Webinars: Selecting a Vendor

webinar-vendor-selectionWebinars, Strategy E-ssentials has hosted a few in 2012. Live webinars, recorded webinars, online meetings and auto pilot webinars, we’ve tried them all. Paid and free webinars. Webinars for large and small audiences. We’ve done that too. So when asked, “What have you learned about selecting a webinar vendor?” I have a few ideas.

 

Selecting a Webinar Vendor

1. Estimate the size of your audience.
Many of the webinar services base their price and packages on the maximum number of attendees. Up to 25, up to 100, up to 500 and so on, are the breakdowns for the more popular services. The size of your audience often dictates your price. You can often upgrade, but it’s not always possible to downgrade your level of service, so choose wisely.

 

2. Make a list of your essential, important and nice-to-have features.
When it comes to webinars or online meetings, there are more options than you may be aware of.

  • Do you want to be able to access a recorded version of your webinar?
  • What about data on who attended your event?
  • Is VoIP (voice over IP – audio only coming from the computer) okay, or do you want a call-in number?
  • How important is customer service? This is a tricky one. Some providers have no real customer service. I found that some providers only answer questions via email at their convenience, while at the opposite side there are vendors who have full full time email, live chat and phone service available. In every case, you get what you pay for.

There are many, many features to chose when searching for the best webinar or online meeting provider. Depending on the vendor, the option that is most important to you may or may not be part of your package or within your budget. Be sure to research before you buy.

 

3. Read the fine print.
Perhaps I was naive, but when it came to all the features that were not included in the base price at the big boys, I was surprised. I fully expected to see a recorded version of my webinar as part of my package, even if it was only available for a limited time. No, this was an additional charge. In fact, what I wanted from a webinar service wasn’t listed at all in the basic packages shown on the website of the most popular webinar services. I had to call their customer service department, who incidentally doesn’t answer the phone, you need to leave a message and they will call you back. In my case it was nearly 24 hours later before I received a call back to find out how I could purchase the features I was looking for.

 

4. Determine a budget.
Webinar services range from free to thousands of dollars. Payment structure can be in the form of pay-as-you-go, monthly or yearly contracts. Know what your budget is before you get too far down the path.

Plan out what you will be using the webinar service for before you sign a contract so you never feel like you are not fully utilizing your service.

 

5. Take a trail run.
If you have time, energy and patience to try a service, do it! The catch is, you must be willing and able to make a change if you find the vendor does not fit your needs. It can be a painful learning experience to switch webinar vendors after you’ve already invested time and energy into a service and introduced your audience to that service. I’m telling you this from firsthand experience!

 

I hope these quick tips have helped you organize your thoughts as you start your investigation for the right webinar service vendor. From my experience, and that of others whom I have talked to, there is no perfect provider. You must find what works best for you based on your equipment, knowledge, time, resources and audience.

 

Webinar Services to Try (current as of July 2012)

AnyMeeting – Free with ads or up to $70 per month without ads. From my experience a very unpredictable service regardless if you go with or without ads. The positive side is you can have up to 200 attendees on a free webinar and you have access to a ton of features.

Meeting Burner – Free (up to 5 participants) and packages up to $100 per month. This is the service I ultimately went to. I like the Pro and Premier packages. Lots of features. Great customer service.

Go To Meeting – Very popular among small business owners. Entry packages leave much to be desired. Steep pricing structure to get the features I was looking for.

WebEx – One of the first and still one of the most popular online meeting tools. Similar pricing and structure to Go To Meeting.

Lots of others, especially for corporate users.

 

Image: Dreamstime.com

 

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About Karin Khuhro

Karin Khuhro is a Digital Marketing Strategist, Speaker and Copywriter. As the owner of Strategy E-ssentials she works with other savvy marketers, digital specialists and business leaders to bring knowledge, know-how and solutions to small and medium sized businesses. Connect with Karin on Google+ or Linkedin.