordings right into your Evernote notebooks and never lose track of another meeting note again.
LiveMinutes is pushing out a premium plan, but it’s still free for now. Students as well as teachers can sign up for 10 free projects as well. So take this for a spin today!
Join.me is probably one of the easiest desktop sharing solutions out there, and they keep getting better and better as a conference calling option. It combines screen-sharing, chat, multi-monitor functions, recording, annotating and other useful tools that make collaborative projects and conversations flow. Almost surprisingly, the service does not have video conferencing [not yet]. The service is free, but with an upgraded pro account ($13 per user/month billed annually), you can invite up to 250 participants to your meeting.
From the creators of LogMeIn, Join.Me is cloud-based. No data, except recordings are saved to LogMeIn’s servers with the options for users to remove recordings. If users have any issues, tech support can resolve most anything with Screen Takeover.
The San Francisco based Fuze Box, now known as Fuze, is a web conferencing application that was uniquely designed for mobile access, perfect for Creatives and Suits on the go! Webinars do not require PINS or passwords for audio meetings. The service has a striking website, which does extend to the services design, so if you want a pretty wrapping on your verbal outreach, here ya’ go.
The service is free for 60 days with up to 25 participants. Upgrade to Pro ($8 per month billed annually) or Enterprise ($20 per month billed annually) and meetings can have up to 125 attendees.
“Uber” by American-English translation has become the way to mark an item or person as “supreme”. Uber is self-described as the “Best Conferencing System. Ever.” That is for you to decide, but there is no doubt that the free services are generous. Also, the lack of PINS is a solid form of relief. The free subscription is limited to only 10 lines, but should be sufficient for smaller conference calls.
Social Media is necessary as it is time consuming for the busy worker; however, UberConference allows you to link up your accounts with the profile you’d like to share. Part of the free package is connecting to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Integrated social media functionality is a huge plus for businesses that want to share up to date discussions
For the individuals who have a few extra bucks, UberConference Business is an upgraded plan that offers all its premium features from the company’s $10/month “Pro”with administrative features: local numbers, recurring conferences, call recording, call summaries, custom hold music, participant profiles, Google Apps integration and support.
Check out Uber’s hold music, pretty neat!
Blue Jeans Network offers a cloud-based video conferencing service for hosting video meetings, using different mobile devices. The service has presentation streaming, two-way audio & video, video streaming and is backup by Facebook. Unfortunately, the service isn’t perfect: the service has no instant messaging, no private text chat, and complaints that audio is poor. So if you don’t believe that a chat functionality is part of communication, this might be your choice. The free trial is 14 days.
Google Hangouts still has a fairly low reach compared to other conference calling service alternatives. While Google Hangouts is not a business-specific tool, it is a great option considering the number of users who already have a Google account. Many people, in general trust Google, and users who are coming into a single conference might feel better using a name they have heard for years rather than downloading new applications.
Skype is the original “go-to”freemium voice-over-IP service, best known for its video chat. Perhaps Skype can be best described as a good entry-level service. Even though you can have a group video call for up to 25 people on skype! The VoIP provides unlimited plans or minute bundles. The features are limited in comparison to new and emerging services; however, Skype is worth considering if your needs are minimal.
Millions of meetings are being held on GoToMeeting annually. With GoToMeeting, you can collaborate through screenshare and host video conferences that can be joined from any device. Meeting sessions can be recorded for easy review later and features can be enabled or disable depending on your company’s policies. Currently, the free option is only available for use in Google Chrome for up to 3 participants; however, for small teams that want a video conferencing and collaboration option, it’s only $16/month to start.
With all these options, maybe you can avoid this situation:
So tell us in the comments section – what’s your favorite conference calling service?
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