Communication matters in business. It’s the one component that defines the failure of success of an organization. This is why a number of offices are using different forms of technology just to communicate with each other. And arguably, one of the most cost-effective of these technologies is audio conferencing.
Technically speaking, a conference call is one that involves three or more people. Otherwise, it would just be a conversation. The phones used for this kind of communication varies but it can involve a wired hand-held phone (like those mostly seen in office cubicles), a conference room speakerphone (so more than one person can participate in the call) and individual mobile phones.
There are clear benefits to this kind of communication like being able to cut costs but there are drawbacks as well.
List of Advantages of Audio Conferencing
1. Telephones are widely accessible.
A number of offices these days provide each employee with a dedicated line. Apart from email and instant messaging, this is one of the ways they can be contacted should their services be needed.
Let’s say someone works in a software development company. Suppose they form one of four people in a team that designed a new program that counted coins. They have sent their software for testing and suppose the testing team had questions about how the program works. They can always shoot an email but they feel asking a question through the phone will enable them to move along much quickly. Given one of the programmers they call is around, their query can be answered and they can proceed with their task.
This is an example of a simple phone call where representatives of each group are communicating. But when the entire testing team calls in and the whole of the development team join in to answer their queries, then you’ve got an example of a simple conference call between teams located within one building. This is time saving because developers could be at their station looking at the program and the testers could be at the lab testing the software.
2. Multiple parties can participate in a discussion.
Phone systems these days allow callers to call more than one person. This becomes particularly useful when each person is located in different places around the city, state or even the world. This kind of conversation is pretty normal in businesses that have multiple locations.
For example, one company has offices in Richmond, Atlanta and Cebu (Philippines). Even though colleagues are geographically separated, they can still get together to discuss the particulars of a project. All they need to do is set a date where its most convenient for all of them to have a conversation.
Some companies also have part of their team located in a different country, and when the project manager wants to get details on what has been accomplished, they can set up a conference call between the two teams. This gives each member a chance to inform of their progress or what’s stalling them. It’s also a good opportunity for others in the call to pitch in on potential solutions.
3. It allows people to participate in conversation when they can’t physically make the meeting.
Suppose one member of the team fell ill and has to stay in bed, but it’s important that they be part of the call because their knowledge is needed in brainstorming for a particular project. Rather than have them come in when they physically not able to, why not have a conversation with them over the phone? It allows them to impart their knowledge even when they are just at home.
List of Disadvantages of Audio Conferencing
1. The kind of telephone used affects the quality of the call.
While audio conferencing is indeed a cost-saving communication option, those who desire crystal clear lines of communication will have to invest in better equipment. Today, there are lots of telephone options in the market that produce clear and intelligible audio. Picking the right one involves weighing different factors.
Cost will definitely be a factor in a business that is just starting out. However, a business that’s already on its feet may have the resources needed to invest in a quality audio conferencing system.
2. Some find it a waste of time.
A couple of businesses have brought up the question of “What is the purpose of meetings?” For one, they feel meetings take up so much time which can be used for making things happen for a company. A lot of things can be done in an hour or even 30 minutes, so why waste time with a lot of meetings?
Sometimes, there can be as many as four meetings in a single day. Some find that particularly exhausting because it takes away from being able to hit target deadlines. Besides, email has become the standard for communication these days, why not use that instead? Also, instant messaging has become a popular way of communicating in the office and may offer a better response time as well.
3. It can cause inconvenience to some parties.
This is particularly true when it comes to offices with different locations around the world. When the time difference is 12 hours or more, this would mean one party would have to make the call at night or do it very early in the morning. Although some may label this as part of the job, some do find it an inconvenience because instead of having a nice dinner, they have to be on call. For some, this also means having to stay in the office until the audio conference starts.
However, this can easily be remedied by finding a time that suits both parties. For instance, a call would be made just one day out of the entire week. As such, each member must be ready with their updates and questions so to make much use of the time.
There is no question that audio conferencing makes for a cost-effective communication tool. While it will be more beneficial for some, it takes weighing the good with the bad to decide whether this form of communication is right for you.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Masters Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.