Yesterday I found myself with a project and no easy way to solve a problem. I needed to get three other people on a phone conversation, my service does not support Conference Calls, and even if it did I doubt that I could figure out the million buttons to press to get everyone on the line.

A couple of years ago I was invited to participate in a similar adventure and the audio quality was horrible, and that is being kind! It was a VOIP nightmare. There was lag and the ‘simplex’ nature of the beast made it even more frustrating. I can not remember the name of the service, but that likely is a good thing for the company involved.

Last night I decided to have another kick at the ‘Conference Call’ cat. Of course I was not willing to pay for it so I did a google search on ‘free conference calls’. There are lots of services available, but the one that caught my attention was InstantConference.com. I poked around the fairly stark web site and discovered that they do not use VOIP, they use real hardware. I liked that. I poked around some more, I was looking for the catch. In my mind there is always a catch, but I could not see one. Sure everyone has to dial a toll number, but the folks I hang out with all have free long distance. Without that we would all be facing 4 digit phone bills every month! Journalists make a lot of calls.

I signed up with InstantConference.com but I had some reservations. Could they really provide the goods? Unfortunately I had no chance to run a test, the people I needed to talk with were unavailable, I was flying blind.

The call was set for 1pm eastern, and it was with trepidation that I launched into it. As the ‘moderator’ I wanted to be there first. I called the supplied number a couple of minutes early, entered my access code and prayed. The first caller turned up shortly after. The quality of audio was outstanding. I could tell that this was a far cry from my nasty VOIP experience.  The other two folks joined a couple of minutes later. There was no degradation in quality.

I did want to record the call, and asked the participants if they had any objections. There was none, so I hit the code on my phone, InstantConferance has a great feature, if you want to record a call they inform everyone involved and they must consent by pressing a key on their phone. This gives explicit rather than implicit consent, a great feature.

About 40 minutes into our conversation I got disconnected, I do not think it was a problem with InstantConference, rather it was a problem at my end. I dialed back in and was informed that this call was being recorded, if I wanted to join press 1. I liked this feature a great deal. In the back of my mind I was playing the scenario of what would happen if I host a call and start the recording feature before my subject(s) join. This showed me the answer. This is not a snoop system.

We concluded our discussion, and then I went in search of the recording. All of the participants wanted access. I won’t share the subject matter, but it is one that we have a mutual interest in, a crime story that is in the national news every day.

I searched around the web site for a way to find the recording. I came up blank. I had been impressed with the service up till now, it was easy to use, the audio quality was great, but were they going to let me down on the recording?

I fired off an email to Tech Support, this tends to be a pretty sketchy arena for free stuff. Within 10 minutes I had the answer. It takes about an hour or so to process the audio and convert it to a downloadable format. I would get an email when it was ready.

I did, I can chose to download the audio, or I can listen to a replay on my phone.

InstantConference has found a convert in Simon Barrett. Great quality of product, great support, what more could you ask for?

This is a service I will be using in the future.

Simon Barrett

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