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Best Conference Call Services of 2021

By
Kiely Kuligowski
,
Business News Daily Staff
| Updated
Aug 30, 2021

Conference calls are a valuable tool for geographically dispersed teams. Here are the conference call services we think are best for businesses in 2021.
Best Overall
Reservationless and operator-assisted
Best Free Service
FreeConferenceCall.com
Reservationless
Best Within a Phone System
RingCentral
Reservationless
Best for Remote Workforce
Webex
Reservationless
Conference calls are a valuable tool for geographically dispersed teams. Here are the conference call services we think are best for businesses in 2021.
Updated 08/30/21

This page has been updated to include information about a FreeConferenceCall.com’s new Huddle.Team service.

As the remote workforce grows in 2020, the ability to communicate with employees and colleagues around the country is critical. Conference calling services help facilitate that collaboration. The best conference call services can connect dozens or even hundreds of people at one time, offer features like call recording and screen sharing, and are affordably priced. As part of our process, we researched nearly 30 options to help you determine the best one for your business. You can see our recommendations below, as well as how much you should expect to pay for a conference call service, the different types of services and what features to look for in a service.   

Additionally, we've provide a comprehensive list of conference call services at the end of this page in case the options we recommend aren't good fits for your business.

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Our Reviews

Vast Conference: Best Overall Conference Calling Service

Vast Conference is our pick as the best overall conference call service because it provides all the necessary and desired features as well as multiple pricing and scaling options. You can also choose which type of service you want: reservationless or operator-assisted.

The reservationless service allows you to host conference calls at any time without scheduling them in advance. This option easily supports up to 500 callers (and you can increase it by alerting Vast Conference to your needs). It offers customizable greeting options and includes call recording for no added cost. Hosts can control these meetings from their phone or the service's online portal.

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FreeConferenceCall.com: Best Free Service

Reservationless service supports meetings with up to 1,000 callers at a time.
Features include web management, call recording and calendar integration.
Operator-assisted meetings are not available.

FreeConferenceCall.com is our choice as the best free conference calling service. It provides all the necessary features of a conference call service at no cost, with the option to pay for additional features. The reservationless service, which supports up to 1,000 callers at one time, includes many of the features businesses need, such as web management, call recording and calendar integrations.

August 2021: FreeConferenceCall.com recently unveiled a new premium service designed to improve the way team members can communicate with others. Huddle.Team, which costs $7 per month for the basic plan and $15 for the higher-tiered option that includes a virtual phone number, provides high-quality audio and video, as well as the ability to screen share with co-annotations, send automated text reminders and create customized hold music options. A Huddle call can hold up to 1,000 team members.

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RingCentral: Best Within a Phone System

This cloud-hosted business phone system requires no special equipment or wiring.
RingCentral offers an array of calling, collaboration and mobile features.
Audio and video conferencing are not included in the cheapest service plan.

RingCentral is our choice for the best business phone service because it's a robust cloud-hosted VoIP phone system and a great option for businesses of all sizes. The system offers nearly every calling, collaboration and mobile feature businesses would want from a phone system. RingCentral is also our choice for the best conference calling service within a phone system because it's easy to use and allows every user to host calls with up to 1,000 participants. 

RingCentral Pricing

RingCentral offers four service plans that vary in price and features to fit the budgets and needs of a wide range of businesses. All of the plans include unlimited calls in the U.S. and Canada, unlimited business text messaging, a mobile app for iOS and Android devices, HD voice, visual voicemail, voicemail-to-email, file sharing, instant messaging and chatrooms, 24/7 customer support, call logs, call recording, and integrations with Box, Okta, Outlook and Google. Here is a breakdown of how each plan differs from the others:

  • The cheapest option is the Essentials plan, which is only available to businesses with 20 or fewer users. There are no audio or video meeting services in this plan. It costs $29.99 per user per month and includes 100 toll-free minutes. It's the only plan that limits the number of employees who can use it.

  • The Standard plan is $34.99 per user per month. It includes everything in the Essentials plan, as well as 1,000 toll-free minutes, a multilevel auto-attendant, an internet fax service, custom app development and deployment, and reports on quality of service. It also allows video conferencing with up to four attendees.

  • The Premium plan is $44.99 per user per month, and it includes everything in the Standard plan, plus 2,500 toll-free minutes, video meetings for up to 100 people, automatic call recording, multisite support, single sign-on, and integrations with Salesforce, Zendesk and Desk.com.

