While dial-in conference calls can feel like relics of long-gone civilizations, there are still plenty of reasons for keeping them in your back pocket as a way to connect with your team remotely.
Dial-Ins Are Dead. Or So You Thought
Dial-in conferencing certainly has its share of drawbacks compared to newer tech; you can’t see your teammates or clients during calls, you can’t share your screens, and you probably need a conference bridge or a dial-in number just to get it to work.
But with more tech complexity comes more potential points of failure. For instance, internet-based video conferencing can fail if someone’s internet is down or if one participant isn’t able to get in front of a camera. Even something as simple as a software update can delay a video call.
Dial-in conferencing, however, avoids many of these problems by offering an internet-free communication method as the perfect backup plan.
Think of a classic car. It has no heated seats, no fancy touchscreens, and no self-driving capabilities. But it does have physical buttons and knobs that’ll still work even if the car’s computer goes down. All you need in order to drive it from point A to point B is gas in the tank, a working engine, and a functional transmission.
That’s the role dial-in conference calls can play in your company’s meetings. It’s basic, but it’s there when video conferencing and other modern methods don’t work.
Seven Reasons Why Dial-In Conference Calls Aren’t Dead. Yet
In a pure office setting, old-fashioned meetings and the occasional video conference are usually all you need. After all, most meetings will happen in person, in a physical room.
But remote and hybrid settings are different. Some teammates might be in different time zones, juggling family and work, and so on. This, among several other areas, is where dial-in conferencing can shine.
1. It Offers a Great Substitute for Unreliable Internet
Not every place on earth has the luxury of reliable high-speed internet. Some places lack internet access entirely, especially rural areas. However, it’s very likely that these areas still have landlines and basic cell service. If that’s true, dial-in conferencing becomes a very viable option, if not the only one.
On the other hand, certain dense locations can have painfully slow connections. A great example of this is when you have a thousand people connecting to the same free airport Wi-Fi at the same time. Video calls can eat up a lot of bandwidth, so traveling team members will often have to miss out on meetings. In these cases, a dial-in conference may provide a better option.
Similarly, if there’s ever a teammate who loses internet due to a power outage or a problem with their ISP, it’s likely that they can still get on a dial-in call.
2. It Delivers Hands-Free Convenience
Dial-in conference calling can be done hands-free. That’s much more convenient and efficient than having to sit down at your home office and be there the whole time in front of a camera. If you have anyone working from home, they can leave their phone at their desk and stay on the line as they’re doing something else.
In fact, for some teammates, dial-in is the only way to keep them involved during meetings. For example, say you have a traveling sales representative who is on the road a lot and can’t safely jump into a video call while driving. They could, however, dial into a hands-free conference call to listen and contribute.
3. It’s Versatile
Video conferences can often be slowed down by invites that can get lost in inboxes, trouble with hardware and software, and waiting for everyone to sit at their desks. As a result, spur-of-the-moment meetings are often much easier to accomplish with dial-in conference calls because they’re much simpler to set up than video conferences.
For a dial-in conference, all you have to do is let everyone know you’re having a conference call and tell them to dial in. People don’t have to be at their computers to join the call—which is perfect for urgent matters.
4. It’s Budget-Friendly
Dial-in conferencing can save your organization a nice chunk of change.
For one, since calls aren’t made over internet connections, you won’t have to use additional bandwidth. This keeps data costs low and saves more room for other internet uses. If your business needs to be very frugal, prioritizing dial-in conferencing could even help you make a money-saving downgrade to a lower plan with your internet provider.
Depending on your organization’s needs, you can also cancel particular video call software subscriptions and cut your costs even more.
Hardware costs come down, too. Dial-in conferencing requires a phone, phone service, and a headset at most. No need for pricey cameras or audio equipment.
Finally, it’s not hard to train employees for dial-in calling. If they know how to dial numbers on their phones, they’re already 90% of the way there. That means fewer training expenses. It also means you won’t have to pull team members off their jobs to train other employees.
5. It’s Technologically Inclusive
People vary in their tech savviness. Some modern methods might be tougher for certain employees to figure out. Others may not like doing video calls at all.
Dial-in conferencing saves the day here. It’s generally easier to get working than video conferencing and also accommodates all preferences regarding personal privacy.
6. It’s Secure and Private
Modern communication technologies often come with more convenience at the expense of additional security risks. Dial-in conferencing gives you a private and secure environment for discussing sensitive matters.
Along with encryptions and authentications, perhaps the simplest example of a privacy benefit of dial-in conferencing is the sheer lack of video. People in the call can’t see you, and depending on what’s behind you at your desk, that may protect your company’s image. At the very least, it protects everyone’s personal privacy.
The same goes for screen sharing. It’s way too easy to accidentally share your screen before closing out windows with passwords, bank information, and other sensitive info. Dial-in conference calls render this worry moot.
All this, of course, makes it easier for industries with strict privacy regulations to comply with said regulations.
