Conference Call Services in 2020 (And Which One is Right for You)

by in Best Practices, Technology

It’s difficult to imagine running any modern business without some sort of conferencing capability, whether it’s video, web or audio-based. While video conferencing has become an integral part of daily operations for many businesses, many companies still don’t have a go-to service for interacting with clients. As a result, participants have to navigate the less-than-ideal ‘which service should we use’ conversation before each meeting, adding further complexity and distracting from the purpose of the discussion.

But, with dozens of providers offering basic conferencing capabilities, how do you know which is best for your business? Which features are most important? How do you avoid deploying a conference call service that is good for some use cases but fails to deliver for others? 

In this post, we’ll cover what you need to know about the differences in conference call services  — from basic web and audio conferencing capabilities to full-featured video conferencing platforms — and provide tips to help you select a platform and deliver the experience your team and customers deserve.

Four doors, three yellow one purple, on a dark background 

From audio to video: the evolution of conference call services

The beginning of conference calls

What many consider to be the very first ‘conference call’ took place more than a century ago, with a connection from New York to the site of San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition in January of 1915. It was Alexander Graham Bell who made the call, phoning his assistant, Thomas Watson. At that time, the American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) network spanned the continent with a single copper circuit (6,800 miles long) that could carry exactly one call at a time. There were already 8.6 million phones serviced by AT&T, but being able to speak to someone on the other side of the country was a momentous achievement for that era.

Introduction of video and image alongside audio

By 1956, Bell Labs had improved on conference calling capabilities, but this technology wasn’t introduced to the general public until 1964. Debuting at New York World’s Fair that year, The Picturephone featured a small screen connected to the phone and allowed callers in New York to speak with Disneyland patrons out in Anaheim, California. Visual and audio information was sent on three phone lines simultaneously to handle the bandwidth required for the modest black-and-white screen. The Picturephone was meant for businesses to save on travel by hosting virtual meetings, but complexities in price and design proved a challenge to this vision.

The rise of conference call services

With the onset of the Information Age and the advancement of the World Wide Web in the early 1990s, conference call services were similarly on the rise, as well. In 1996, a company by the name of VocalTec created the first Internet phone for the masses, with a software application to compress the voice signal, translate it into digital packets, and distribute it over the Internet. This technology, called Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP), helped users save money on long-distance and international phone charges, and was adopted by those who saw the benefits of communicating over the web rather than through traditional phone companies.

Modern video conference call services as we know it today

Today, video conferencing services are more popular than ever, with users in every corner of the world connecting with family, friends, and colleagues daily. People now can meet with anyone, from anywhere, using virtually any internet-connected device and without breaking the bank. Video conferencing, with its ease of use software, has not only influenced the way we communicate, but it has completely changed the way companies do business. 

According to a 2019 Lifesize study, the number of telecommuting remote workers has increased by 115% in the last decade alone, which means video conferencing services are being used at ever-increasing rates. And in an effort to stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic, more and more companies have gone remote, which has contributed to a massive surge in demand for quality video conferencing apps.

With modern web conference calling services like Lifesize, you can combine video chat with other powerful features such as screen sharing, webinars, and creative virtual backgrounds all while maintaining reliable call quality with teams and clients across the globe. 

Look out for these 5 features when choosing a conference call service

Choosing the best conference call service for your business is essential in furthering the efficiency and effectiveness of your internal and external communications. With a variety of conferencing services available, the decision often boils down to your company’s needs, which means looking out for the right features to help your team operate at peak performance.

End-to-end encryption and enterprise security

While most video conferencing platforms offer basic security features, there is a growing demand for true end-to-end encryption (E2EE) for the most sensitive meetings. These advanced encryption techniques provide additional peace of mind by establishing a secure line of communication that blocks third-party users from accessing data as it is transmitted. With Lifesize, E2EE is supported across both meeting room systems and our cloud conferencing service, so data is protected regardless of how you join a meeting, without you even having to think about it.

BYOD capabilities

Bring your own device (BYOD) refers to employees who use their personal devices (smartphones, personal computers, tablets, or USB drives) to connect to their organizational networks. With the rise of remote and distributed work, BYOD capabilities have grown in importance. Team members can easily access documents and business systems, like video conferencing services, from anywhere, reducing the learning curve for new employees and saving the company time and money on purchasing and replacing technology.

Recording ability 

The ability to record a video conference is critical for several reasons. Not only does it prevent the team from missing a meeting (since it can be re-watched later on), but it improves engagement, provides understanding for how and why decisions were made, and ensures no details are lost or forgotten. By recording the audio or video from your online meetings, you can maximize the impact of your time and hold on to information to reference later on.

Calendar integrations

Calendar integrations for video conferencing services make it possible to automatically detect all of your scheduled video meetings, providing a single source of truth for upcoming appointments. Additionally, with Lifesize, calendar integrations allow for intelligent features, such as just-in-time notifications on your mobile device or laptop when meetings are ready to start. That’s right, no more sifting through emails for the meeting link. Once integrated, your conference calls and meetings are stored in one convenient place, providing a one-click join experience, so you’re where you need to be when you need to be there.

Crystal clear audio and video

Making sure every one of your conference calls has crystal clear audio and video is paramount to having a successful meeting. Stuttering audio or choppy video is annoying at best, but more likely to be a hindrance to your team’s workflow. In contrast, having access to reliable audio and visual elements is attributed to higher productivity, client retention and team morale.

No more jumping from conferencing service to conferencing service 

With Lifesize, teams have access to virtual meeting spaces and collaboration features purpose-built for brainstorming ideas, making decisions, and working together in real-time. Lifesize isn’t satisfied with settling for ‘good enough’ quality either. Our cloud video conferencing service and meeting room systems are engineered to make the user experience effortless and effective, providing a definitive conferencing solution for your most important meetings and everyday communications. With Lifesize, you have access to the highest-quality audio and video out there, and participants only need a Lifesize URL to join a call -- so no more installing six separate conferencing services each week!

With more than fifteen years dedicated to developing conference room systems, wireless presentation devices, user-friendly mobile apps, and a global cloud network that brings it all together, Lifesize is a proven leader in the field of conference call services. By partnering with Lifesize, your company can stop jumping from one conferencing service to the next and start enjoying the benefits and features provided by a modern video conferencing platform.

Keep your business moving, even when you can’t be there

Whether your team uses audio, video, or both when conducting business, having conference call services available at all times is vital to keeping in touch with clients and employees alike. And because the global workforce has opened up more remote opportunities and work from home policies in recent months, trusted conferencing services are more critical than ever. Even when you can’t be there in-person, video conferencing can keep your business moving, helping to maintain relationships and partnerships integral to your company’s success.

Conclusion

As more and more teams are now working remotely or from independent locations, video conferencing has become a non-negotiable tool for companies everywhere. Conference call services are an inexpensive but incredibly effective way to conduct meetings and handle business from anywhere in the world. 

By redefining the standards for video conferencing, Lifesize has empowered teams to be more connected, more productive, and more engaged with their work and with one another. Sign up for your free Lifesize account today to take advantage of this invaluable service for yourself.