  • The most expensive option is the Ultimate plan, which costs $59.99 per user per month, and it includes everything in the Premium plan, plus 10,000 toll-free minutes and video meetings for up to 200 people.

Prices drop by 33% per user if you pay annually instead of monthly. RingCentral offers all users a 30-day risk-free trial.

While each plan comes with one local or-toll-free number, there is an additional cost if you want more numbers. Toll-free numbers are $4.99 per month, local numbers are $5.99 per user per month, and vanity numbers are available for a one-time $30 fee. 

Businesses have the option to buy or rent desk phones from RingCentral. Desk phones can be purchased for $80 to $400 each or rented for $5 to $21 per month. RingCentral does not offer a free plan, but you can request a 15-day free trial.

RingCentral Features

RingCentral is a cloud-hosted system that doesn't require any special equipment or wiring. All you need is a high-speed internet connection with enough bandwidth to handle the number of calls your small business makes. RingCentral recommends that you use a high-speed DSL, cable, or fiber optic connection with dedicated upload and download bandwidth for voice of at least 90Kbps for each voice line. You don't need a dedicated IT team to maintain this system; RingCentral handles all of the maintenance and upgrades.

Part of what makes RingCentral such a solid business phone solution is its reliability. It boasts a 99.999% uptime, the highest possible for cloud-hosted phone systems. This means the service is down for just a few minutes each year.

RingCentral has 17 data centers worldwide. Should one center shut down or have a problem, clients will have no loss of service, because the data will instantly transfer to one of the other centers. Each data center is monitored 24/7 and staffed by onsite engineering specialists and security guards.

RingCentral allows number porting. This means businesses with an established phone number can transfer their number over to RingCentral after signing up for the service. When transferring your number, you'll choose a temporary number to use until the porting process is complete, which is typically in 2-4 weeks.

The system is controlled entirely from an online portal. From this portal, administrators can assign employees numbers and extensions and create ring groups. Employees can also log in to change their personal settings and make calls from their computers using a softphone.

Users are encouraged to set their mobile phone as a forwarding number. If you and your team do this, you won't miss any calls should your business lose power or its internet connection. All calls will automatically be forwarded to the appropriate staff member's mobile phone in those situations.

RingCentral has over 50 calling, collaboration, and mobile features, including caller ID control, one-touch calling, call recording, call flip, call park, call screening, intercoms, paging, call logs, message alerts, missed-call notifications, auto-attendants, multilevel IVRs, call reports, on-hold music, answering rules, extensions, and the ability to forward calls to multiple devices.

There are several voicemail options as well: traditional voicemail, voicemail-to-email, visual voicemail and voicemail transcription to text. Among the collaboration tools are audio and HD video conferencing, presence indicators, and team messaging.

The RingCentral mobile app, available on iOS and Android devices, lets employees make and receive calls from their business lines on their mobile phones. The RingCentral app also lets users send and receive faxes and texts, set up and join conference calls, check voicemail, change their individual settings, and receive notifications.  

RingCentral also offers a softphone. This lets your employees make and receive calls from their computers, whether from desktops in the office or internet-connected laptops outside the office. To use the softphone, all you need to do is plug in a headset or use the computer's speakers and microphone.

For businesses that want to connect with colleagues or customers overseas, RingCentral offers a number of international calling options, including full-service coverage in 40 countries and international inbound virtual numbers in 119 countries. 

RingCentral Conference Calling

In addition to being the best business phone system, RingCentral tops our list of the best conference calling services within a phone system.

Each user has access to their own conference bridge. This means that each employee can host unlimited conference calls with up to 1,000 participants at a time. You don't have to worry about limiting your guest list or running out of minutes. The 1,000-caller limit is significantly higher than the thresholds of the other phone systems we reviewed. Multiple employees can host conference calls at the same time.

RingCentral's conferencing service is reservationless, which means you can begin calls instantly. While you can still schedule conferences in advance, this gives you the option to host an impromptu meeting when the need arises.

When you set up your conferencing preferences, you can select "enable join before host," which lets the call begin and continue without you or another host being present. You can also enable settings that lock the call once it has started and everyone has joined so no one else will be able to enter your call. The lecture mode lets you mute all the attendees' lines; your guests can still hear you, but no one can hear them. This is a useful feature for large meetings where there could be a lot of background noise.

You can send conference invites via Microsoft Outlook or your email provider. You simply click "invite with email," and RingCentral generates an email with the dial-in number and the participant access codes.

