Conferencing calls, teleconferencing and videoconferencing

by David Holden, ACT Teleconferencing

Using teleconferencing the geographical barriers between you and your customers and suppliers can be overcome. You can communicate and share knowledge face to face, helping your company to maintain its competitive edge. 

The technology to set up a conference, sharing audio, data and video in any combination, is now within the reach of smaller companies. In addition, there are companies which will provide conferencing services on a bureau basis, with users renting time using the supplier’s equipment. So businesses can enjoy the benefits of teleconferencing without having to buy any equipment.


Audioconferencing, or conference calling, connects three or more people in a single telephone call. It's cheap and easy to set up and no special equipment is required. The participants only need a phone, which can be on their office desk, in a hotel, a public call box or even a mobile phone. Groups of people sitting round a table can take part using a conference phone. 

Audioconferencing does not replace all face-to-face meetings, but after the initial personal contact a telephone meeting enables more frequent and productive discussions. Audioconferencing can also be a key tool for crisis management and in other situations that need a rapid response.

Typical audioconference uses are:

An audioconference uses a digital audio “bridge” to join the participants together. There is no "voice clipping" and conversations can flow naturally, with volume and line quality optimised and monitored throughout the conference.

Audioconferencing services fall into two categories:

Attended audioconferencing

With attended audioconferencing services you make a single phone call to a teleconferencing supplier, who will set up the conference on your behalf. Once you've provided the details of your conference it's over to the service provider. It's quick to set up - a typical conference involving six participants in different locations can be up and running within five minutes of your call.

Attended conferences can be set up in three ways:

Additional services

Unattended audioconferencing

Unattended conferencing services allow users to set up and manage conferences themselves using the Web or DTMF tones - there is no need to make a reservation or to involve a conference coordinator. An unattended conference can be described as a do-it-yourself conference, and is ideal for ad hoc conferences. It is best suited to experienced conferencing users and where the numbers of participants involved may be small - typically less than ten participants. The unattended conference is a lower cost option, however it is less suitable for large groups or major announcements. 

Unattended conferences are set up in a similar way to attended conferences:


A videoconferencing session can simply connect two users in a point-to-point scenario, but by using a teleconferencing service provider up to 16 different multi-point connections can be made with participants anywhere in the world.

A multipoint videoconference can be set up with just a single phone call to a teleconferencing service provider - once you've provided the details it's all over to the service provider. Each participant needs a videoconferencing system connected to an ISDN telephone line or perhaps a broadband Internet connection, but any standard videoconferencing system can be brought into call, including desktop and group systems, and specially designed room systems for up to 50 people. Videoconferencing is particularly useful for meetings involving detailed presentations and “show and tell”, or for delicate topics or issues where people need to see facial expressions and body language.

Typical videoconferencing applications are:

Videoconferences can be set up in two ways:

Additional services

Internet conferencing and presentation services

Other conferencing services involve the joining of traditional telephone-based technology with Internet-based technology. Some services allow your audience to hear your verbal presentation over the telephone whilst viewing your PowerPoint presentation on their PC. Presentations are sent to the service provider in advance of the conference and then downloaded for access via the Internet.

Conference casting services

Conference casting is the delivery of your conference call or presentation via the Internet to be accessed live or recorded by any number of people. The signal from an audio or video conference call is captured, and encoded as streaming media. It is then delivered to a designated website where participants may join in.

ACT Teleconferencing offers a full suite of teleconferencing solutions, including ReadyConnect for unattended conferences, ActionCall for attended audioconferences and ActionShow for Internet presentations. Similar services are offered by other dedicated companies and by most business telecoms providers.

Reviewed January 2011

last updated : 21/01/2011

See also our UK ICT Directory for supplier lists and links

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