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Most organizations that utilize audio conferencing services choose to engage the services of a reliable conference call provider. Typically, there is a fixed rate per minute per connection to the conference that is billed to the originator of the call. However, there is another option that can be very helpful for non-profit organizations and companies that are not able to budget a lot of money for teleconference services. That option is a free conference call service. With a free conference call, there are no charges billed to the client for the conference, so there is no invoice to pay. Here is some information about how free conferencing works, and when the service may be a viable option.
At the time selected by the originator, the attendees and the host dial into the conference bridge, and enter a prearranged passcode when prompted by an automated message. Everyone who enters the passcode is routed into a secure conference call, where all parties are free to verbally interact with one another. There is no operator greeting or intervention. The process for the no cost conference call is totally automated.
The first thing to understand about the free conference call is that it is not totally free. Each attendee will incur the cost of making a long distance call to connect with the conference bridge. The charges will not appear on an invoice issued by the free conference call provider, but as a charge for the minutes generated on each attendee’s individual phone bill, with the cost depending on what type of long distance plan he or she has in place. The term of free conferencing is based on the fact that the teleconference provider does not charge setup fees, or issue charges for use of their lines. The process is strictly a connection into a toll conference call, in effect a series of long distance calls that all happen to terminate in a common conference.
Free conference call providers can offer this type of service for two reasons. First, their source of revenue is the amount of traffic that is generated on the trunks or lines that terminate on their conference bridges. Each minute someone is using one of their lines for a meeting, they make revenue. Second, free conference call services require very little in the way of equipment and personnel. This means a very low operating cost that can easily be covered by consistent usage of their facilities.
Of course, there are ways to make the free conference call totally free. One method is to use a cell phone to dial into the meeting. If you normally do not use your allowed bank of cell phone minutes during the billing period, the cost of attending the free conference call is indeed free. In addition, if the long distance plan for your landline service includes a flat monthly charge for unlimited long distance, you will pay nothing extra to attend a free conference call.
Free conference call services do have some drawbacks. For instance, the lines are available on a first come first served basis. If you have a large number of attendees that need to gather for a teleconference, there is no guarantee there will be enough lines during regular business hours. Also, there is usually not the option of obtaining assistance from an operator in the event of background noise or some other disturbance during the free conference call. But, for an organization that only needs a half dozen lines during an off peak time, a free conference call service can work very well and help keep the budget intact at the same time.