If you are hosting a call with participants outside the U.S., they can dial in using local numbers. RingCentral offers local numbers in more than 50 countries.

When you are hosting a call, you can record your conference free of charge and listen to it later. You can also share your recordings with anyone who was unable to attend the conference.

RingCentral makes it easy for hosts and meeting participants to join conference calls from mobile devices, typically by tapping a button or link. This saves you the hassle of entering the dial-in number and access code.

The biggest feature missing from RingCentral's conference calling service is operator-assisted calls. With this option, you'd have a representative from the service to set the call's itinerary, greet callers and take down their contact information, moderate Q&A sessions, and provide transcripts. If your company hosts large meetings that need this type of dedicated attention, you will need to find a provider that specializes in operator-assisted calling services.  

Customer Support

The customer support we've received from RingCentral has been mostly positive. During our research, we contacted the company numerous times by phone, email and live chat, posing as a business owner interested in phone service. While most of our interactions have gone well, we did have a couple of calls and chats that were less than helpful. Our most recent interactions with the company were significant improvements from our first calls and chats.

In our recent interactions with RingCentral, all of the representatives we dealt with were extremely helpful. They took our calls immediately and provided in-depth answers to all our questions. They also highlighted points we hadn't thought to ask about. By the end of our calls, we had a clear understanding of how RingCentral works, the features it offers and its price points.

The RingCentral website offers an array of valuable information, such as FAQs, videos, case studies, webinars and whitepapers. The company provides phone and chat support 24/7.

One area of concern is the number of complaints filed against RingCentral with the Better Business Bureau. As of April 2020, 273 complaints had been filed against the company over the past three years. Despite the complaints, RingCentral is accredited with the BBB and has an A+ rating on the site. Such a high rating means that the company is addressing all of these complaints. While RingCentral might not be able to provide everyone the solution they demand, it is at least attempting to resolve issues to everyone's satisfaction.

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Webex: Best for Remote Workforce

WebEx gives users two platforms in one. WebEx Meetings allows for video conferencing, while WebEx Teams allows for internal collaboration.
No restrictions on meeting length on the free plan.
Limited customer support options with some service plans.

Today, more than ever, businesses are prioritizing collaboration. To facilitate that, many organizations are turning to video conferencing to foster teamwork among their employees. This is where Webex by Cisco excels. Its features include messaging options, file sharing and the ability to start video calls in the middle of an online chat. It's for these reasons and many more that Webex is our choice as the best video and calling conference service for collaboration and for remote teams. 

With Webex, you get two services in one: Webex Meetings and Webex Teams. Webex Meetings is a full-service video conferencing solution that can host meetings with up to 200 participants at a time. What's nice is that everyone in the meeting can be on camera at the same time. Additionally, Webex Meetings offers all the essential video conference features, including screen sharing and meeting recording. 

The second service, Webex Teams, is a separate platform that all Webex Meetings users can access. Using the Teams app, employees can work together in one digital location. Staff can message one another, make video calls, host group video meetings, share files and bounce ideas off each other via the app's whiteboard tools. 

Webex Pricing 

With Webex, you have a choice of four service plans. Plans differ in price, the minimum number of host licenses, the maximum number of video meeting participants, customer support options, features and cloud storage. There are no time limits on the meetings, regardless of the plan you select.

Webex charges on a per-host, per-month basis, so to get the full value out of the Webex Teams platform, all of your employees will need their own license. 

Here are the specifics on each plan.

Free

  • Cost: $0
  • Meeting participants: Up to 100
  • Features: Desktop, application, file and whiteboard sharing options; HD video; active speaker, thumbnail, grid and floating views; personal rooms; web apps; calendar integrations; instant and scheduled meetings; host meeting controls; Q&A, polling and raise-hand features; interactive whiteboards; unlimited messaging and file sharing; emoji and GIF sharing; mobile screen sharing; and mobile voice command integrations
  • Customer support: Online support only

Starter 

  • Cost: $14.95 per host, per month
  • Meeting participants: Up to 50
  • Cloud storage: 5GB
  • Features: Everything in the free plan, plus recording transcriptions, MP4 meeting recordings, customizable personal room links, the ability to join from a video system or application, user management and administrative controls
  • Customer support: Available during business hours 
  • Optional add-ons: Domestic and international Call Me

