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While not everyone is aware of the fact, there are audio teleconferencing services that are offered at no charge from the provider. While not strictly free teleconferencing, these programs do not charge any type of line usage fees or send any type of invoice to the conference host or the attendees. Using toll dial-in services, it is possible to hold a conference call at any time, simply by notifying those who should attend. Choosing the best of these free teleconferencing options requires paying close attention to three key elements.
First, you want to make sure the free teleconferencing provider you select has the line capacity for the type of conference calls you conduct. Some free providers restrict the number of lines that can be included in any given conference session, while others supply lines on a first come first served basis. If you tend to hold your conferences outside of peak business periods and have no more than eight to ten attendees per call, there is very little chance of having a problem with everyone getting to the conference. People who need more lines and use the service during regular business hours should make sure you know the provider’s policy on line usage before you set up an account.
A second essential consideration is customer support during a conference. Many of the free services only provide operator assistance for an additional fee. There are a few that will offer limited assistance during a call, a feature that could come in handy from time to time. Determine what, if any, charges are incurred for operator assistance before you sign up with any service.
Limits on conference duration time is another important consideration when assessing different free teleconferencing solutions. Some services restrict conferences to no more than two hours, while others will not allow a single session to continue longer than four or five hours. If you normally hold conferences for over an hour, this will not be a major issue, although knowing how long a call can run may be helpful for emergency situations.
You may also want to look into features like an after-call attendance list or recording options. The after-call list would include the telephone numbers of the attendees, the entry and exit times for each line, and the total amount of minutes used for the conference. As for recording, there is likely to be a small charge for this feature, but there is a good chance that only a one-time flat fee is incurred. Listening to recordings of the conference would be treated like lines accessing a conference call, with the only expense being any long distance charges billed to the listener by his or her telephone service provider.
Free teleconferencing is a great option for smaller businesses or any entity that has to watch expenditures closely. The cost can be completely eliminated if attendees have flat-rate long distance plans in place that allow them unlimited long distance to anywhere in the country, or who use an Internet based telephone service that does not have long distance charges. While not as feature-rich as the fee-based conference call options, free teleconferencing is definitely worth considering if you need nothing more than to pull a small group of people together for an hour or so.
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