Telemeetings, telephone conferencing or teleconferencing

by Richard Atkins, Orate Ltd

Given the sheer size of America, it is understandable that this country alone represents over 80% of the world market for conference calls. Yet distance is not always proportional to travelling time, as anybody who has sat in a traffic jam on the M6 or M25 (to name but two!) is well aware; and that is not to forget those whose planes or trains have been delayed, or even cancelled.

A number of people got the point during the fuel protests, when reports indicated that the demand for conference calls in the UK trebled for several weeks. And BT reports an ongoing annual 60% growth in their phone conferencing business. Despite this growth, few of the new entrants to the British telecommunications arena offer conference calls.

Judging by the small number of companies who have used conference calling, the marketing of this time and cost saving business tool has been poor: a simple study has shown that most people do not know how to go about becoming a "conference caller". There are other inhibiting factors once they do find out: multi page forms to fill in, and usually a delay of some days for an account to be set up. Seen internationally, pricing is also a deterrent for many, with a substantial premium paid for the conference "bridging".

A different approach has been taken by TeleMeet: apart from choosing a user name and a password, there are no forms to fill in and no accounts to apply for. And the bridging is free, you just pay for a national rate phone call.

Quite simply, the business user logs on to www.telemeet.co.uk and books a call for the appropriate number of participants at the time required, which can literally be anywhere from a few moments to hours later, and either selects their own choice of PIN, or allows the system to generate one. The system can then be used to send out email confirmations to the participants, even with an automatic diary reminder for Outlook and similar programmes.

Each party pays just 6.73p (excluding VAT) per minute, at peak times, or 3.36p off peak (right down to 1.7p at weekends). This price is so low, that a number of companies using the service expand the range of participants in the TeleMeeting to include back-office staff as well as the usual sales negotiators and the clients, so that questions relating to project implementation can be answered there and then - and the back-office team know directly what is required, rather than receiving a post-call précis.

Telemeet also have their "shuttle" service, where you do not even have to go on to the internet to book a slot. The meeting participants agree the day, the time and a PIN amongst themselves, and dial telemeet's national rate access number 0870-088-5708. The first to arrive and enter the chosen PIN effectively sets up the conference and the others then join.

Old-fashioned telephone conferencing has changed in price and style to telemeeting.

It is no wonder that NASDAQ quoted Raindance (RNDC) reached a record of 6.8 million minutes in a week (late September 2001) for a similar type of US-based service, and soon after was regularly logging more than 1.3 million minutes per day. As the UK and other European countries become aware of the low cost of TeleMeetings, it is understandable that this UK based service will follow the same pattern.

Reviewed January 2011

last updated : 21/01/2011



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