Talk isn't cheap, it's free!

* FreeConference provides free dial-in conferencing services for up to 150 people

Every now and then you find a service that you glom onto and you know that there would have to be something insanely better for you to switch. Such is my feeling for FreeConference published by Global Conference Partners.

FreeConference provides, for free mind you, dial-in conferencing services for up to 150 people. The call-in number you are allocated will usually be a long-distance call but for those of us on flat rate calling plans this is not much of an issue as there are no additional charges at all for the calls.

Using the company’s Web interface you can sign up and then schedule your conference or, if the conference is ad hoc, set it up on the spot. For participants, no Web access or computer facilities of any kind are needed. You can schedule for any time in the future and arrange teleconferences of up to 4 hours.

While in conference all participants can control muting, check remaining conference time, enter into one-on-one discussion, etc., while the organizer(s) can control whether chimes are used on entry and or exit of participants, lock or unlock the conference, and change whether the conference is in conversation mode, Q&A mode, or presentation mode.

When you set up the conference you can define all participants and have them e-mailed with the details which includes vCalendar data so that “Microsoft Outlook 2000/2003/2007, Apple iCal, Lotus Organizer 6.0, Entourage, Act! 4.0, GNOME Office, many GSM mobile telephones, Nokia 9110 Communicator and select Palm handheld computers” can have the event automatically added to their calendaring systems.

As participants accept the invitation the conference organizers are notified, and by visiting the FreeConference Web site the organizers can view the summary of participant involvement.

When the conference is over the stats on who joined the conference when and for how long are available in both an e-mail sent to the organizers and on the Web site.

As if all that isn’t cool enough, there is also an Outlook plug-in that allows conference organizers to set up teleconferences while using the Outlook calendar.

If you want a toll-free conference FreeConference can also do that for $0.10 per caller per minute. Other features included in this services are toll-free customer support, optional conference recording, telephone playback and download of recorded conferences, and optional, charged-for conference transcription. A Web-based desktop sharing facility is also available for an extra charge.

I’ve used this service a couple of times and I’m really impressed. The service quality is excellent, the Web scheduling, e-mail integration, and management features all work perfectly.

So, let’s try it out! If you have some time on Thursday, Feb. 14 at 10 a.m. Pacific Coast time call 1-309-946-5000 and enter the participant access code 649206. We need to talk …

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