Today’s workplaces need modern tools to function. As we shift from conventional buildings to online spaces, different products and services make this easier.

Today, one of our most useful tools is the conference or video call app - an essential companion for remote working. Even if you’re in the office full time, it allows you to save on travel time & expenses. In-app features (like screen sharing) also help meetings to go as smoothly as possible.

Since half of employees now won’t return to work without them, it pays to understand a conference call app’s benefits. Use this article to learn how conference calls have evolved, what today’s services offer, and what to look for when choosing one for your business.

Understanding the concept

Conference call apps allow multiple people to communicate across distances simultaneously. They’re often more efficient than email or instant messaging and allow for video or audio-only contact.

Before webcams and broadband internet were widely used, businesses would teleconference i.e. hold conference calls over phone landlines. Participants connected to a shared space known as a conference bridge, which required both a dial-in number and an access code. Once everyone had done this, they could talk together as required.

Teleconferencing is still an option for today’s businesses, but it has a few drawbacks. Without a dedicated dial-in number (which costs extra) there may be limits on when you can hold a teleconference. Each teleconference also requires you to enter the necessary codes beforehand and talking to people overseas can be hampered by technical limitations. 

How a conference call app works

Think of a conference call app as web teleconferencing, albeit a streamlined and simplified version of it. These apps allow you to speak to several other people quickly, easily, and safely, with very few restrictions. 

Many video conference services offer both browser and app versions. You can talk to people in your everyday browser window or download a dedicated app on a mobile device or computer.  The latter is more popular with users since screens are larger and more likely to be used for work purposes.

An app usually offers extra benefits over a browser version, but basic functions are mirrored across both. This means understanding one helps us understand the other. Either way, video conferencing improves both a business’s competitiveness and its employees’ mobility. 

A modern video conferencing service connects us within a shared virtual space through our webcams and microphones. Joining a conference is easy; the shared space is created by a host, who sends invites to relevant people. Simply clicking a link in this invite brings each participant to the conference, where they can chat with one another freely. The host can also mute participants or block people from joining.

Video conferencing offers other benefits over conventional teleconferencing. For example, participants can control their volume levels or mute them altogether. This makes video conferencing great for business meetings, where clarity of communication is a must. 

Dedicated apps do all of the above, while also offering extra features. The most obvious is portability; by downloading an app onto a phone or tablet, you can video conference from anywhere with an internet connection. This is useful if you’re traveling or away from your typical office environment. 

Some apps offer other features like links to participants’ social media, scheduling for future conferences, and even information on previous conferences.

What to look for in an app

Today, there are several different conference call apps for small businesses. Features vary from app to app, but it’s good to prioritize a few in your app search.

A key consideration for any app is the security it offers. Good apps give the host plenty of control over the conference; they can dictate who speaks and who can access the conference in the first place. 

If you like the idea of an access code, keep an eye out; some conference call apps offer these as a feature. Encryption is also useful since it ensures your chats are as secure as possible from outside forces, so look for this too.

As a rule, it’s best to go for a cloud-based app. If an app is cloud-based, you can access it from anywhere you need to. This is ideal if you have a workforce spread over a wide area, including in other countries.

You should look at the other features an app has to offer as well. Screen-sharing is useful, particularly if you’re using the app for educational or presentational purposes. If you don’t want to miss anything, some apps even let you record a meeting for later (just make sure you ask permission from everyone in the meeting first). Like to track eCommerce metrics? Then look for an app that gives you a breakdown of how people are using its features.

It’s important to remember that some app features might incur an extra cost. However, when compared to the costs of meeting in person, conference call apps usually work out cheaper in the long run. 

Conclusion

Conference call apps are the perfect way to facilitate dialogue between you, your colleagues,   and your customers. With plenty of flexibility and features to pick from, they’re an essential tool for today’s businesses to consider. 

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