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How to Make Conference Calls Fun (Sort of)

ÜberConference promises to solve all of the usual technological headaches and make phone meetings more enjoyable. Here's how it works.
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Teleconferences can be a drag. You have to wait on hold until everyone dials in, there are the awkward intros ("Who else is here?"), and the problem that if you don't know the attendants well enough to discern their voices, you have no idea who's talking.

ÜberConference, which won TechCrunch Disrupt NYC 2012, aims to solve those problems. And starting Thursday will offer all sorts of cool features catering specifically to business users. It's an audio conferencing service but it has a visual interface that not only solves the anonymity issue, but also makes teleconferences sort of fun.

How It Works

In the email you receive inviting you to a call there's a link you can click that takes you to the visual interface--a place where you can see everyone who's on the call, who is currently talking, as well as each person's social media profiles on LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. You can also chat (in the keyboard-sort-of-way) with meeting participants.

After the meeting concludes, you receive via email a call summary that gives you interesting data such as how long the meeting was in session, who participated, and even stats on who talked the most and the least, a feature that could shake up teleconference dynamics entirely. If an introvert consistently sees her name showing up as the person who talked the least during the weekly staff meeting, she might be incentivized to up her game.

And these call summaries also include Evernote integration so that all the data ÜberConference has collected regarding the meeting can be saved to your various Evernote notebooks.

Another interesting feature: earmuffs. Let's say your teleconference is a negotiation and several individuals need to break off to have a private, side conversation. The call organizer can put virtual earmuffs on certain individuals so they can't hear what others are saying.

The free version of ÜberConference comes out of private beta today, but you might want to check out the Pro version, which just launched and is only $10 a month.

ÜberConference Pro

It gives you the option to use local phone numbers for your conference line as well as schedule recurring conference calls at regular intervals.

And here's a useful feature for meeting participants who are driving, traveling, or otherwise distracted: ÜberConference Pro can be set up to automatically dial you and other participants when it's time for your call, so you don't have to sit on hold waiting for everyone to show up.

While the free version only allows for 17 meeting participants, the Pro version lets you include up to 40 people on a call.

Paying for ÜberConference Pro also removes the company's branding message at the start of each call as well as lets you customize hold music by uploading your own MP3s. But the best part might be conference call recording, enabled by the conference call organizer. Once the call is finished he or she can email participants a call summary that includes a link to a MP3 of the call.

ÜberConference was created by Craig Walker, former CEO and co-founder of GrandCentral, which Google bought and turned into Google Voice. He was also CEO of Dialpad, which Yahoo purchased for its Voice product.

He says he created ÜberConference because while millions of audio conference calls are conducted a year--with the number of calls growing somewhere around 12 to 18% a year--they're generally still a pain.

"They're difficult to join, when you get on a conference call you don't know who's on the call, you have to go through these awkward introductions every time someone joins or you hear a beep and someone's left and you don't know what happened," Walker says. "And once you finally figure out who's on the call a lot of times it's very difficult to know who's making a point... Was that the intern or the CEO?"

ÜberConference aims to eliminate these issues. I found it easy to use when I tried it. The meeting summary and recording features are helpful for anyone who needs to know exactly what took place during a meeting.

See how it works on YouTube.

Last updated: Sep 6, 2012




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