Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Basics (Part 1): What is Conferencing?

Before we get complicated, let’s review the basics. Today’s topic: What is conferencing, and how is it used?

There are two main types of conferencing: audio (commonly called conference calls or teleconferencing) and web conferencing.

A Conference Call is a telephone call in which more than two people participate. Callers can interact by both speaking and listening during the call. Conference Calls are used for remote business meetings, like international and interoffice meetings, interviews, presentations and briefings, and entertainment. These collaborative calls come in handy any time knowledge sharing or discussion between multiple parties is necessary, especially when the parties involved are in different locations. While they can be planned in advance for formal or regularly scheduled meetings, reservationless Conference Calls are quick and easy enough to initiate that they can also be used on the fly, like when that small discussion in your cubicle suddenly grows to include the overseas developer and the CEO in New York.

With most conferencing services (such as ConferenceCalls.com), any telephone can be used for a conference call, even a cell phone. Some groups use a speakerphone to share the proceedings of an in-office meeting with an offsite party; some users prefer to have a headset-style telephone in order to keep their hands free to take notes and to avoid making noises by tapping or dropping the receiver. A good feature to look for in a conferencing phone is the ability to mute, or stop, your voice transmission so that your background noise won't be heard by all of the participants.

A Web Conference is a live meeting that is conducted over the Internet. During a Web Conference, files, applications, and desktops can be shared to facilitate collaboration and demonstration; additionally, presentations can be delivered, and participants can partake through live polling and chat. When used in combination with Audio Conferencing (such as Conference Calling), Web Conferencing provides a complete virtual meeting environment.

Web Conferences are currently used for Sales and Marketing presentations, international and multi-site business Meetings, interviews, Training and Education, Webinars, and much more. This method of conferencing is robust enough to be used for any small to medium group communication, and can dramatically reduce or eliminate travel expenses. While Web Conferencing can be used for formal or regularly scheduled meetings, it is quick and easy enough to initiate that it can be used for ad hoc collaboration. Frequently, meeting participants need more than audio to capture their attention; with Web Conferencing, your audio content is accompanied by a visual presentation or demonstration in real time that can help highlight and clarify your key points. Some people even use Web Conferencing to stay in touch with loved ones who are overseas.

What do you use conferencing for? Leave us a message in the comments and let us know.

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