You dial the conference call number. Or you can copy and paste it into Skype, or just click the link in your phone's e-mail app. Then you have to enter your 12 digit conference ID number, or whatever this particular system calls it. If you're on your phone and away from your computer, maybe you jotted it down on a piece of scrap paper. If not, you need to switch back and forth between your dialer and the app that the ID number.
You punch in the number. You wait. Nothing happens. You realize you forgot to hit pound at the end. OK, pound. The robotic voice on the other end slowly, carefully reads the whole number back to you. Are you sure this is the number you meant to dial? Yes of course it is, stupid robot! You hit "one" to confirm. You wait. Sorry, this access code is incorrect. Please enter your 12 digit conference participant ID access code number followed by pound now. Arh, that wasn't the right number after all. You try again, this time remembering to hit pound. The robot repeats it back to you again and you confirm. Finally, you enter the conference call, a bit late.
Pleasantries are exchanged, the conference gets rolling and then...someone's call gets dropped. Everyone waits for them to dial back in and run the access code gauntlet.
Why do we still have to put up with this process in a time in which most of us are dialing in with sophisticated smartphones or from VOIP applications on powerful desktops? Sure, there are a couple alternatives. Many Web-based conference calls have VOIP option. But in my experience, the audio quality is usually unusably bad. I'm better off calling in with Skype than using the conference software's native voice support.
The conference organizer may also be able to dial-out to the participants. If everyone's on Skype, someone can just call all the other participants to initiate a conference. WebEx has that call me back feature, if you're willing and able to launch the application and login that way.
But shouldn't it be possible, since nearly everyone will be calling from some sort of technologically advanced device, to embed the access code into a link that could be clicked just once to dial into the conference? It might require partnering with carriers and handset manufacturers, but wouldn't it be much nicer to click once to call a conference?
There are a few third-party apps that try to mitigate the experience by letting you paste your conference ID into a specially designed conference call dialer, but I'd like a more seamless experience provided by conference call vendors directly, and without needing to download dedicated apps.
I suppose this is the sort of problem unified communications is supposed to solve eventually. Why not solve it now, instead of in some magic time in the future when we're all running interoperable UC platforms?
Feel free to steal this idea, or to tell me about those that are already implementing it.
Photo by Samantha Celera