How to choose a webinar service

| Articles | January 26, 2011

Let me start by saying that there is no such thing as “best webinar service”. With that myth out of the way, let’s see how we can determine which of the hundreds of providers, offering dozens of options, suits you best.

Step 1: Understanding the options. Each webinar or webcast solution is different and, after looking into every one of them, you’ll see they offer features you didn’t even know existed and which would make your life a lot easier.

Here are a few options you can take into account when evaluating webmeeting software:
– Maximum number of participants: subscription based services limit the maximum number of participants, so it helps to know how many attendees you expect: 50, 100, 100?
– Audience management: invitation and registration management, email templates, automatic reminders and follow-ups, all these might come in handy when organizing a webinar, taking a load off your mind.
– Automatic recording – If you want to watch how your presentation went and see how you can improve it, you might want your webinar software to offer automatic recording. Otherwise, you’ll have to install another piece of software for this task, not to mention remembering to start the recording before the webinar begins.
– Desktop sharing, whiteboard sharing, file sharing – Do you need to let the participants see something on your computer (desktop sharing) or to show them additional files (file sharing), do you need to draw or write something on a virtual whiteboard (whiteboard sharing)?
– Multiple presenters and webcams – Are you planning on hosting the webinar yourself or do you have several presenters? If so, you would need the webinar software to support multiple presenters and webcams.
– Text chat – Do you want the attendees to be able to chat with you, do you want to allow them to chat publicly among themselves or to send private messages?
– Polls and surveys
– Reports and statistics
– Software requirements: what does the webinar software need in order to function: does it work on Windows only, does in need a certain browser or certain plugins installed?

Step 2: Understanding your needs. This is similar to step 1, but I chose to put it in second place, as it’s possible not to be aware of your needs until you know what a webinar service can do. So out of all those features and options, start selecting the ones that are important to you, as well as those “nice to have”.

Step 3: Evaluation. Start with the established solutions, they’ve already been tested by many others before you, there are plenty of reviews available and there is a lesser chance of running into an unreported bug. Then, if price is a constraint, start filtering solutions based on this criterion. Then, see which of the services on your shortlist provide most of the options you need.

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