In fact, some presenters spend too much time evaluating and assessing every webinar platform trying to find the “best”, when they would be far better off just choosing one that works and actually running webinars!
So let me help ...
Most of the webinar platforms offer a core set of services – such as showing PowerPoint, hosting a chat room, a question box for participants to type questions, and a recording facility. Some also offer additional services – such as multiple choice polls, automatic e-mail reminders before the webinar, seeing the presenter on webcam, audience microphones, and post-event surveys.
If you’re getting started, here is my advice: Choose GoToWebinar (the service I’ve used for many years). It’s powerful, reliable, affordable if you’re doing a reasonable number of webinars, and has all the features you need for delivering high-quality webinars.
But if you’re evaluating other webinar platforms and providers, here are some things to consider:
- Webinars vs on-line meetings: Many of the services are excellent for meetings (group discussions), but don’t have specific features to help you run webinars (presentations) – such as good registration pages, automatic e-mail reminders, polls and attendance reports.
- Price: Of course, the price of the service is an important consideration, but it’s not always easy to compare different services because a number of factors affect the price – number of attendees, number of webinars, and so on.
- Advertising: Some of the free services are supported by advertising. That’s the price you pay for the free service, but it doesn’t look professional if your webinar participants are seeing ads during your presentation.
- Limits: Check what limits the service imposes – for example, number of attendees, number of webinars each month, length of a webinar, availability of the webinar line during busy times, and so on. Of course, some limits are to be expected; just be aware of them when evaluating a provider.
- Geographical features: Webinars are, by definition, for participants to access remotely, so be sure the platform supports international participants. This can be as simple as allowing participants to register in their own time zone.
- Screen sharing: Can you share anything on your screen, or do you have to upload your presentation to the webinar provider (that’s less flexible)?
- Audience microphones: Can you allow audience members to speak during the webinar, or can you only take written feedback?
- Audience engagement: In what other ways can you engage with your audience? Examples are polls, chat rooms, switching to their screen, and so on.
- Social media integration: Some webinar providers make it easy for you to link your webinar to social media – for example: creating the webinar as an event on Facebook, using a Twitter back channel during the webinar, or uploading the recording to YouTube. This can be useful if you’re running a lot of free promotional webinars and you’re active on social media.
- Recording: Is it easy to record your webinars and make them available for later playback? If the provider hosts the recordings, do they give you unlimited space?
This isn’t a comprehensive list by any means, but it does cover some of the most important factors to consider.