Conference Calling: The Original Virtual Business Meeting

The original virtual meeting, teleconferencing or audio conferencing emerged as a commercially available service in the early 1990s and predates the birth of the World Wide Web.  Initial service offerings were operator assisted only where each caller dialed a toll free or local number and was greeted by an operator who took information about the caller and then placed them into their scheduled conference call.  A conference call recording could be requested and made available for later playback to callers who were not able to attend the meeting or to review the meeting content.  All such calls were scheduled in advance with the Conference Service Provider (CSP).  The cost of such calls was much higher than today primarily due to the required operator assistance the cost of telephone circuits and toll free service, thus applications were limited to high level meetings and quarterly updates for public companies, as examples.

In the mid-1990s new conference call services emerged.  These new services were more automated in that they used a passcode entered by the caller via touch tones on their telephone keypad (DTMF).  Once the passcode was automatically validated the caller was entered into the correct conference call negating the need for an operator to answer every call and eventually eliminated the need to schedule the conference call in advance.  This automated service became known by names such as meet-me, passcode, reservationless and unattended teleconference calls.   Callers that were unable to enter a passcode for any reason would continue to be assisted by an operator.  At the same time telecommunications services such as digital circuits and toll free calling rates began to decrease in step with long distance calling rates, such that the combination of an automated service and lower costs per minute for toll free access began to dramatically reduced the per minute cost of teleconference calling, making it a much more accessible service to all levels of for profit and nonprofit organizations.

Although many additional features, enhancements and functionality have been added to the suite of services for conference calling, the passcode based unattended conference remains at the core of all teleconferencing services today.

Mercuri offers a complete suite of teleconferencing service for both unattended passcode based conference calls and fully operator assisted event calls.  Mercuri’s audio conferencing service features include:  On demand recording and webcasting (streaming), global local and toll free accesses, Call Me, SecureCall TM for extra call security, dial out, project codes, simultaneous translation services, online account administration, recording management and billing, online conference viewer for the host, a scheduling and management tool for Microsoft Outlook, and much more. Mercuri has heavily invested in the development of technology that “just works”, and avoided the pit falls of using browser add-ons, add-ins and plug-ins such as Flash and Java.

Leave a Reply