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By Ashley Speagle via our strategic partner PGipgi-partner-badgeOrange Phone

When an employee needs to collaborate across a distance, today they can communicate with video or even make a polished presentation using webcasting and webinars. With more engaging, interactive options available than ever, is the conference call still relevant in 2015?

Are Conference Calls Still Relevant?

Conference calls have a spotty reputation among workers. They are notorious for being unproductive, overcomplicated and even so unengaging that participants fall asleep.

Video conferencing, on the other hand, provides a solution for engagement. Video diminishes the lure of distractions by making everyone visible and accountable in front of a webcam. Plus, the ability to see who’s speaking relieves meetings of complicated, circular dialogues, putting the productivity back into meetings.

Since video conferencing has increased in popularity, statistics show nearly 75 percent of senior management believe it will replace conference calls, along with other collaboration tools promising better meetings.

Attendees can share screens and files directly through web conferencing, and webcasting extends this level of interactivity to an even bigger audience. Paired against more engaging meeting tools, conference calls may seem like outdated business technology.

Invisible Innovations in Conference Calls

Phone ConferenceHowever, there’s a reason conference calls are still indispensable for so many businesses. In fact, PGi’s own customers use conference calls to conduct major earnings calls, to train employees around the country and to hold international meetings.

Audio conferencing is incredibly easy to use, more accessible than video and cost-effective, and because it’s so convenient, conference calls enable faster collaboration, urgent decision-making and immediate problem-solving.

While at the surface conference calls ooze simplicity, they are actually highly complex — users just don’t realize it because of the intended seamless experience. Conference calls are, in fact, smarter than ever, but innovations in audio conferencing aren’t meant to be visible (unlike video and web conferencing).

Advances in conference calls now allow users to enter meetings from smartphones and tablets; to see who’s talking with a visual interface; to integrate high-quality audio with other collaboration tools and to meet with a consistent user experience no matter where or how a user calls.

Audio conferencing is primed for even more growth, and even smarter conference calls are on the horizon.

What the Future of Conference Calls Holds

The growth of unified communications and collaboration convergence will continue to evolve seamless connectivity between tools and devices. For example, a user will be able to connect to a conference call via instant messaging and then transfer from VoIP to a smartphone.

Enhanced mobility will increase how many ways users can access a meeting and from even more devices, wearables and apps.

In PGi’s eBook, “The Future of Business Collaboration 2015 Edition,” Frost & Sullivan Vice President Melanie Turek predicts how the smart, connected office will create a more personal, productive meeting experience on conference calls. For instance, the “Workplace of Things” would help callers connect to back-office data and enterprise applications directly through a conferencing bridge.

The ceiling’s also very high in terms of the potential to advance conference call quality so that participants enjoy a more immersive, rich audio experience. PGi’s global hybrid audio network is already positioned to provide an HD audio experience once users have an endpoint that supports the technology.

The conference call is still very much relevant in 2015 and for the future of work, as well, but having the right provider and partner in innovation is the difference between better meetings and being stuck in the dark ages.

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