Conferencing Made Better with SMS & Text to Speech

Conference calling has never been easy. Even though Plivo solves the voice quality issue by providing clarity for up to 100 callers, most conferencing platforms still have user interface problems. First, there’s the ominous PIN code. They are always too long and complicated and inevitably cause people to be late. That’s why we’ve built a simple conference solution using Plivo’s WebRTC capabilities. Here’s a screenshot of my conference bridge:

Plivo conference bridge screenshot

Users can easily join directly from any browser or dial in from any phone. But as simple as this was, there’s the other challenge of never knowing who has joined the conference bridge.

Many companies have built great web UIs to control and moderate conference calls, but for me, and my day to day business needs for conference calls, my requirements are a little different.

First, 90% of my conference calls involve myself, one other person from Plivo and another one to three people from the client side. At the rate we are growing I practically live on my conference bridge. Sometimes I am mobile and other times I am calling from my Plivo powered SIP phone. So if I’m running late, knowing exactly who and when someone calls into the bridge is huge.

So to extend the functionality of our conference bridge, we added the following features:

  • Text notification with caller ID whenever someone joins my bridge
  • The caller info gets automatically entered into my CRM for future reference. Note: phone numbers are captured only when the caller dials in.
  • Reply to the notification text message and have it played to the people on the live call using Plivo’s text to speech. This feature is unique to Plivo and you can find more details in our docs.

The flow of the conference room works as follows:

  1. Someone joins my conference bridge via their phone or browser
  2. I get a notification on my mobile and
  3. The caller’s info get’s automatically entered into our CRM
  4. If I’m running late, I can text a reply to the thread and my message will be played instantly into the conference room.

Here are the SMS text message notifications I get on my phone

Plivo conference SMS alert screenshot

The applications of this are many. After demoing this for several people, they have come up with other great applications as well. For example, you can set time notifications (e.g., “It is now 3pm”) during live conferences or have this notification system linked to a company directory to notify employees with important alerts (e.g., snowstorm closures).

Another key point is that the ability to stream audio into a conference is unique to Plivo. So if your current telephony platform provider can’t do this, then we hope you give Plivo a test drive. If you’d like a demo of the solution, please reach out to me on our contact sales engineering page

If you want to know how we did it, let us know that as well and we’ll post the how to details behind this great solution. If you have other ideas, we’d be interesting in hearing them too.

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