Multi-Party Voice Calling

This section deals with multi-participant voice calls:

Three Categories of Multi-Party Voice Calls

  • Ad hoc multi-party calls: Informal, host can easily add/remove participants, but no other participant management features. All participants are active; no agenda (think the “UNconference” call); participants can mute/unmute themselves.
  • Conference calls, which are usually scheduled and managed by a moderator or host, were originally associated with business meetings . They usually have an agenda; normally all participants are active but can be managed by the moderator (and/or other designated participants). Conference call services have an option for recording and archiving.
  • Broadcast calls, such as training presentations, news and analyst conferences, large audience sales presentations, etc. where there is a call administrator and usually one or two active participants who will make a presentation to an audience of several hundred or even a thousand passive participants.

Within the Skype ecosystem we can find an example of each:

Personal and Informal business multi-party calls

Who's Speaking

Ad hoc multi-party calling is included in the basic Skype client under the misnomer “Conference Calls” It does make it very easy to set up a multi-party call: simply select the participants from your Skype and/or SkypeOut Contacts, click on the Green call button and a call tab will pop open showing the status of the connection with each participant. Easily Add Contacts as the call progresses; removal of a participant simply involves a right click on the participant’s name and selecting “Remove from Call”. During the call a light blue halo will appear around the avatar of any participant who is talking (Skype for Windows) or a green volume bar will appear in the Contact info on Skype for Mac. These calls are initiated by the “host”; additional participants must be added onto the call by the host.

Voice Conference Calls

hidefconferencinglogo2008-05-18200pxFor business grade, hosted conference calls, HiDefConferencing offers services that support ten to five hundred participant calls. An administrator can schedule the call; a moderator manages the call including muting/unmuting of participants, responding to hand raising and recording the call for later archiving. Two features related to Skype:

  • All Skype participants will hear each other with Skype’s wideband audio High Definition Voice making the speakers more readily understood especially where accents and other voice inflections are involved.
  • For participants accessing these calls via Skype the meter is off; there are no ongoing toll charge while callers accessing via the PSTN my have additional toll charges to the HiDef Conferencing server location.

HiDef Conferencing effectively supports Broadcasts calls with the 50, 100 and 500 participant subscriptions. In these cases all participants are muted until there is a hand raised and acknowledged.

Unlimited Conference Calling at Flat RatesCalliflower is another voice conference call service which participants can access via SkypeOut. Calliflower provides hosted conference calling with a complete web portal for each call. In addition to caller muting and hand raising, a call participant can also view who is on the call, participate in a chat window and, with their premium service, share document viewing. While CalliFlower offers a free service, their Premium service adds features that provide additional support for business conference calls such as document sharing, over 50 local dial-in numbers and the ability to delegate access such that a third party can schedule a call. Check out previous Voice On The Web posts about CalliFlower here.

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