Free Conference Calls: How to Get Started With Online Meetings
Conference calls are inexpensive and effective ways to collaborate with your remote team.
If you weren’t thinking about hosting online meetings before, you probably are by now. Many businesses around the world have started implementing remote work arrangements with their employees. To communicate and collaborate with your team without a conference room, you have to look for online platforms with audio and video capabilities. The good news is if you’re just starting out, there are a few free conference calling services that you can try.
Are free conference calls really free?
There are a number of free conference call services out there, with a wide range of features and functionalities available. That being said, these services tend to offer fewer features than and less functionality than conferencing services with paid plans.
Most free conference call services will offer:
- Audio and video conferencing and screen sharing
- Dedicated dial-in number and/or access code
- Call recording and/or call detail reports
In exchange for these calling features, free conferencing apps typically restrict the number of users in a conference and often have a time limit on how long you can use the conferencing room as well.
Free video conferences may be throttled for bandwidth purposes, so you won’t have HD video available for your participants. You might also run into latency issues regardless of audio and/or video call quality.
Some services work better than others for different teams, so it may be worthwhile to try several options until your team comes together around one they all like.
How do free conference call companies make their money?
Most “free” conference calling solutions are made available by companies that also offer paid plans. The free tier of these services generally offer fewer features, less support, and more restrictions on conference size, bandwidth, and dial-in options than the paid plans offered by those same services. Additionally, paid conferencing apps may include:
- Included toll-free minutes
- SMS (text messages)
- Full meeting recording and playback
- Custom hold music
- Voicemail transcription and/or forwarding
- Call management
- HD audio quality
- HD video quality
- 24/7 customer support
- Unlimited conferences
- International dialins and international calling
- Document sharing and integrations with cloud storage services
- Dedicated desktop app and/or mobile app
- Internet faxing
- Integrations with calendar and email services
- Integrations with CRMs and other business apps
- API for custom app development
How can I get a free conference call number?
To get a free number, you’ll have to sign up for a conference calling service. This typically requires you to provide your name and email to the service provider, and you may sometimes need to provide your credit card information as well in order to secure a free trial.
Here’s how the process often works:
- Enter your name and/or email address in the sign-up form
- Look for an activation email in your inbox
- Activate your account through the link in your email
- Enter your information and choose a password
- Get into your account
- You should be assigned a free number!
Some services allow you to choose your own number and/or area code, but these are usually reserved for paid plans.
What is the best free conference call service?
The best free conference call services always depend on the unique needs of your team. If you value video conferences, you should look for an app that always provides high-quality video meetings without interruptions or stuttering, and allows for HD audio conference calls if you’re not using video.
If your team does a lot of work on the phone, you should look for a solution that can clearly transmit everyone’s voice at once. Whatever your needs though, you should always look for a few mission-critical features.
Must-haves in an online conference calling solution
- Good connection quality
- Private room and/or unique meeting IDs
- Intuitive user interface
- Messaging options (in case audio or video is lost)
Make sure to check out the reviews of any conference calling service before deciding to use it. You can even compare reviews through popular software review sites.
How to make conference calls using an online solution
How do I start a free conference call?
It’s easy to start a conference call. As the call organizer, you’ll usually have to download and install a mobile or desktop app to set up your conference. Your participants may or may not have to install an app as well, depending on whether they’re dialing in with audio or video, and depending on the conferencing service you choose. Here’s how it might work:
- Download and install the app (if you haven’t)
- Start a meeting through your service and app
- Invite participants by email, link, or number and access code
- Wait for your team to join call
How do I call a conference call number?
If you’re trying to join a conference call, the process is a little different. For an audio conference:
- Dial into the number at the right time
- Wait for a prompt (if needed) and input your access code
- Join meeting and say hi
If you’re trying to join a videoconference:
- Use the meeting host’s access link to join
- You may need to open and/or install an app first
- Check your audio and video once in the meeting
- Say hi to everyone once you’ve checked your settings
How does international conference calling work?
Distributed remote teams might have meeting participants call in from several different countries. If this is the case, there may be some extra steps involved to ensure no one winds up getting charged extra on their mobile bill for calling an international number.
For audio conferencing calls, you’ll want to have a toll-free phone number instead of a local number for international dialins. Your conferencing service might also offer special local access numbers in each team member’s country of residence, which they can dial into to join a single meeting.
If you’re hosting a videoconference, access for international users might not be any different than it is for local users. Anyone in the world should be able to join a videoconference via the same access link, particularly if they’re using a PC or laptop rather than mobile phones.