Traditional conference calling is a faceless and often unproductive way of holding meetings. In the age of the Internet and mobile devices, conference calls and online meetings provide an array of features and functions for sharing and viewing documents, developing and keeping minutes, and even recording meetings for archive purposes.
My recently released free MakeUseOf download, Online Meeting Guide: Software and Strategy introduces over a dozen different online meeting services and tools, like Google Hangouts, Meetings.io, and LiveMinutes. Another service that rivals the market leaders is UberConference, a phone and web conferencing service that also allows participants to access online documents and social network content.
The advantage of including phone conferencing means participants don’t have to be tied to a video camera on a computer or mobile device. Videoconference meetings might also be troublesome for participants who do not have a good Internet connection, but still want to take part.
How It Works
UberConference works similarly to traditional conference calling services in that participants call into an assigned phone number, and log in to the conference with a PIN code. Participants can also connect to meetings via Google Chrome or the UberConference apps for the iPhone and Android (both of which are free).
UberConference also has a feature that saves participants the trouble of typing in a PIN code if their phone number is already registered with the service. This automatic authentication feature is very useful for group participants who meet on a regular basis.
Though UberConference calls are not video-enabled, they do include an online and mobile visual display of photos of participants who set up an account and provide profile information. During a meeting, the audio of individual callers can be dropped, and the online platform allows participants to write and send personal messages to one another.
UberConference also does outbound calling, which means that when a conference begins, the system will automatically call invited participants to join. Participants are alerted by email and SMS, and if their caller ID is recognized by UberConference, they won’t have to type in a PIN number.
The conference call phone number, PIN number, and URL can also be publicly or privately shared, allowing participants to call you at their convenience.
Social Network Connections
One of the pluses of UberConference is that it allows participants to use their Google, Facebook, or LinkedIn account to sign up (you can also do this with an email address). By connecting your social networks, UberConference can access your LinkedIn first and second degree connections, your Facebook and Twitter followers, and your Google address book, which makes it easier to set up outbound calls.
You can also allow UberConference access to your Box, Salesforce, and Evernote accounts. This is the type of integration you cannot get with traditional phone conferencing, and it is the kind of feature makes phone meetings all the more productive.
Conference call participants should note, however, that the information they provide in their UberConference profile can be viewed by other participants. So, if you provide access to your Facebook and Twitter accounts, online and mobile participants will be able to view your social network profiles. I’m not sure I find this very useful unless the social network content is directly related to the purpose of the meeting, but it does add a more human aspect to the notion of voice communication.
Evernote and Cloud Storage
The most useful feature of UberConference for general users is its integration with Evernote and Box. When calling in using the online platform, participants can add and display selected content from their Evernote and Box account. This is useful for posting and sharing an agenda and other documents for the meeting.
Unfortunately, the online apps don’t include the document sharing feature, which also only allows for read only access to documents. It doesn’t allow participants to post and edit documents in UberConference, as can be done with shared content in Google Drive.
It would also be useful if UberConference included a built-in calendar, whiteboard, and a few other tools useful for meeting purposes. The Evernote and Box connections are a good start, though Dropbox integration should also be included.
Basic and Pro Accounts
UberConference provides a free basic service for creating and joining conferences of up to 9 participants, seeing who is on the call, sending email and SMS invites, receiving detailed summaries of calls, and connecting to social networks. A $10 per month Pro account allows for increased conference size of up to 100 participants, choosing a local phone number, providing international access to calls, uploading custom hold music, and the added option of using a toll-free number for an extra $10 per month.
UberConference has a clean user interface, is straightforward to use and utilitarian in its robust nature. It looks like phone conferencing isn’t quite dead yet!
Have you tried UberConference? What do you think? Do you prefer another conference solution? Let us know what you think in the comments, below.
Image credit: Phone via MorgueFile.