A conference phone is a special type of telephone that allows multiple people to have a conversation at one time. For example, a company may organize a business meeting that is to include 10 key employees. If only six of the employees can attend the meeting in person, the other four may have to attend by phone. A conference phone allows the in-person attendees to effectively communicate with the other employees, using one phone.
A conference phone is a single unit telephone that is designed for placement in the center of a conference room table. This single unit has multiple speakers and microphones. The design of a conference phone ensures that in-office meeting attendees can speak and listen without the challenge of trying to talk into a regular telephone that’s not designed for multiple users.
Using a regular phone for meetings is usually more difficult and less effective. To accomplish what a conference phone can do with a regular phone, employees would have to gather around a single phone handset to ensure that out-of-the-office attendees could hear everything that went on at the meeting. This would likely lead to a lot of confusion and difficulty hearing and keeping up with all of the details of the meeting.
Often, people think of conference phones as similar to speakerphones. The two are similar in that they offer users the ability to talk on the phone without holding a handset or wearing a headset. They differ, however, in the way the phone technology works. With most speakerphones, only one person can speak and be heard at a time because they operate in half-duplex mode. On the other hand, the technology used for conference phones is called full duplex and allows multiple people to talk and listen to a telephone conversation at once.
A person interested in buying a conference phone will typically find numerous models to compare and consider. The best model and type depends on the user’s needs and preferences. He may consider the range of a phone’s speakers and microphones, the size of his conference room, and the length and width of the conference table when choosing a model. It's important to make sure users will be close enough to the unit to be heard. Most conference phones do offer adequate ranges, however, allowing users to sit or stand up to six feet (1.83 meters) away from the phone without interfering with sound quality.
Many conference phones are designed to be plugged into a basic telephone jack. If a meeting room is not equipped with convenient phone jacks, however, a user may decide to purchase a wireless model instead. This type of phone may allow for setup up to 100 feet (30.48 meters) away from a telephone jack.