Beware of Selecting the Wrong Vendor for Your Paid Webinar

paid webinar vendorsThe 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 HandalJanet 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.

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Comments

  1. Great advice and useful tips. I have sat through enough webinars where the entry and exist sounds were distracting enough to drown out the presentation. It’s not just irritating, it means you lose valuable time. Definitely a feature you want to avoid.

    • That’s why it’s really important before doing you vendors feature set comparison that you you know what the goals of your webinar, tools you will need to adequately market and sell your webinar tickets, and the experience you want your customers to have.

  2. Wow, that was helpful on many levels.

    Mostly, the list of things that one might want to think about. I hadn’t considered most of them. The “dings” was especially insightful.

    I think the best advice was to test drive it first.

    Great post.

  3. It’s surprising to me that the big webinar vendors have not focused on providing the feature set needed by small business and speakers who charge for their webinars. I think it’s a represents a significant opportunity. For one of my clients, we used a hybrid solution of using EventBrite with Webex to get the complete feature set we needed.

  4. This is very useful for me right now. I am working on podcast to teach others how to create simple images using iDraw. I have been advised to seriously take a look at hosting a webinar or two. That said this is a very timely post indeed. Pinning and bookmarking it for future reference.

  5. I have not gotten involved in an webinars but I have had my employee checked out the webinar for our industry.; She does come back with some very valuable information. At the moment Advertising Specialties doesn’t charge except that you have to be a member to get it for free. I did enjoy getting more information about webinars.

  6. Thanks for the information about webinars. Some have suggested I do some webinars, but at present, it takes all my energy when I do an in-person presentation. And my current clients are usually so busy that a webinar is not something they are likely to do.

    I can see how *participating* in a webinar might be useful to me, if it were on the right topic at the right time. I’ve listened in on some Google HangOuts, but they weren’t really topics that drew me in.

  7. This is a wonderful summary of what to look at. I’ve used at least 3 or 4 over the years and as you said, some of these glitches may be inherent in any if you don’t read the description of features.

    So helpful, thanks Janet.

  8. I’ve participated in about five webinars and not one of them has gone very smoothly. They’ve all been free ones. I can imagine the paid ones might be a bit better.

  9. All very good information. I have never hosted a webinar, but I have attended many. Some of them had those annoying things you mention.

  10. Excellent post Jeannette!

    You’ve certainly covered a lot of extremely critical issues. And as you were naming certain mishaps that commonly occur during a webinar, I can definitely relate to them.

    However, being a complete novice when it comes to what actually goes on, before during and after a webinar.

    I really had no idea there’s so much that definitely has to be considered and or to look out for! Thank you so much for sharing such a highly informative post!

    It was definitely an eye opener!

    • Mark — glad this post helped. It was written by a business colleague and friend and I learned a lot, too.