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Choosing An International Conference Call Service: 5 Mistakes To Avoid

Author : Jerry Everett

This article will help anyone planning to host in an international conference call. It will identify important issues to address and outline the right questions to ask before clicking on a conference call company's website sign-up button or speaking to someone in sales. You will be able to avoid common mistakes often made when choosing an international conference call provider.

Mistake 1: Using a Free Service

Laying a fiber optic cable under the ocean or placing a satellite into orbit costs money. International telecommunication requires transmitting a voice 29,000 miles around the world so that it clearly conveys the subtleties of human speech. Conference service providers have invested in international trunking facilities or telecommunications transport arrangements that are specially engineered to meet the challenges of global communications. The transport of international communications is not free any more than is the transport of international air travelers. If it is not free to your conference call provider, how can it be free to you?

It is possible to provide free access to your conference call for your participants. International conference call companies have access phone numbers located in countries around the world. The participant dials the access phone number to join the conference call. Toll-free access numbers are free for the participant to call. The chairperson incurs all the charges for the conference call. Toll numbers are not free for the participant and participants are billed for the call by their local telephone service provider.

Some companies will offer a free trial. Ask if the free trial runs on the system you will use regularly. Better still, ask if there is a satisfaction guarantee for every conference call. It is important that the service be reliable every time you use it and not just during a trial period. Free also means 'free' of any customer service. So you may be on your own during the call. Free services will be worth what you pay. Unless your business is a hobby, forget about free.

Mistake 2: Ignoring Infrastructure

It is important to ask about the infrastructure used by your conference call service provider. The public internet does not differentiate voice from data and usually puts no higher priority on voice. This method of transmission can result in data packets being delayed and audio that is choppy. Ask if your provider uses a dedicated telecommunications infrastructure that is provisioned for business-class communications. A dedicated infrastructure is optimized to ensure your audio has no clipping, echo or fading.

Questions to ask: Does the international infrastructure use a telecommunications network or the internet? Does the network used specify quality and reliability in a Service Level Agreement? What kind of audio quality should I expect when making an international conference call?

Mistake 3: Assuming International Access is Easy

Access from a cellphone is a regular occurrence on almost all conference calls. For participants in another country, this can create problems. Some international mobile service providers restrict access to toll-free numbers. There is no way to be 100% sure every participant on a mobile phone will be able to reach every access number. The best way is a try a test call and listen for the conference greeting message. The mobile service provider may remove the restriction if requested. Be aware that a premium may be charged by the mobile service provider to the user for calling a toll-free number. Hotels and pay phones may also block access to toll-free numbers to protect the revenue obtained from long distance charges.

To help address these access issues, many international conference call providers give toll (local dial) access numbers along with toll-free numbers to ensure alternate access is available.

There are also country-specific issues. Some telephone numbers are only accessible from some areas of a country. For telecommunications purposes, China is divided into north and south. Both India and the Russian Federation have restrictions on accessing telephone numbers based on where you are and the telecom network being used.

Questions to ask: Are there any known issues regarding access from mobile phones? Is there an additional charge to callers joining from a mobile phone? Do the countries involved have any known telecommunications access issues?

Mistake 4: Selecting Support That Sleeps

Support only matters when someone needs it. Having live operator support accessible from within a conference call could save you from a failed conference. A support team can help get your participants into the conference call or address any issues the chairperson may experience. Consider support's availability and their language. Global collaboration means your meeting takes place across multiple timezones. So if you select a company with "business hours" support, they may not be there when you need them. Multi-lingual support is important if you have a multilingual organization. It may be less so on a unilingual conference call.

Mistake 5: Transcribing Timezones & Telephone Numbers

Europe has six timezones, the US has nine, there are ten in Asia. Doing the mental math on what time an international conference call starts for each participant invites error. This can result in missed attendance and a less productive meeting. If you are hosting an international conference call from five different countries, each with an access phone number of 10 digits, you will have to accurately transcribe a total of 50 digits. A tool that helps in communicating the conference dial-in information and the participant's start time in their local timezone can be invaluable.

Making an international conference call can seem intimidating. Knowing the issues in advance and identifying the right questions to ask can help you collaborate more effectively. There is no perfect international conference call provider. Investing a little time and attention in hosting an international conference call can ensure you are as successful and productive as an in-person meeting.

Author's Resource Box

Jerry Everett is an executive at onConference. A company that provides business-class conference call services backed by the worlds 5th largest infrastructure. Onconference was founded in 2002 by Nortel Networks veterans with over a decade of experience building, supporting, and selling telecommunications products to the largest companies in the world.

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Tags:   international conference call, conference call, conference calls, conferencing calling

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Submitted : 2011-02-12    Word Count : 1    Times Viewed: 515