Free conference calls, historically useful, are now a key piece of communicating with your vendors, customers, and remote team due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since small business owners always need to save a few pennies, we’ve rounded up the best free conference call options. Features vary between products, but all the ones listed below offer some variation of screen sharing, host controls, and mobile apps. Most work with any modern browser and many have desktop apps or browser extensions, too. Some vendors offer add-ons if you need a bit more than the free plan offers (e.g., the free plan meets all your requirements except for the time limit). But don’t let budget constraints deter you from purchasing a paid plan if you need it—equipment financing is always an option to consider if you need to purchase hardware or software for your conference calls. The free conference call solutions below are listed in alphabetical order. For quick reference, a few key parameters are listed for each of the product’s free plans. FreeConference FreeConference offers traditional audio conference calls, as well as video conferences and web meetings. It’s the only vendor that offers free international dial-in numbers from a variety of countries. The free plan includes: \tParticipant Limit: 100 for audio conference, 5 for web/video conference \tTime Limit: 12 hours for video, unlimited for audio \tRecording Ability: No FreeConferenceCall FreeConferenceCall (not to be confused with the above FreeConference vendor) supports audio conference calls but has also added video and screen-sharing options. They have a “pay what you can” model that includes the option to pay nothing at all (although this may change when the coronavirus pandemic ends). The free plan includes: \tParticipant Limit: 1000 \tTime Limit: 6 hours per call \tRecording Ability: Yes Google Hangouts Google Hangouts is slowly being replaced by Google Chat and Google Meet. Consider using Google Meet instead of Google Hangouts if you already have a G Suite account. Google Hangouts doesn’t require all participants to have a Google account, but expect to jump through hoops to make it work for someone without a Google account. The free plan includes: \tParticipant Limit: Unlimited for conversations (chats), 10 video participants for regular Gmail or G Suite basic accounts, 25 video participants for premium G Suite accounts \tTime Limit: Unlimited \tRecording Ability: No Google Meet Google Meet is the future for Google web and video conferencing solutions. A G Suite account has been required to use it, but Google is rolling out the product to anyone with a valid email address. Participation and time limits have varied during the pandemic but are scheduled to revert to the numbers below on September 30. The free plan includes: \tParticipant Limit: 100 \tTime Limit: 1 hour \tRecording Ability: No Lark Lark bills itself as the “next-gen collaboration suite” that eases collaboration across multiple communication channels (chat, video, audio, calendars, and documents). The free plan includes: \tParticipant Limit: 100 \tTime Limit: Unlimited \tRecording Ability: Yes Skype Skype, a Microsoft product, allows you to hold either audio or video conferences but requires the Skype app (or Skype website) to remain in the free tier. The free plan includes: \tParticipant Limit: 50 for Skype-to-Skype calls \tTime Limit: Unlimited for audio-only, 4 hours per individual video call \tRecording Ability: Yes Note that Microsoft provides another conferencing solution, Microsoft Teams, that is not in this list as the description of its free tier is murky. UberConference UberConference, a subsidiary of DialPad, is a logical choice for DialPad customers. However, it’s a solid choice for non-customers, too. The free plan includes: \tParticipant Limit: 10 \tTime Limit: 45 minutes \tRecording Ability: Yes Webex Webex, a Cisco product, has offered conferencing solutions for over 25 years. The free plan includes: \tParticipant Limit: 100 \tTime Limit: 50 minutes \tRecording Ability: No Zoom Zoom has exploded in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic. The free plan uses the Zoom meeting functionality, not the Zoom Phone product. The free plan includes: \tParticipant Limit: 100 \tTime Limit: 40 minutes for 3 or more participants \tRecording Ability: No How to Choose a Free Conference Call Solution So how do you select the best free conference call product for your business? While every business has different needs, here are some requirements to consider. \tLimits: What’s the maximum number of participants you’ll have? How long do you need a conference to last? Some vendors offer different products for online events like webinars. \tEase of use: Are your users already familiar with one technology versus another? Would mobile or desktop apps help or confuse your users? \tQuality of video and audio: How important is the quality of video and audio for your needs? Does the product need to suppress background noise or enhance quiet speakers? \tEncryption: Do you require HIPAA-level compliance? Not all products (even those that market their encryption features) are HIPAA-compliant. \tHost controls: How much control do you need as a host—waiting rooms, password-protection, the ability to mute or turn off video for all participants? Do you need more than one host to manage the conference? Zoom bombing can happen on any video conferencing system, but host controls can minimize it. \tRecording and transcription: Do you need to record the call? If so, do you need local or cloud-based storage options? Does the call need to be transcribed for post-call use? \tSupport: Do you need 24x7 live support, or is web-based support sufficient? As you review products, check with each vendor for up-to-date information as the features available in each free plan often change. Use these free conference call tools—an important part of your suite of remote tools—to help you build better remote work relationships with your team, vendors, and customers.