Plus 

  • Cost: $19.95 per host, per month
  • Meeting participants: Up to 100
  • Cloud storage: 5GB
  • Features: Everything in the Starter plan, plus the ability to assign alternate hosts (and schedule meetings on behalf of the host), customizable Webex site URL, administrative portal, and analytics and troubleshooting
  • Customer support: 24/7 

Business 

  • Cost: $29.95 per host, per month
  • Host licenses: Minimum of 5 per month
  • Meeting participants: Up to 200
  • Cloud storage: 10GB
  • Features: Everything in the Plus plan, plus branding and customizations, single sign-on, and Microsoft Exchange and Active Directory sync
  • Customer support: 24/7 phone support 
  • If you pay annually rather than monthly, Cisco gives your business a 10% discount and four months free. Monthly paid plan users can get one month of free service upon signing up.

All three paid plans offer both domestic and international Call Me options for an added cost. For domestic callers, the feature is $4 per host, per month. For the international Call Me feature, the cost is $42.25 per host, per month. 

Webex Pros

Webex is an excellent choice for businesses that need both a video conference solution and collaboration platform. The biggest benefit of Webex is that you essentially get two platforms in one: On one side, you have a full video conference service that allows you to host video conferences with large numbers of participants inside and outside your organization. On the other side, you have Webex Teams, which gives you a platform designed specifically to allow your staff to connect with each other. 

With Webex Teams, employees can collaborate on ideas via messaging, video meetings and whiteboarding. Bundling this dedicated digital space with your conference call software saves you money; your business won't need to purchase a subscription to another team-based collaboration program. 

Another plus of Webex is its free service tier that allows up to 100 meeting participants and doesn't limit how long you can host a meeting. Most of the other video conferencing services we looked into that offer free plans have either smaller participant maximums or restrictions on how long each meeting can last.

Webex Cons 

One downside to Webex is the fee for the Call Me feature. Many conferencing services we evaluated include this tool for no extra cost. 

Another negative is that customer support is limited on the free and starter plans. With the free plan, you only have online customer service options, while the starter plan limits you to calling support representatives during regular business hours.

Webex Conference Calling Features

In addition to being the best video conferencing service for collaboration, Webex is the best conference calling service for remote teams.

By allowing users to connect by phone, Webex combines web conferencing and conference calling into one service. This option opens your meetings to people who can't be in front of their computers at the scheduled time, making it great for remote workers or staff whose work takes them out of the office regularly. Webex provides both toll-free and toll numbers, and you can dial in from anywhere around the world.

There are two options for hosting conference calls. One is for the host to log in online. Once the host has connected to the meeting via computer, everyone else can call in. The second option is for the host to choose a separate type of meeting room that allows everyone, including the host, to join by phone.

All Webex users, regardless of the plan they choose, have a dial-in phone option. The system also features many valuable tools that conference call services offer, such as call recording. All meetings can be recorded and shared as MP4A audio files.

Another feature for audio participants is the Call Me tool. With this, audio participants don't have to dial in. Instead, the meeting automatically calls them at the time it is scheduled to start, so they don't have to remember the dial-in number and the access code.

Webex also allows the host to view a list of all the meeting's participants. You can pass along presenter controls so that participants can present ideas, plans and strategies to the other attendees.

View all our recommendations for conference calling services on our best picks page.

Webex Features 

Between Webex Meetings and Webex Teams, there are several features that businesses of all sizes will find valuable, such as 720p HD video, speaker views that automatically shift the display to whoever is speaking, screen or application sharing, and meeting recordings that can be stored in the cloud. 

Webex Meetings has both desktop and mobile apps plus a web app that gives you full control of the conference from your web browser. Meetings can also serve as a conference call service. Everyone invited to attend a meeting gets a dial-in number that allows them to join by phone. While these participants can't see others or anything shared on the screen, they can listen in and share their thoughts. This solution integrates with several popular programs, including Office 365, Outlook and Google Calendar. 

Webex Teams has its own set of features, such as group messaging with notifications, file sharing, and whiteboarding that allows users to add drawings and notes to existing documents for collaboration. 

Customer Support 

We were satisfied with the customer support we received from Webex. We contacted the company by phone and live chat, posing as a business owner interested in video conferencing and conference calling solutions. 

Our call was immediately taken by a helpful representative who answered our questions thoroughly. We were especially pleased with how he explained the difference between Webex Meetings and Webex Teams as well as how they complement each other. We also discussed the various features and the cost structure. 

