What can you do with a conference phone?

Conference phones, those star shaped devices you see sat in the middle of boardroom tables where everybody around the meeting can join in the conversation seamlessly with whomever is on the other end of the line.

Polycom, Konftel and ClearOne Conference Speaker Phones

Conference Units are often subject to a few misunderstandings in terms of exactly how they work and what they can do, so this blog post is an attempt to answer a few commonly asked questions about audio conferencing.

If I miss anything out, then please feel free to add to the comments and I’ll add your question to the list!

How many people can I have sat round my conference phone?

This is the most important question to ask when purchasing a conference phone.  For up to 4-6 users, one of the more basic conference phones would suffice such as the Polycom Voicestation 300,  however going up to 8-10 people, you’d need to look at the more heavy duty “workhorse” conference phones such as a Polycom Soundstation 2, or a Konftel 250.  For even more users, larger conference tables etc, you’d need to look at a conference phone that comes with external mics and/or even a bass speaker for better clarity of sound, so that everyone in the room can hear and participate in the conversation. We’ve aimed to make selection easier for you by adding recommended user numbers to the specification lists on the products on our site.

How many external callers can join in with my  conference call?

The quick (and not so simple) answer to this is, it depends!

Essentially a conference phone is a simple telephone, albeit with high specification microphones and speakers that allow your meeting participants to talk seamlessly with your caller, however in terms of speaking to more than one outside caller at a time, this is dependant on the capabilities of your telephone system. For example, if you have a single analogue line like you would have at home, then you could only have one other participant on the other end of the line, whereas, typically, if you plug in the conference phone into an extension on your office PABX telephone system, your PABX would be able to patch in more calls to your extension allowing you to have multiple external callers join in on the conference call.

Simple way to look at it – if your current phone can “conference” in more than one external caller, you’ll be able to do the same with your conference phone.  If you can only make one call at a time on your telephone – you’ll only be able to conference call with one external caller.

I only have an analogue line, can I use a conference phone?

Of course!  Some of our best selling conference phones are analogue units and will plug into any standard telephone line. It is even quite common for many businesses to install a dedicated analogue line into their conference room so that they can utilise the cheaper analogue units for their conference calls.

Popular models include:

I have digital lines, can I use a conference phone?

Yes!  There are a number of conference phones designed for specific digital systems that will plug directly into your extensions and will work with your PABX system features.

Can I use conference phones over VoIP lines?

Yes. There are a wide range of conference phones that now support VoIP calling – some even support both VoIP and analogue dialling, so you have the best of both worlds.  I have listed a few models below.

I have a bigger conference table, will I need any extras?

If you want the people at the far ends of your conference table to be heard during your conference calls, you will most likely need external microphones as an addition to your conference phone. We do bundle relevant models with the correct microphones as an option, but just be careful, if you’re buying a standalone unit with this in mind to buy external mics at a later point, you’ll need to ensure that the conference phone you are buying is compatible with external mics. Usually you’ll look for the “EX” version of Polycom products.

You can find expansion microphones as well as a whole host of extra conferencing bits and pieces on our accessories page here.

Can I use a conference speaker phone for Skype or other softphone on my PC?

Yes. There’s a wide selection of USB Speakerphones that will connect to your PC and will work like a high quality conference phone directly from your PC, Mac or softphone. Have a look at our range of USB conference speakerphones here.

In conclusion

There are so many conference speaker phones on the market, it’s pretty safe to say that whatever your situation, there will be a product available for you. If you’re still not sure about which model would suite you, then please get in touch and we’ll point you in the right direction.