Take the guesswork out of choosing a free conference calling service by asking yourself these nine questions.
Communication is vital to any organization, so it’s not surprising that free conference calling services are cropping up everywhere. But not all free conference calling services are created equal. When choosing a free conference calling service, it’s important to consider your organization’s current as well as future needs. Being realistic about your budget is vital as well. To help you determine which company is right for you, we’re happy to provide you with nine questions you should ask yourself before selecting the best free conference calling service.
- How large are your calls?
Are you a small business owner looking for quick one-on-ones with suppliers, or do you manage an online church group with 50+ members? Free conference calling services, like FreeConference.com, allow for up to 200 participants at no additional charge, while Skype only allows for five. Many free conferencing services will give you the option to increase the number of participants for an additional fee.
- What is the skill set of the people you’re trying to connect?
Say you’re running an online community with elderly participants. Chances are most of them are not as familiar with technology as members in their forties, thirties or younger. In this case, it is important to consider the user-friendliness of the service you’re about to pull the trigger on. How easy is it to set up a conference call? Do they offer a user-friendly video conferencing tool? Do they provide robust customer support? These are important questions to ask so you can find the best free conference calling service.
- How will participants be joining the call?
This is where pricing out a conference call service can get tricky. Are your potential participants more likely to use local dial-in numbers, voice over IP, or web conferencing? Some services don’t allow local dial-in numbers at all, while others only allow domestic dial-in numbers for free and charge extra for International dial-in numbers. It’s important to consider the location and preferred mode of communication of all your participants before selecting a service. There is nothing more irritating to a client than an unexpected long distance charge.
- Will you require Toll-free numbers?
Say you’ve found the service that is perfect for you, but there is one snag: your big client doesn’t have unlimited long-distance calling. It’s worth checking if this perfect-for-you service offers toll-free numbers, so your participants can join the call without getting dinged. Conference call services that do offer toll-free numbers will not provide them for free, but they are usually available at a discounted rate.
- Do you require moderator controls?
Few services give you the option of extensive moderator controls without a small fee, but it is worth considering the cost. Let’s use the online community with elderly members as an example again. Say you’re halfway through your call when one of the participants who is hard of hearing, complains that he can’t make you out. The ability to affect his listening experience is vital to the success of the call.
- Do you require call scheduling or roll call?
If you’re managing a globally dispersed team, these types of tools are essential. The ability to set standing meetings complete with reminder emails can save you a lot of time. And being able to keep track of who is joining the call and how long they’re on the line will allow you to see who is dedicated and who is playing hooky.
- Do you require recordings of your calls?
Most conference calling services offer the ability to create MP3 recordings of your calls for an additional fee. This is often a feature that is offered within a larger Webinar package, which can run you as much as $99 / mo. However some free conference calling services, like FreeConference.com, offer this feature à la carte at a very reasonable rate.
- Does the free conference calling service guarantee excellent audio quality?
Saving money is certainly a good thing, provided you’re getting good value. If you happen to select a very affordable service that is also unreliable, your professional reputation could be at stake. There is a difference between being thrifty and being cheap, so do your due diligence. Reading user reviews on the quality of each service you’re considering can save you a lot of hassle and embarrassment in the long run.
- What is your budget and is the service you’re considering transparent about additional costs?
Be realistic about what you’re looking for in a service and what your budget is. Many services offer a good deal of free conference call features, but as your business or online community grows, you’ll inevitably have to consider “bumping up”. Strike up a relationship with a free conference calling service that has transparent pricing, so you don’t find yourself dealing with surprise charges on a rigid budget.
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