In addition to being thorough in his answers, the representative was the only one we spoke with during our research on different systems who followed up after our call with an email that included additional information. 

We were also impressed with the service we received over live chat. We were quickly connected with a support agent who answered all our questions in detail, and she sent along several links to articles that provided even more information.

Webex has an impressive website filled with helpful support materials, including training guides and how-to videos.

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Conference Call Services Pricing

Conference call services typically have one of two cost structures. Some charge you on a per-call basis, while others charge a flat monthly fee for unlimited use. 

With pay-as-you-go plans, you pay a per-minute fee for each caller. For a reservationless service, these fees typically range from 2 to 10 cents a minute. Operator-assisted services are more expensive, with per-minute fees of 15 to 30 cents. Remember that these per-minute fees are for each participant on the call. For example, a 30-minute reservationless call with eight callers, including the host, would likely cost between $4.80 and $24. A 30-minute operator-assisted call with 100 participants would cost between $450 and $900. 

Unlimited monthly plans are usually only available with reservationless services. With these plans, you can host any length of meeting as often as you want. Unlimited monthly plans tend to range from $7 to $60 per month. Many conference call providers offer multiple pricing plans that vary in how many people can join a call at one time. 

Depending on the service provider you choose, there might be some extra fees. Some providers charge extra for things like call recording, translations, transcripts and custom greetings.

Free Conference Call Services vs. Paid

Free conference call services are a budget-friendly way to communicate with clients and employees. Although they tend to provide fewer features than paid services, there are plenty of powerful free conference call providers that get the job done.

If you are looking to save money by choosing a free service, make sure you know which features are must-haves and which you can live without. While most free services offer basic features that enable you to conduct conference calls without difficulty, you may find yourself wishing you had the ability to host more callers or save call transcripts.

Free conference call services are just as safe and secure as paid plans. The only difference is that paid plans provide more features and can support more call participants.

Types of Conference Call Services

There are two main types of conference calling services: reservationless and operator-assisted. While the two cover the same basic function of allowing multiple people to be on one conference call at a time, they vary in how they are used and how many people they support. 

  • Reservationless service: This type of service allows you to host conference calls 24/7, with no advanced scheduling needed. Your conference line is always available to you. This type is used for everyday conference calling and generally supports anywhere from 50 to 1,000 callers at a time. It includes valuable tools such as call recording and online host controls. 

  • Operator-assisted service: If your business holds formal conference calls that need a personal touch, choose a provider with operator-assisted services available when you need them. With this type of service, a dedicated representative helps you plan the meeting ahead of time by sending out invites and ensuring the call's itinerary makes sense. During the call, the representative greets callers, gathers their contact information, and manages speakers and Q&A sessions. After the call, they can give you the participant list and a recording and transcript of the call. 

Conference Call Service Features

When you choose a conference call service, it is important to ensure it offers what your business needs. These are the most important features to look for: 

  • Caller limits: Choose a service that can support the number of meeting attendees you have, whether that's five, 10, 50 or several hundred clients. Many reservationless services support several hundred callers, while most operator-assisted services can handle several thousand callers at a time. 

  • Secure calls: Many conference call service providers offer security measures to help keep your business's information safe and secure, such as passwords, encrypted data, and manager permissions to grant or deny access to meeting participants.

  • Call controls: With some services, the host can manage the call from their phone's dial pad; other services allow the host to control the call from an online portal. Both options give the host the ability to mute callers, start call recordings, share their screen, lock the call and end the call. The web controls give the host the added benefit of seeing who is on the call. 

  • Call recording: Most services allow you to record each conference call, but they differ in how the recordings can be played back. Some providers store them in the cloud so those who missed the meeting can listen online or by calling in and accessing a recording over the phone. Other providers allow you to download the recording so you can play it back or email it to others. Some services burn the recording to a CD and mail it to you. 

  • Mobile conference call app: Some conference call services offer a mobile app for iOS and Android devices that makes it simple to schedule, host and participate in conference calls from a mobile device. 

  • International access: If you plan to host conference calls with participants located overseas, make sure the conference call service you choose makes it easy for them to join the call. Many services offer local dial-in numbers in countries around the world. 

  • Calling tools: There are two main calling tools that you may find valuable. One is a dial-out feature that allows you to put your conference on hold and add someone to the meeting by calling them directly. The other is the Call Me option, which has the service call participants when the meeting is scheduled to begin. This removes the necessity of holding on to the dial-in and access numbers.

