The number of vendors offering webinars has increased greatly at price levels varying from free to hundreds of dollars a month. But beware, not all are created equal and it’s important to develop your own list of requirements before selecting a vendor.
Because so many webinars are offered without charge, you want to ensure that your paid webinar not only offers up unique content, but that the webinar proceeds without any technical glitches.
What You Need to Consider
For a paid webinar, you need to consider all the services each vendor provides. I learned this the hard way, having recently organized a multi-continent paid conference. A number of features I wanted did not show up in the standard feature comparisons even after multiple reviews of the vendors I was considering.
All vendors offer basic features such as price, maximum number of participants, and cost per month. Try out the various services. Many vendors offer free trials that enable you to test-drive before making a final decision.
I encourage you to facilitate a few test webinars with a small number of friends before launching a live seminar. You only have one chance to make a first impression and you want to have identified and worked through problems before your launch.
Evaluate these features for each vendor:
- Ticketing. Does the webinar vendor enable a participant to pay for a ticket within the webinar platform? Surprisingly, very few support this function. Does it allow for tiered ticket prices and coupons for reduced or free tickets? When charging for an event, there are virtually always instances when you want to reduce price or comp a ticket. AnyMeeting is the only system I found that provides this capability as part of its low price offering. Others that offer it require an expensive enterprise level monthly fee or large one time fee.
- Invitation. How robust is the event invitation capability? Can you add your logo, pictures, change text and background to support your brand? Does it limit the amount of text you can include in your invitation? Does it support variable reminders (1 day, 1 hour before, etc.)? Does it support re-mailing to those who have not opened the invite? What are the reporting capabilities? For invitations with payment, EventBrite is best of breed, but it does not have webinar. If you want to employ sophisticated, branded invitations, you may be best off using EventBrite with a webinar provider.
- Mobile. Does the vendor support iPad and other tablets? Does it support iPhone and Android? Surprisingly, despite the increase in use in mobile platforms, very few support all these mobile technologies. Webex is the only company we found that had mobile apps and worked on these platforms.
- Dings. Can you suppress entry and exit “dings”? These dings are very disconcerting in the midst of seminar. Surprisingly, this feature was only available at enterprise level with the exception of AnyMeeting.
- Tech support. Can you reach tech support by phone when you need it? For immediate support, you will be charged a higher monthly fee.
- Archive and Playback. Does the vendor support archive and playback of the content? What is the file format? MP4 is the preferred format. Some vendors store the content in a proprietary format that requires a lot of massaging to get into an MP4 format.
- Unique URL. Do you have the option of unique meeting URLs and meeting IDs for conference dial in? Some vendors only assign a unique URL for each account. This creates a problem if you’re planning multiple webinars and plan to charge on a per webinar basis.
- System compatibility. Many products require current system software. Depending on your audience, this may present a problem, so be sure to understand the minimum system requirements for PC, Mac and mobile platforms. Include those requirements in your invitations.
Webinars are a cost effective way to connect with your target audiences. But most of us have experienced the problems associated with webinars we’ve attended: one of the webinar leaders gets disconnected, viewers are unable to access the webinar or ask questions, the slides don’t work, etc.
Don’t let that happen to you by choosing the lowest cost vendor instead of choosing a solution that will provide a seamless experience for your audience.
Janet Handal is president of Handal Associates, providing technology consulting to major corporations, governments and not-for profits. Areas of expertise include web technologies, e-commerce, digital marketing & social media. Clients include Citibank, JP Morgan Chase, The Rogosin Institute, the Defense Advanced Projects Agency and others. Ms. Handal previously chaired the Task Force on Information Technology at the White House.