Friday, August 10, 2007

Reservationless or Reserved?

I've been compiling a lot of new information in preparation for our updated company site, which has re-alerted me to a lot frequently asked questions about conferencing and business telecommunications in general. Today's topic: the difference between Reserved and Reservationless conference calls.

Reservationless conference calls can be planned in advance, or they can be launched ad hoc. In other words, the "reservationless" part doesn't have to refer to your planning style - it just has to do with the options and features that are available to you in the call. A reservationless call is connected automatically rather than via operator assistance, so it is usually a substantially cheaper option. In-call features are usually of the IVR variety (press #3 for something, #77 for something else, etc.), which is rarely limiting (especially since most of these features are available in reserved calls anyhow). The biggest deal is that the host of the call has to know what he or she is doing, or at least have a cheat sheet ready to remember the features. Participants will usually need the call's conference code to connect to the call - not a complicated piece of information, but information nonetheless. Also, because everything is connected digitally rather than manually, reservationless calls can only support a certain number of users (which varies between providers, but is usually no more than a few thousand).

Reserved conference calls are used for high-profile calls, calls that are somehow too complicated for the reservationless system to handle, or calls that need to serve large groups (3000+). They are more expensive, but some services even offer call managers (real people, not digital tools) who will take care of all of the technical details so that the host can just talk. Any time that distributing a conference code would be inconvenient, you are hosting a very large call, or you are hosting a call with clients who require the extra touch of operator assistance, reserved calls are the way to go. As their name implies, you must schedule reserved calls in advance.

In sum:
Reservationless calls: quick, cheaper, small to mid-size
Reserved: pre-scheduled, special services, large

Do you have a question about a common conferencing term or technology? Post it in a comment and I'll do my very best to answer it.

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