Telecoms for Competitive Advantage

6. Meetings at a Distance

The telephone conference and its high-tech brother, the videoconference, are beginning to be used by many small businesses.

Audio conferences can often be justified on direct cost grounds, for weekly project reports or monthly sales meetings. Videoconferencing is mostly used for special, non-routine projects.

6.1 Telephone conferences can save money and effort, because a one-hour meeting takes just one hour of each person’s time.

  • The simplest form of telephone conference is a three-person phone call. Some telephone systems and mobile phones allow you to initiate three-way calling at no extra cost.
  • Speaker phones for conference use allow several people to have a discussion with one person or several at another location.
  • There are a number of low-cost conference call services which allow you to make conference calls on a ‘pay as you go’ basis. Typically you pay just the cost of the call. Examples include Powwownow and BT MeetMe. Participants can be brought in and dropped out of the meeting. People can also take part using mobile phones.

6.2 Videoconferencing is beginning to be economical enough for small firms to use.

  • Professional videoconferencing equipment requires a very fast internet connection and can be expensive.
  • A cheaper alternative is to use a webcam with free instant messaging. Software which supports video chat includes Skype and Microsoft Windows Live Messenger.

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