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The best ways for families to keep in touch

A friend of mine has five children from three different marriages who are all grown up and going to Universities or holding down jobs. Some live in Europe, some in Asia, and some live "closer to home," in North America—if you can call Toronto "close" to his retirement cabin home on a small island off the coast of British Columbia.

Their last reunion cost $5,000 in plane fare. He certainly can't afford to keep that up.

It is an extreme example of what many families face while trying to stay connected. The global village isn't one you can ride a bicycle across. So what do these kind of families do to keep in touch?

Chat Rooms and Facebook

His family started their "planetary explosion" before the advent of Facebook, but they pioneered the use of the early "chat rooms" available. This came in the days when an Internet Service Provider was just becoming popular. Each one would "report in" and post some pictures of their latest adventures. Sometimes they could all go into the chat room together and have a conversation, but their "conversation" was usually stretched out over time.

As Facebook came along, they could keep up on each other's pages, but it lacked the intimacy of a face-to-face meeting or the telephone calls they used to keep in touch as a family. The problem with phone calls was that they were only connecting one on one. Luckily, a better solution came along.

Conference calls

With conference calls, now they can all talk at once. Being a family, of course, there are times they literally all talk at once! That is half the fun. And the calls are free too, so they don't feel they have to try and "save money" by using VOIP calls. With six people on a call, the last things they need to add are mysterious robotic voices.

Clear sound quality is a key ingredient for helping families keep in touch.

With free teleconferencing, they enjoy using Call Scheduling to set calls up easily, automatically sending out Invitations and Reminders. They all gather in an online Personal Meeting Room, but they don't need the Moderator Controls. When Skype calling came in with live video, they tried that, but found the quality wasn't very good.

Keeping the family together on a budget

Nowadays Video Conferencing is their latest "chat room." It is still free, and it has great audio quality because they talk over their cellphones. They can share the pictures with Screen Sharing. As the years have gone by, they are finding it easier to keep in touch as a family than ever.

None of them can afford to splash the $5,000 it would cost to put them all on planes, but they can see each other's faces and all chatter away at once just like old times. Dad doesn't mind splurging for a few international Toll Free Numbers. He might be indulging himself in Call Recording, but if he is, he's not telling! Children usually hate being photographed by their parents, until they see the pictures 15 years later. Then it's cool.

They've all come a long way as a new global family, getting their first degrees and jobs, boyfriends and girlfriends. Two of them are married, and my friend is a granddad now, but keeping in touch with conference calls just keeps getting easier each year.

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