7. It Helps With Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity
Disasters happen. Power outages, storms, security breaches, and other events can cause all communication channels to go down, threatening business continuity. In many cases, phone towers are protected well enough or situated far enough away to work through it.
For example, say you have an office and team members in Florida and a hurricane damages the office and knocks out power and internet in the area. You can’t meet at the office or do video conferencing in such a situation. However, you can still arrange a dial-in conference to keep in touch, assess the situation, and carry out your continuity plan.
Perhaps a cyber attack disables your company computers. Instead of giving into the demands of cybercriminals to get those computers back, you can just meet via phone conferences while a trained security team works on restoring your data. Dial-in conferencing offers a low-tech, confidential space to discuss things like the breach’s impact, how to mitigate it, and how to bolster defenses against future attacks.
Here’s How to Dial In When You Hate Dialing In
Even though its technology is technically outdated, dial-in conferencing doesn’t have to be clunky and hard to use.
All you need to do is call a dedicated dial-in number, punch in an access code, and boom—you’re in the conference. That’s about as fast and easy as booting up your computer.
And again, there are many ways that new methods can go wrong. Video meeting invites can get lost in your inbox. You might sign in with your personal account instead of a work account and get blocked from entering the video call. Cameras, mics, and speakers could randomly stop working. Software updates can strike at the most annoying times, causing you to be late and push the meeting behind schedule.
What You Need for Dial-In Conference Calls
Getting started with dial-in conferencing isn’t hard, but you will need a few things to set up a conference call.
A Dedicated Dial-In Number
A dedicated dial-in number is a phone number you have to call to join the meeting. It removes the need to remember complex access codes or do multiple bouts of dialing.
You can record a customized, professional message that greets dial-in participants when they punch in the number. Team members will know they called the correct number, while clients and customers will be impressed by the sense of cohesiveness and professionalism.
You can get dedicated numbers for callers in different geographic locations, too. This lets team members, clients, customers, and other stakeholders dial in seamlessly while avoiding international tolls.
Several hardware options are out there, letting you customize your dial-in setup to your organization’s needs.
Here are some of your choices for setting up your dial-in hardware:
- Bring Your Own Device (BYOD): This involves using your current smartphones, laptops, or desktop computers to dial in. If these devices support dial-in conferencing, BYOD is your most cost-effective option. Prioritize this if you’re using dial-in conferencing primarily as a way to cut costs.
- Conference Bridges: These help organize and run larger dial-in conference meetings. They can offer crisper audio quality, accommodate more callers, record calls, help you manage participants, and more. Consider a conference bridge if you frequently meet with a large number of team members or if you use dial-in conferencing to meet across lots of different office locations.
- Purchase New Devices: Spending a little more to get new devices can pay off in a big way. New devices offer user-friendly interfaces, better audio quality, and more call management options. As a result, you reduce the impacts of dial-in conferencing’s drawbacks and enjoy more of the benefits.
- Softphones: Alright, this one isn’t hardware, but it’ll still help. A softphone is just a software version of a traditional phone that you can install on computers, laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Softphones are excellent options for remote-first companies, since team members can dial in from their preferred devices. They’re also great for companies with many on-the-move team members.
Choosing the Right Conference Call Service
As you may already know from our list of the best free and paid conference call services, not all providers are the same. Consider the following factors when comparing conference call services:
- Features: Look for the features that your organization needs. Some common features include customizable access codes, automated scheduling, HD audio, call recording, billing, analytical reporting, web portals, and mobile apps.
- Scalability: A scalable dial-in conference solution lets you expand without suffering reduced conference call quality or needing to invest in tons of extra infrastructure. It will also have a cost structure that grows with you, so you’re never paying too much for the features you have.
- UI: Simple user interfaces make it easier for team members to get into the call, saving time and reducing the need for training and tech support.
- Privacy and security: Strong security and privacy features guard your company against data breaches and protect the privacy of employees. Features to look for include call encryption, participant authentication, and data privacy protocols.
- Integrations: Solutions that can integrate with your other communication software and tools can save you a lot of time and headaches. For instance, a dial-in conferencing provider that works with more than just traditional phones means you can dial in from any device.
- Customer support: If you need help getting started or if you’re confused about your dial-in software’s features, a good customer support system can be like a drink of cool water in a desert. Look for providers with widely available support. Ideally, you’ll want 24/7 availability and multiple support channels—phone, email, live chat, and so on.
- Cost and value: Find a solution within your budget, but don’t focus on price alone. Instead, balance price against value because paying a little more can sometimes bring higher returns of productivity and efficiency.
The Bottom Line on Dial-In Conference Calls
Dial-in conferencing might seem like ancient tech, but it still has its place in 2023—especially as a failsafe to all of the cutting-edge solutions out there today.
Whether the internet’s down, team members are traveling in places with no internet connection, or you need a more inclusive form of communication, dial-in conferencing has many situations where it can come in handy as the only remaining option.
The bottom line is that dial-in conferencing fills gaps where modern systems fail. So the next time you can’t get online or simply need to call a quick ad-hoc meeting, don’t overlook your trusty dial-in conference system.