Ways to Keep Communication Open during the COVID19 Crisis: Virtual Call Services for Small Business

The last three weeks have delivered a blow that no one could have predicted. The hospitality industry has been brought to its knees. Airline companies have reduced flights and in many cases eliminated entire routes. Entertainment venues have canceled all shows and movie theaters have completely closed. If you are reading this, there is a good chance this global crisis has touched you. If you are fortunate enough to still be working, I’m sure you’re working from home.

Working from home is the new norm. Now it’s time to adapt and form new habits. Over the next few weeks, I will post about different technologies that can help you and your business adapt to a new channel of working to remain productive. A major part of quality productivity is constructive communication. If you need to organize an occasional call or even a frequent one, any of these services may be up to the task.

Side note: These platforms are also very useful to stay connected with long distance family members during these unpredictable times.

1. UberConference
If you want a free conference call tool for voice calls, UberConference is an option. UberConference makes voice calls simple and easy for business owners, and the basic service to host calls is free to use. No PIN required, and if you click on the website they can even call you.

After signing up, you get your own conference call host web link, which you and your guests can use to quickly join a call with a phone or computer. If you download the app, you can start and join a conference with one tap.

The free version supports up to 10 participants at a time. The major drawback to the free account is that you can only talk for 45 minutes. To avoid time limits, upgrade for $10 a month.

2. Skype
Skype is a great choice for video and international conference calls. One of the biggest benefits of Skype is that it is free to call other Skype users and a huge number of business owners already have it.

Skype comes from a reliable, trusted software company: Microsoft. It is free to call Skype-to-Skype, but calling out to a phone number may incur a charge.

3. Zoom
Zoom is a newer entrant to the video and online conference call space, but it landed with a splash. Zoom is popular for its reliability and ease-of-use. If you have a Zoom account, you can create a meeting link to send out by email. Participants can then join with a click.
A free account allows you to run a meeting with up to 100 participants (with a 40-minute limit) and unlimited one-on-one calls. Premium plans cost $14.99 and $19.99 per month, but there are additional a la carte features for an additional fee.

4. Google Hangouts
If you have a Gmail account, you have an account that works with Google Hangouts. And it’s free. Gmail has over 1 billion active users, so odds are most people can join you if you host a call on Hangouts. If you use Google Chrome, joining a Hangout is as easy as a click. Because it comes from Google, you can trust it is well supported and reliable.

5. GoToMeeting
If you are regular with conference calls, odds are you have come across GoToMeeting. It is a popular meeting tool for both small businesses and enterprise businesses. GoToMeeting is huge among dedicated meeting services. This conference call service is notable for its wide-ranging support of different devices, instant and scheduled meetings, and generally user-friendly experiences. But it is not free. After a 14-day trial, you must upgrade to continue using it.

6. FreeConferenceCall.com
If you had any doubt, this website offers a free conference call service. FreeConferenceCall.com is a long-time veteran in the web-connected conference call industry. This conference call service lets you host up to 1,000 callers via phone or online connection, host phone or online meetings with screen sharing, and run webinar style meetings all from the same account. Premium (paid) features include a dedicated number with no access code, toll-free numbers, custom greetings, custom hold music, and extra meeting recording storage.

7. Webex
Webex is a product of the enterprise networking company Cisco. It comes loaded with nearly every possible bell and whistle you can expect from a conference call service. Cisco even makes Webex hardware so you can host video conference calls with native devices.

But even if you don’t pony up for a Webex camera, it integrates with most browsers, operating systems, and gives you both online and dial-in meeting options.

8. Join.me
Join.me is a web-focused conference calling app with a range of useful features. That includes both audio and video conference calls, mobile apps, easy scheduling, a personal join link, and screen sharing. One standout feature is the whiteboarding tool, which allows you to write on your screen just like a whiteboard even if you are not all in the same room. It gives remote teams a little more of an in-person touch. After a free trial, this service costs from $10 per month for the Lite plan to $30 per month for the Business plan depending on your needs.

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LeShane Greenhill