  • Ease of use: Your conference call service should be easy to use for everyone in your company and anyone else you will be conferencing with. You should be able to schedule a call, invite participants, and use basic features like call recording without difficulty.

  • Call quality: If there is a free trial, use it to determine the call quality. Does the sound come through clearly? Is there any lag time? Is your connection stable throughout the call? If you're using video conferencing, look at the video quality, sound quality and lag time.

  • Integrations: Some conference call services integrate with email and calendar services. These integrations, such as with Microsoft Outlook, simplify the process of scheduling conferences and sending out meeting invites. 

  • Online meetings: Many conference call services include online meeting tools, such as HD video streams and screen sharing. These tools allow you to see everyone who is in the meeting, make presentations visual, or discuss specific documents that everyone can view. 

  • Customer service: Make sure the conference call service provider you choose is available to answer your questions when you need it to be. In addition to offering phone, email and live chat support, some services allow you to contact an operator for help in the middle of a conference call by dialing *0.

Conference Call Frequently Asked Questions

How does a conference call service work?

Conference call services are used to host multiple people on one call at the same time, regardless of where those people are physically located. While most modern communication systems already offer conferencing services, purchasing an additional conference calling service provides you with a dedicated local or toll-free phone number for your conference line.

There are two main types of conference call services: reservationless and operator-assisted. Reservationless calls do not require previous scheduling and are used for everyday communication. Operator-assisted calls are generally used for more formal calls or calls with a large number of participants, with a live operator who helps run the call.

How do conference call services benefit remote workers?

Conference call services provide several benefits to remote workers, mainly easy communication with everyone in their company and anyone else they work with. A good conference call service makes it simple for workers to connect with each other and increase their productivity.

How many people can join conference calls?

The number of participants you can have on a conference call depends on which service and which of its plans you choose. Some companies can support thousands of attendees, usually on operator-assisted calls, and most reservationless calls can at least support hundreds.

How do you organize a conference call?

The process of setting up a conference call varies by the service you use and the type of call (reservationless or operator-assisted). However, the basic steps are to schedule the call, invite participants, and send out the information they will need to join the call, such as time, date, and link or dial-in number.

Are there free conference call services?

Yes. Vendors that offer free services include FreeConferenceCall.com, Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts and UberConference. However, some of these free services don't offer all of the extensive features and tools that many paid services do. In addition, many free services only offer reservationless services and not operator-assisted conferences.

How secure are conference call services?

With many employees working remotely and spending more time using these services, there have been significant efforts by conference call service providers to bolster security. Among the security measures conference call services use are call encryption, access codes, passwords and privilege assignments.

Does your business need a conference call service?

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly increased the number of companies using conference call services to get work done. Companies with remote workers, or employees that work from different locations around the country (or world) also benefit from using a conference call service. While every business's needs differ, if your company conducts routine meetings and some of your employees or clients are remote, a conferencing solution is a convenient, effective way to stay up to date on current work projects and companywide communication.

Is a conference call a video call?

While many conference calling services do offer video support, they are technically separate, one referred to as conference calling and the other video conferencing. Video conferencing is generally offered as its own service.

How much do conference call services cost?

While conference calling service pricing varies by provider, most providers follow one of two main pricing structures: pay-as-you-go and monthly plans. Pay-as-you-go plans generally cost 2 to 10 cents per minute, and monthly plans range from $7 to $60 per month.

How can you improve your conference calls?

There are many ways to make the most of your conference calls. You should create and share an agenda for the call with all participants beforehand so everyone knows what to prepare for. You should also set a time limit, and make sure all participants have accurate dial-in information so they can easily access the call. During the call, ask everyone who is not speaking to mute themselves (or do it for them, as some systems allow) to reduce background noise and interruptions.

What to Expect in 2021

In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic forced many companies – and their employees – to adjust to working remotely. Companies across the country invested in video and conference calling systems to keep business running as smoothly as possible, despite the huge impact the pandemic had across virtually every professional sector.

While video calls became the norm through the pandemic, many began to experience "Zoom fatigue." Now, many professionals are scheduling audio-only calls to reduce the effects of "Zoom fatigue" among staff members. Many experts, including researchers from Stanford University, recommend spacing out video calls, turning your camera off during a portion of your meetings (or not using the full-screen option), and turning away from your screen.

In addition to a resurgence in audio-only calls, conference calling services are using artificial intelligence (AI) technology, which will likely expand throughout 2021. Many companies use AI during conference calls to take notes and capture the key points of the call.  

