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Conferencing and Online Meetings: 5 Tips for Choosing a Provider

Conference calls and online meetings are an essential everyday business activity, albeit one that people tend to dislike.  If you’re considering switching providers – or choosing a conferencing provider for the first time – here are five things to keep in mind.

1. Reliability and customer support

This is a baseline requirement.  Reliability and availability are essential, so make sure you choose an established provider who can provide information about the resilience of their architecture, so that you can be sure of a quality experience without worrying about technical issues.  If your needs are international and not just domestic, check that the company can provide easy ways for these international participants to join the call, whether through local (geographic) dial-in numbers or with a way to join the call without having to dial in.  Finally, be sure that the company offers support for you and your users, with a support team that is on hand to answer any questions, as they arise, and in whatever time zone your users may be.

2. Think problem-solving, not feature-packed

It’s tempting to evaluate products based on feature lists – and assume that a longer feature list means a better product – but thinking about features in this way is ill-advised.  Instead, you need a product which offers a feature set that will actually be used, as opposed to lots of features that sound good but add no value.  To find out what this means, think about the product in terms of problem-solving: what problems do your users have, and what features would solve them?  For example, do you think your users are frustrated during calls where they have to keep asking ‘who just joined?’  Are your conference callers comfortable that they always know who’s speaking and what can they do about the attendee with all the background noise?  Do your conference callers really use all the bells and whistles of your web conferencing capability or do they just wish it were easier to share something visual rather than conceding defeat and ‘emailing out the slides’?  Look for products that solve the elephant-in-the-room problems, rather than the product with the marginal features that hardly anyone will ever use.

3. Ease of use (so your users don’t need training and you don’t need to worry about it)

For your conferencing solution to be actually used it needs to be useful and, crucially, usable.  So, look for a product that is simple and intuitive, without the need for training, which your users won’t want to attend in any case.  Aside from not needing to dedicate IT resources towards training, this has the added benefit of increasing adoption and satisfaction with the new product.

4. Ease of deployment

Linked to the point about looking for a product that doesn’t require training, it’s highly desirable for deployment to be as pain-free as possible.  A good conferencing provider will be flexible in this regard, and offer you the option to either send over a user list (which the provider will use to provision these users with accounts) or let you set up individual user accounts yourself as needed.  Look for a provider who has invested in a flexible and helpful administrator portal, allowing you to manage your users yourself.

5. A pricing model that fits your needs

Look for a pricing model that fits your needs.  Typically, there are two options: pay-as-you-go or licence pricing.  With pay-as-you-go, you just pay for what you use, while licence pricing gives you more budget certainty.  If you’re switching to a new product, you may wish to start with pay-as-you-go pricing and consider a switch to licence pricing later.  Look for a provider that is confident enough in its product to give you this flexibility.  Finally, conferencing invoices are notoriously complicated, with many providers adding in hidden costs through long, hard-to-decipher bills.  Ask to see an example invoice to set your mind at rest on this score.

In summary, you need a reliable product that solves problems your users experience in a way that’s easy to use, easy for you to deploy, and priced to fit your needs.  Clearly, we’re biased, but we’d certainly suggest you at least check out how LoopUp can help you.

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