Mobile Conference Calls: Taking It On The Road

mobile conference

When you say conference call, most people believe you will be in an office to take the call. However, chances are these days you may be in an airport, a hotel room or in your car sitting in a parking lot between appointments. Today’s small business owner is often on the road, in the field or juggling tasks from a warehouse floor. Since it isn’t always possible to be in the perfect indoor location, below are some mobile conference tools and recommendations to keep the communication flowing, clear and safe.

We checked in with Judi Hembrough, Small Business Marketing Director of Plantronics, for some additional insights into  mobile warrior practices:

Mobile Conference Tips

1. Make Sure Your Web Conferencing Platform Works With Your Device(s)

If you’re going to be doing a Web demonstration, webinar or screensharing, you’ll most likely be using a Web confereing solution.  The big and little guys that offer Web conferencing solutions are quickly embracing mobile. You’ll see Cisco’s WebEx and Citrix’s GoToMeeting, as well as smaller companies such as AnyMeeting and MeetingBurner, offering an iPad app.

When doing a  Web demonstration or interactive screen sharing, most of the time you’ll be using a tablet.  You could do it on a mobile phone, too, I suppose, although that seems pretty risky to me. It would be a lot of scrolling around using a tiny smartphone screen!  Plus, incoming calls could be disruptive.

It’s imperative that a Web conferencing solution be compatible with whatever devices you are using.  Test them in advance.  The last thing you need is to have an appointment with a prospective client to do a sales presentation in 2 minutes, only to discover that you are having trouble downloading the Web conferencing software or that it won’t recognize your headset, or some other issue.  It will fluster you, at a time when you most want to feel centered, calm and in control.

2. Use Hands-Free Devices

Sure, you can hold that phone or tablet to your ear, or you can use a built-in microphone/speakers in the device, but it makes sense today to have a hands-free device.  There are several advantages to using a hands-free headset, as Judi Hembrough notes:

  • Untethered operation:  With a hands-free headset, you of course can be more productive with both hands free to manipulate a mouse to move around the screen, take notes, or whatever else you need two hands for.  Beyond that, however, being hands-free allows you to physically move around if you need to access information from a file folder or simply to stretch your legs.
  • Optimized sound quality:  Hembrough notes, “I find that I can hear a lot better and have a much more effective conversation from a transmit perspective, having a headset that’s fairly close to your mouth.”
  • Safety: “Safety could be an issue as well. If you’re in the car, you want to be careful to make sure that you’re being safe. Be … hands-free,” says Hembrough. Here’s a study showing increased driver safety when using headsets.  And of course, if you are driving you would be on an audio-only conference, right?  (Certainly you would!)  Note that 10 states have outlawed handheld phone usage while driving.  So it is against the law to hold a phone in one hand while trying to drive with the other in those states, in any event.

Make sure you have the right hands-free tools at your disposal.  As I mentioned, there are products in the portable speaker phone arena that can turn a hotel room or corner of a quiet coffee shop into your own little conference room. Most of these work with a laptop or a mobile phone via Bluetooth. If your laptop does not have Bluetooth, many of the speakers offer a USB dongle-type device that you simply plug in and synchronize with the portable speaker.

I use a Plantronics Voyager Legend, but I also have one of their speakerphones, the Calisto 620, which doubles as a mini speaker for your own private hotel music system. These two items allow me to have crisp, clear calls with ease on the road. (Note: I had these two items even before being commissioned to write this article by Small Business Trends.)

3. Get a Special App, Visit the App Stores

I have to say that this one special app is part of what sold me on the hands-free Legend – Plantronics has a free conference call app called InstantMeeting for mobile devices for iOS, Android and BlackBerry, which automatically identifies conference calls in your Outlook Calendar and uploads the date, time, phone number and password attached to each conference call. I’d love to see some hooks to the Google Calendar interface at some point.

How it works: You receive an alert on your app when it’s time for the conference call, and with the touch of a button, the app dials in and enters your password, automatically putting you right into the call. This is a big “painkiller,” in my book, because half the challenge of a conference call is finding all that information to log on successfully.

With today’s powerful mobile devices, you don’t have to stay tethered to an office or one location to have a successful Web conference or conference call. With a few apps or additions to your mobile phone, iPad or Android-based tablet, you can find that you are just as productive in your prospect’s office or at home in your office.

Let us know in the comments what gadgets or apps make your conference calls or Web demonstrations more successful.

Headset Travel Photo via Shutterstock