One phone system and conference call service provider, Dialpad, has introduced this technology with its services. In 2019, Dialpad acquired TalkIQ, a provider of speech recognition and predictive analytics technology. With this tech, Dialpad (which also offers UberConference) unveiled Voice intelligence. The new feature provides real-time call transcriptions and end-of-call summaries that include action items, follow-ups, and important moments. 

While Dialpad is one of the first services to build AI into its core platform (AI is becoming more prominent in a wide range of B2B services and software), we expect other providers to follow suit, as competition among conference call companies is fierce.

Methodology

To help you find the best conference calling service for your business, we extensively researched and analyzed a wide pool of companies. Here's how we arrived at our best picks.

Locating the Best Services

To determine the best conference calling services, we started by looking at a comprehensive list of nearly 30 conference call service providers. We pared that list down by focusing on vendors that have solid online reputations, such as services with consistently high rankings on other websites. 

Choosing the Best Services

We visited each company's website from our initial list of 30. If a company stood out to us, we added it to the short list. We eventually narrowed the pool of contenders to 17 service providers: Arkadin, AT Conference, ConferenceCalls.com, ConferenceTown.com, FreeConference.com, FreeConferenceCall.com, FreeConferencePro, Infinite Conferencing, InterCall, No Cost Conference, PGi, RingCentral, Totally Free Conference Calls, UberConference, Vast Conference, Webex and Zip Conferencing. 

Researching Each Service

We continued to research each contender by investigating its services, watching tutorials and how-to videos, testing out the service when possible, and reading user comments. After narrowing the list down even further, we contacted the customer support team of each finalist, posing as business owners to gauge the service each provider offers its users.

Analyzing Each Service

Ultimately, we analyzed each system based on its type of services (reservationless, operator-assisted or both), call controls, call recording, features, integrations, mobile apps, cost and pricing structure, customer support, international access, and Better Business Bureau complaints and rating. 

Kiely Kuligowski
Kiely Kuligowski
Business News Daily Staff
Kiely Kuligowski is a business.com and Business News Daily writer and has written more than 200 B2B-related articles on topics designed to help small businesses market and grow their companies. Kiely spent hundreds of hours researching, analyzing and writing about the best marketing services for small businesses, including email marketing and text message marketing software. Additionally, Kiely writes on topics that help small business owners and entrepreneurs boost their social media engagement on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Other Services Considered

AnyMeeting: AnyMeeting by Intermedia is a web conferencing service that includes conference calling for up to 200 callers. Your AnyMeeting account includes a conference call number and PIN codes for you and your attendees. Pro subscribers can provide their attendees a U.S. toll-free number to call for their meetings. As a conference call host, you'll have full call controls, including the ability to mute and unmute attendees, lock the call, and control entry and exit chimes. anymeeting.com 

Arkadin: Arkadin offers both reservationless and operator-assisted conference calling services. Arkadin Anytime, the reservationless service, hosts meetings with up to 100 participants and features call recording, one-time PINs and phone keypad controls. The operator-assisted service provides a dedicated representative who helps plan and manage your conference call. arkadin.com 

AT Conference: AT Conference is a completely on-demand conference call service that allows you to conduct calls 24/7 using any landline or mobile phone. It has an easy-to-use platform with cloud conferencing tools. AT Conference also offers operator-assisted conference calling services. atconference.com 

Civicom: Civicom offers both on-demand and operator-assisted conference calling services. The on-demand service supports up to 2,500 callers, while the operator-assisted service can host meetings with as many as 5,000 callers. Features include call recording, full host controls, secure entry, pre-conference green rooms, hands-free conference entry and instant call summary reports. civi.com 

ConferenceCalls.com: ConferenceCalls.com's audio conferencing is easy to use, and its reservationless conference calls require no contracts or commitments. It has local access coverage in over 20 countries, along with toll-free access and global dial-out options. The reservationless service supports calls with up to 50 people and lets you record calls. Operator-assisted conference calling is also available. conferencecalls.com 

Conference Calls Unlimited: Conference Calls Unlimited provides phone conferencing, web conferencing and operator-attended services. The company offers custom pay-per-use and monthly pricing. The on-demand service is available 24/7 and includes call recordings. conferencecallsunlimited.com 

ConferTel: ConferTel by Civicom offers on-demand, unassisted audio conferencing for everyday use as well as operator-assisted services for large-scale, high-profile conference calls that require special attention and white-glove concierge services. Features include call recording, custom greetings and transcripts. confertel.net 

