10 Must-Have Features When Choosing a Teleconferencing Service

Recently we’ve had troubles with our existing teleconferencing service, with people having troubles getting a long-distance line to dial into a teleclass. Two years ago we did a huge research project, looking at all the paid and free teleconference services in order to choose the best one for our small, 40-person teleclasses and our large 400-person teleclasses. Once again, I’m back to research mode. If you use teleconference services, or are planning to in the future, it is important to be aware of the recent problems most of my colleagues have been experiencing so you can choose your own teleconference service wisely.

Choosing a teleconference system to use for your teleclasses and teleseminars is an important decision. Each service offers a different array of features. While there can be several dozen features to consider when making your choice, here are the Top 10 features I think are important:

  1. Online control panel. The online control panel lets you see how many people are on the call, whether they are muted or not, and when new people come on the call. Some control panels allow you to manage the call online, and some include a Contact list so that the name of the participant shows up next to their telephone number.
  2. Guest Speaker access. Does the system allow you, plus a guest speaker, to be on the line while everyone else is muted? This is especially important if you are going to invite experts to be interviewed in your teleseminar.
  3. 24/7 reservations. Do you have to call in every reservation, or can you simply go online to schedule your calls? Is one line reserved for you that you can use anytime you want? I prefer a teleconference system where my assistant can reserve the phone line and schedule the dates/times online as they give us instant access to the telephone number and passcode that will be used, which we can then send immediately to our participants.
  4. Ability to record the call through the teleconference company. The ability to offer recordings of your teleclasses is of major importance. I’ve typically seen 30% or more of the participants who never attend live; they just listen to the recordings. Being able to record the teleclass means more people have access to your message. (Note: I often use both the teleconference line’s recording ability plus my own physical digital recorder as a backup.)
  5. Ability to keep a history of recordings. Some teleconference systems will allow you to keep multiple recordings from different teleclasses on their system, while others overwrite all existing recordings when you begin to record a new class. If you are teaching a teleclass that is a series (say, once a week for five weeks), you want to be able to keep and download those recordings for the entire series to share with your participants.
  6. Ability to have at least 50 people on a call (and all 50 can talk at the same time). You might think you will only have 10 people on a call, but as your business grows, you may find that you sometimes will have 50,100 or 200 on a call! For our free teleclasses, we often get 400-500 people register. Choose a system that can grow with you. Also, make sure that everyone who is on the call has the ability to speak and interact. Some systems say that they can have 96 people on a call, but when you read the fine print, you see that only 25 people can talk at a time.
  7. Ability to mute some or all participants. Participants bring background noises: dogs barking, kitchen dishes rattling, cars zooming by, colleagues speaking loudly in the same room. While the participants might not hear the noise themselves, everyone else on the call can hear it! Being able to mute individuals, or mute everyone on the call, makes it a better experience for everyone. It also helps if participants can mute and un-mute themselves individually.
  8. Calls can be scheduled for whatever timeframe you want. (Like 12:55 – 2:15). Some systems only schedule in 1-hour increments. Some systems will cut off the call at the assigned ending time, whether you are finished speaking or not. Get a system that allows you flexibility in call start/stop times and durations.
  9. NO “circuits busy” problem, guaranteed. There has been an explosion of people wanting to use teleconferencing lines over the past few years, and the “circuits busy” message that you sometimes get when dialing into a call is because there are not enough long-distance lines able to handle the influx of people all dialing into one number. The problem is with the capacity of the long distance telephone company (BellSouth, Verizon, etc.), not with the teleconferencing company itself. Apparently this problem is happening with many free teleconference companies, especially if you have more than 20 people dialing in, or it’s a particularly busy time of the day. (Evenings 7:00 – 9:00 PM are especially busy.) Most free teleconferencing companies probably don’t have the power to ask the telephone company to make more long distance circuits available, so a paid teleconferencing company might be your best solution.
  10. Free versus Paid. My next research project is going to be into “paid” teleconferencing lines. Some of these services offer special features not found in the free services, like streaming of your teleclass via the web, or the ability for participants to type in a question or comment on a website. Paying for a teleconference service is not the optimum solution for someone who is budget-conscious, but may be the only solution for people who are seriously offering paid teleclasses, or using teleseminars as part of their marketing campaigns. As soon as I complete that research, I’ll let you know what I discover so that you can make your own decision about which service is right for you.

As you can see, there’s a lot to think about when choosing a teleconference service. With a little knowledge, you can wade into their websites and select the best one for you.

Pricing Primer For Solopreneur Service Providers

“The business world is driven by the desire to increase three elements: market shares, sales revenues and of course, profitability. Pricing is the key player in any strategy concerning the growth of these three goals.” Mohammed Nosseir, Senior Marketing Adviser, Simon-Kucher & Partners, Middle East

Determining the pricing structure for intangible services provided is a real challenge for Solopreneur consultants. What is the value of our time and expertise in the open market? What if we promote our services, set the price and no one hires us? Should we lower our project fees? Can we ever raise prices?

Clients are motivated to spend as little as possible for the products and services that they require. However, they are known to pay premium prices when they “feel” that a particular product or service delivers exceptional value. That value can mean an expert solution to a business challenge; a long-lasting product that performs well with little maintenance; the ability to meet a deadline; or other factors that have meaning to the decision-makers.

Often as not, different clients will have different priorities that define what is valuable. It is the Solopreneur’s job in the initial face-to-face meeting to figure out what the client feels is important. That knowledge will achieve two objectives:

  • You will know the expectations that must be met to justify a premium price.
  • You will know how to price, based on the time or other resources that will be devoted to meeting and exceeding client expectations and you will grasp the urgency of client needs, which impact your price.

Most likely, there are standard benchmarks and signifiers of high-value service in your industry and these should be incorporated into your marketing and operations, along with other value-addeds layered on as necessary. Knowledge of what competitors do would be helpful as well, but it is difficult to learn how competitors deliver their services or price them. Nevertheless, it is advisable to choose three or four to research.

Visit websites to learn what services your competitors offer and how those services are described and packaged. Then, you can better identify potential competitive advantages for what you have and find a way to describe your goods.

It may sound like an obvious no-brainer, but part of your premium value-added that will be reflected in your pricing strategy should be your positive attitude and willingness to help prospective clients find the best solution to their business needs. Friendliness and the aim to genuinely want to offer good service go a long way in life and in business. Showing a good work ethic is likewise important.

For example when on an assignment, pay attention to emails. While I don’t recommend that one should be obligated to answer emails that a client dashes off at 3:00 AM (unless this is an urgent, high-revenue project), check emails through 8:00 PM and resume at 8:00 AM. If you can anticipate client needs, so much the better. They’ll think you’re a hero and will be happy to pay for the pleasure of doing business with you.

Step by step, client by client, focus on exceeding expectations on every project, building the trust and confidence that lead to a respected brand (reputation) as you do. You will receive referrals from satisfied clients and you can also make referrals on their behalf, enhancing your brand each time you do. Good brands create good word of mouth and that supports and justifies premium pricing.

As Mohammed Nosseir concludes, “Pricing has been, and will continue to be, the most complicated element in the marketing mix family… A proactive pricing structure will help companies… to maximize their profitability.”

Thanks for reading,