Ted on Tech: Getting conference calls right

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A few months ago I discussed using Skype to video call. To be honest, I use whatever application is compatible with that used by the person I need to conference with, be it Skype, Cisco WebEx, or something else such as Blue Jeans which was something I had never heard of prior to having to use it recently.

But more often than not, my conferences take place with an emphasis on audio. I could certainly use Skype for that, and have, but it’s not really ideal for audio conference calls. There are plenty of conferencing services if I’m willing to pay for them, but that’s an expense I’d rather forgo if possible.

Recently, an associate suggested UberConference. I’d never hear of it, but since I’m on several projects that require a lot of conference calls, and UberConference is free, I figured “Why not?”

First time out, I was hooked. UberConference has a lot going for it. The fact that it’s a free service, offered by conference call vendor Dialpad, is a major plus. But it also handles up to 10 participants on a call, and provides a call-in number and PIN code for those calling in with a phone and a web link if your caller is using a PC. It’s easy to set up an UberConference call and issue invitations, and you can add callers on the fly while the conference call is in progress.

What I really like and find ultra-useful is that you can record the conference just by hitting a “record” button and download the .mp3 file at the end of the call. I then use a service called Rev.com to transcribe the call. Rev costs a dollar a minute, but they do a very accurate job and generally turn the transcript around in 12 hours or less.

UberConference also offers a share screen capability, which is nice, though the recording process doesn’t capture the screen. The screen that’s displayed while the call is in conference shows who is connected and who is speaking. If you need more capability, you can always upgrade to the paid service. So far, the free option has worked great for my needs.

Speak into the earpiece

I hate using my iPhone. It’s an iPhone 6S, and the third iPhone I’ve owned. I keep getting one a generation behind when one of my sons upgrades his phone and passes his old one down to me. I’ve owned other cell phones before my iPhone run, including several BlackBerrys, and been more or less happy with all of them. But for some reason, I can’t really hear the conversation on my iPhones very well. Some of that is just that my hearing is getting worse with the years. But some of that is that the iPhones I have just don’t seem to work well unless I’m in my car, where the phone is paired by Bluetooth with the car’s audio system. Unfortunately, I can’t run out to the car every time I need to make or receive a call.

My wife, who is the smart one in our marriage, recently suggested that I try a Bluetooth earpiece. So a few emails later I was in receipt of earpieces from Plantronics and Jabra, both very well known for their earphones and headphones, especially in the call center market. Jabra sent their Eclipse and Plantronics sent a Voyager Edge.

I have to admit that wearing a Bluetooth headphone is taking me some time to get used to. I don’t yet feel comfortable having it my ear all day long, so a good amount of the day, it’s sitting next to my keyboard waiting for me to make an outgoing call or take an incoming one. But the call quality on both the Jabra and Plantronics earphones is exceptional, and makes the iPhone actually bearable to use. So much so that I’m seriously considering getting rid of my landline, which for the most part just receives incoming telemarketing calls that I don’t bother answering.

When I get the chance, I want to put the Speak 710 portable speakerphone to the test. I think it might work well as an alternative to a Bluetooth earphone when I’m at my desk. The two headphone/mic combos might be the answer for the PC on which I use UberConference and Skype. At the moment, I’m using a set of noise-canceling headphones which aren’t particularly comfortable and the microphone in the Logitech C820 webcam. The headphone/mic combos can actually be replaced for some calls by just pairing one of the in-ear Bluetooth sets I have. But for long duration calls (an hour or more), I think they may be more comfortable. I’ll find out and let you know.

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