ConferenceTown.com: ConferenceTown.com was developed to offer free conference calling to both corporations and casual users. It allows you to start a free conference instantly, without registering or signing up. The service supports up to 5,000 callers at a time and records calls for no charge. conferencetown.com 

FreeConference.com: FreeConference.com offers a complete set of free audio and web conferencing features, including international dial-ins, moderator controls, call summaries, screen sharing, call recording and SMS notifications. The reservationless service can host calls with up to 400 participants at a time. freeconference.com 

Free Conference Calling: Free Conference Calling is a reservationless conference call service that allows you to host meetings on demand with up to 1,000 callers. The service features call reports and an online conference manager. freeconferencecalling.com 

Free Conference Pro: Free Conference Pro is a free, full-featured audio conferencing service. You can make unlimited conference calls without paying for any bridging time. Both on-demand and scheduled conferencing is available, and both options can support up to 800 callers at one time. freeconferencepro.com 

Infinite Conferencing: Infinite Conferencing offers reservationless and operator-assisted conference calling services. The reservationless service, which supports up to 100 callers, includes dual passcodes, international dialing, dial-out, call recording and mobile apps. infiniteconferencing.com 

InstantConference: InstantConference is a reservationless conference call service that can support up to 150 participants on each call. The web-based moderator controls let the meeting host monitor attendance and activate call features, such as recording the call or changing the muting configuration. An online control panel displays available caller ID information, and you can ping individual participants to take roll call. instantconference.com 

InterCall: InterCall's Reservationless-Plus service does not require reservations or operators. You control the conference commands from your telephone keypad, and you can select English, Spanish or Portuguese for your system prompts. In addition, you can use the Conferencing Center to manage your account and conference calls online. InterCall also offers customized features and operator-assisted services. intercallonline.com/ResPlus 

No Cost Conference: No Cost Conference provides instant, unlimited, automated conference calls that are free and take place over regular telephone lines (including cell phones) – no computer or internet access is required. The conference call services are available 24/7 with no scheduling. Callers may also access conferences via VoIP services like Skype. The service can host up to 500 callers at one time. nocostconference.com 

OnConference: OnConference is a conference call service with toll-free access in more than 100 countries. No reservations or advanced bookings are required, and you can host up to 96 participants. You get your own dedicated access codes, and the service features call recording. onconference.com 

PGi: PGi's GlobalMeet offers both reservationless and operator-assisted options. The reservationless service features call recording and web controls. The operator-assisted service helps you plan and run the conference calls. Customer support is available 24/7. pgi.com/globalmeet-audio-conferencing 

QConf: QConf is a reservationless conference call service that features unlimited conferencing minutes, call recording, Outlook and Google integrations, branded welcome messages, custom invitations, real-time controls, and SMS reminders. qconf.com 

Toll Free Conference: Toll Free Conference offers both reservationless and operator-assisted conference calling services. Reservationless meetings can host up to 300 callers, while the operator-assisted service can support up to 6,000 participants at a time. The service features call recording, web-based call management and a conference call reporting platform. tollfreeconference.com 

Totally Free Conference Calls: Totally Free Conference Calls allows you to host a conference whenever you want, no reservations required. Free calls support up to 500 callers at a time; for a nominal fee, you can increase the limit to 10,000. Features include an echo canceler, full web controls, call recording, scheduled replays, presentation mode, Q&A mode and reports of the call's details. totallyfreeconferencecalls.com 

TurboBridge: TurboBridge provides a conference calling service where all parties dial in to the system. No special equipment is required, and most callers dial in with a standard landline or mobile phone, though you can also connect through a computer. The service can host meetings with up to 300 callers at one time. Call recording is available for no extra charge. turbobridge.com 

UberConference: UberConference by Dialpad is a reservationless conference calling service that allows you to launch meetings from the office, at home or on the go with any device. It features screen sharing, call controls, custom hold music, Call Me tools, call recording, dial-out options, international calling, and mobile apps for iOS and Android devices. uberconference.com 

Zip Conferencing: Zip Conferencing offers reservationless and operator-assisted conference calling services. The reservationless service, which can host meetings with up to 300 callers, includes call recording, customizable settings, call blocking and multiple-presenter controls. The operator-assisted service can host meetings with up to 3,000 participants. zipconferencing.com

Image Credit: AndreyPopov / Getty Images
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