Copyright 2005 Richard Keir
Originally conference call was limited to businesses paying exorbitant fees to telcos. For business, it still made sense economically because costs were less than travel costs involved in bringing people together. Additionally, significant time savings are involved, both in terms of travel time and in being able to communicate fairly rapidly to an extended group.
Telcos then extended their market by providing conference calling services to home consumers for an added fee. For some, it made sense to be able to bring a family or group with common interests together easily, usually to plan some physical event.
With expansion of internet, and in particular, increasing availability and decreasing pricing for high speed internet access, conference calling has expanded far beyond its original uses.
For business, it remains a vital tool and has, actually, become far more useful as prices fall and ease of use increases. Real time audio/video conferencing is already in use (and in some organizations has been for quite some time). As cost of bandwidth decreases and technology underlying audio-video transmission over networks improves, true real-time video conferencing will increase dramatically.
With growing sophistication of typical surfer and expansion of internet marketing, audio and video have become hot items. Within internet marketing community, conference calls - usually known as teleseminars, have become a standard feature. Offering opportunity to reach a large group of interested prospects in a relatively simple and inexpensive format, teleseminars also offer marketer an opportunity to create an instant product. A recording of a teleseminar can either be sold as a stand-alone product or used as a marketing tool for back-end products.
Marketers are using both free and paid teleseminars. Generally there is a higher level of injected sales content in free teleseminars, but it does vary a great deal.
Solutions available now range from rather expensive to essentially free. Your choice is going to depend on exactly what level of service you require. There are a number of providers which offer an introductory pricing scheme (I've seen it as low as a $1 for first month), which gives you opportunity to see firsthand how their service works at a very modest cost. You do need to make sure you understand just how your users will access conference. Solutions which use telephone call-ins are generally more restrictive and/or expensive than those utilizing an internet connection or VoIP softphone connections.