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Audio Conferencing For Beginners guide

Conference phones can be a valuable business tool. This audio conferencing review outlines the basics from definitions and prices to star features.

Conference phones are a must-have tool for businesses looking to make calls to several people at the same time. Driven by rapid advances in technology, there has been an explosion in the number of audio conferencing devices in recent years. In one sense, this is great news because you can now buy a product that exactly fits your needs but it may also lead to problems. What does all the technical jargon mean and what features are right for your business? This overview answers these questions and more.

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What are conference phones?

Conference phones basically enable more than two people to have a shared conversation on a single telephone unit. This can be incredibly handy when, for example, you need to order parts from multiple suppliers or introduce clients to your work colleagues. Most conference phones comprise a base unit with built-in speakers, microphones and keypad – everything you’ll need to start audio conferencing.

Can I afford conference phones?

The cost of conference phones has plummeted in recent years because of a range of factors. As they become more popular, increased competition from manufacturers such as Polycom and ClearOne is driving down prices. Technological advances are also making a difference and low-end units can cost less than £150 while even high-spec machines come in at less than £800.

Also, compatibility shouldn’t be a problem. Conference phones generally connect to a standard BT phone line so there’s no need to install a separate line.

What audio conferencing features do I need?

Modern conference phones increasingly boast what is known as ‘full duplex mode’. This essentially means multiple participants can talk in the audio conferencing call simultaneously. Unlike half-duplex devices such as standard speakerphones, the other microphones are not deactivated when one person is talking so you can enjoy more natural conversations.

Another feature you might want to consider is expansion capability. Some conference phones enable users to expand the base configuration with additional microphones. If you’re calling from a large meeting room, for example, you might find distant voices struggle to get picked up by the unit. Placing additional microphones in problem areas should solve this and give you a much better audio conferencing experience.

Of course, you can enjoy many more features if you have a larger budget. Deep echo cancellation can help reduce background reverberation noises on your calls while certain units offer large memory facilities to save you having to remember frequently-dialled numbers.

And certain specifications may be deemed essential depending on your circumstances. Some devices can pickup voices from a distance of 10 ft and others boast extended talk-time and even voice encryption.

Whatever your audio conferencing needs, there’s a conference phone out there that fits the bill.

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