A conference bridge connects teams by allowing them to communicate on a dedicated line that serves as a virtual meeting space. The functionality is similar to a conference call; however, a host is not required to initiate the call and add callers to the meeting. Instead, each caller dials the number directly to join the meeting. Sometimes, a PIN is required to show that the callers were invited to use the meeting space.
How Conference Bridges Work
The same voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) business phone features you use for virtual meetings are those used during a conference bridge call. Since conferencing is becoming a more popular means of communication for businesses and up to 89% of users feel it helps complete tasks, the number of bonus features you can use during these calls is increasing as well. For example, most providers will offer the following in addition to conference bridge services:
- Video conferencing: When it comes to team collaboration, video conferencing stands at the forefront of the required features you will need. Being able to see the faces of your colleagues, especially if the conversation is emotional or requires the team to make a difficult decision, can help make the call much more productive. With video conferencing, you see and hear who is speaking, but you can also see how participants receive the information presented to them.
- File transfer: Sharing files is a major part of collaboration for businesses as well. Sharing important documents with other people is simplified because file transfer allows the document to go to multiple people without worrying about potential security issues. File transfers within a conference also provide transmission receipts, so you know attendees have received them.
- Screen sharing: Since working remotely has become the new normal for business, screen sharing allows team members to see what is being presented or referenced. This process is much more straightforward than connecting a laptop to a projector for everyone in a conference room to see. Anyone who joins the meeting can share their screen with others in the call, making collaboration on projects easier to manage.
- Record meetings: When an important meeting is being held, many businesses will want to record the information to be reviewed later. It is also a great way to share the information with anyone who cannot attend the meeting. Instead of using an external recording device, you simply press a record button. After the meeting, the recording will be stored in the cloud. From here, the link generated by the meeting can be used so that those who missed the meeting can see what was covered or those who need to review what was discussed have an easy way to do so.
What Makes Conference Bridges So Popular?
In business, staying connected has never been so important. Being able to use conference bridges for this purpose streamlines the process and makes communication more efficient. Some of the reasons your business should take advantage of using conference bridges include:
- Remote work convenience: Businesses have always had people working from home, but since the 2020 pandemic, exponentially more people are working remotely. In fact, based on research done by Forbes, the percentage of workers doing work almost exclusively from home is expected to double this year. With conference bridges, no one needs to meet in a physical location for meetings, and special hardware is not required to connect. In fact, you can use your phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer to join the meeting, no matter where you are located.
- Budget-friendliness: Maintaining a budget is essential for business, and many of the best business phone systems for VoIP include conference bridge services in their subscription packages. If the provider you use does not offer free conference bridge usage, there are several low-cost or free conference call services you could use. Using a conference bridge to collaborate eliminates the need for your business to spend money on travel costs and venues for corporate events.
- Ease of use: Not every member of your team has the tech skills needed to connect to a conference call. When you use a conference bridge, joining is more straightforward. In most cases, you simply call in to a number on a landline, smartphone, or VoIP phone. This alleviates some of the confusion and stress that joining a conference may bring. In fact, sometimes all you need to do is click a link in an invitation email to automatically dial the number for the call.
- Time savings: Since using a conference bridge removes the need for a host to dial the numbers of the people attending your meeting, it saves time. Misdials happen less frequently as well when the same number is used to connect to the call.
- Added security: Security is a top priority for businesses that deal with sensitive information, and using a conference bridge to make calls and share files ensures that shared information is kept confidential. Most calls are secured with either a password or a PIN, but many conference bridge services also encrypt any data that is sent so that your sensitive company information remains secure. Some services also allow you to remove attendees when sensitive information is being shared.
Phone Systems That Support Conference Bridge Services
Being able to quickly and easily establish a conference bridge brings with it a variety of business benefits. Still, the ways that VoIP providers handle conference bridges can vary significantly. To make it easy for you to find a provider that fits your business needs, we’ve highlighted three VoIP providers with conference bridge features.
RingCentral is both a VoIP and unified communications provider. So in your account, you not only have calling features but features designed to facilitate communication between colleagues as well.
With RingCentral, your company has a single, dedicated audio conferencing bridge with a dial-in phone number for access from any device. Every user is then assigned a code that they use to invite participants. This allows for multiple simultaneous and separate conferences on a single conference bridge.
Conference calls through RingCentral have several key features to consider:
- Six-hour conferences: RingCentral allows for conferences lasting up to six hours, and there’s no limit on the number of conferences you can host on a single bridge.
- International conferences: The provider allows for the hosting of meetings with attendees from more than 40 countries.
- Attendees from outside the organization: With RingCentral, you set up access codes for your conference bridge. You can also set any conference to “open,” which allows anyone with the number or link to join your bridge.
As part of the GoTo suite of products from LogMeIn, GoToConnect has several conference-friendly features that make it one of the best conference call services in VoIP. Audio conferencing is built into even the most basic tier, and as you progress through plan levels, the provider allows for increasing participant counts.
Conference bridges on GoToConnect have features including 20-participant counts, conference call recording, and visual conferencing. Here’s a breakdown of each conference bridge feature:
- 20-participant conferences: Per active call, GoToConnect allows up to 20 attendees to join a meeting via computer, VoIP phone, landline, or smart device.
- Conference call recording: When you can record calls, it’s much easier for attendees to track things like action items, and it also provides a record to refer to at later dates.
- Visual conferencing: While this may sound like video conferencing, it’s a user interface (UI) feature that makes conference bridges more interactive. GoToConnect provides a visual element on your screen that displays each meeting participant. As the conference organizer, you have the option to mute or remove attendees. You can also quickly tell who is talking and add any participants at will.
When new parties enter the conference bridge, all participants are automatically notified. Additionally, while on a call, the organizer can expand the attendee count up to the full 20 if needed. For those who prefer anonymity, “whisper mode” can be enabled in the eavesdrop feature set to allow any attendee to be hidden.
Dialpad’s conferencing software is Dialpad Meetings, and conference calls are free to all users beginning from their initial Standard tier. Plans start at $15 per user, per month, making this provider a good option for conferencing colleagues.
Dialpad Meetings makes creating conference bridges simple, and the provider prides itself on the fact that you’ll never need a PIN to join a conference. Like the other providers we covered here, Dialpad Meetings allows you to join and create conferences on PCs, laptops, and smartphones.
Even without a PIN, Dialpad Meetings has several key features that add convenience:
- Lock the call: If you want no further participants to join you can lock the call, and you can unlock it when you want more attendees. This is valuable when discussing confidential information with your meeting participants.
- Evict participants: Similar to locking the call when discussing confidential topics, you can also evict participants using Dialpad Meetings.
- Organizer call hold and participant view: You also have the option to place participants on hold until the organizer arrives. Additionally, the organizer can also use a browser tab or the app to actively see which participants are on the call.
This kind of technology adds convenience, especially when considering that much of modern-day business is conducted virtually. Now is a great time to embrace a VoIP provider with conference bridge services; many fold the technology into their base plans, and you can start to use it immediately. Providers like RingCentral also make it easy to set up multiple conferences on a single bridge, which adds convenience and efficiency to your teams.