The features offered by the various phone conferencing providers changes constantly, so check with your providers for current features.
Some decent phone conferencing services are available today from the major providers. Here are some of the most important features to help virtual teams be more effective. These same features also make phone conferencing more efficient for all types of meetings:
- Simple connections—The best services make it quick and easy for people to join meetings from limited information in an e-mail invitation. This may sound obvious, but speaking from personal experience, we have used some pretty bad services that have forced us to enter a long phone number, an ID code, listen to lengthy instructions (even when we knew what to do), and press many touch-tone keys in the right sequence before being able to join a meeting.
- Anyone can start the meeting—It is very important to have an option to allow anyone to start a phone conference. Frequently, people would like to join a meeting a few minutes before the scheduled start and use the time to chat informally before the meeting leader arrives. This is similar to what happens in a face-to-face meeting and should not be ignored.
- Dropped leader line doesn’t close the call—This cannot be emphasized enough. There must be an option to allow the leader to leave a call and not have the entire conference session close. Land line connections are extremely reliable these days, but wireless connections (cell phones and portables) are not.
- Unscheduled meetings—You must have an option to hold ad hoc meetings in addition to scheduled ones. One way to do this is via permanent conference numbers that are always active. This allows for three or more people to quickly get into a phone conference to discuss issues.
- Attendance data—It is very useful to be able to access the attendance information for a given meeting.