As webcasting services have grown in popularity and become easy to use, they have attracted the attention of businesses small and large. They can provide an effective means of communication by allowing live interaction between a presenter and the audience, even when that audience is scattered across the state, country or world. With the integration of slides and video and application sharing, it's easy to emphasize points or demonstrate procedures. Chat and Q&A functions, plus polls or surveys, mean you can get feedback, clarify points and gather information for following up on ideas or potential clients. To top it off, recording the session means you can use it later to inform absentee employees, enhance your website or post it on social media.

But with all these features, what can you actually do with a webcast? What kind of presentation makes it worth the time and effort? Here are 10 ways you can use webcasting software to benefit your business.

1. Town hall/All-calls: There are times when you need to get information out to your entire company, whether announcing the new benefits package or doing the end-of-quarter recap. Webcasts let you reach all of your employees at once without cramming them all into the same auditorium or making them travel. They can listen from their computers or even cell phones. Further, with a good Q&A feature, it's easier to ask questions in a big crowd. The asker will get noticed without having every eye on him or her. As such, you might get better feedback.

2. Client events: For those in the event industry, from wedding photographers to funeral homes, webcasting opens up a new revenue stream. A live event webcast allows your client's friends and family to participate even when they cannot be there in person. Webcasting also gives your client the option to hold a smaller event while still reaching out to a large number of people, even those they might only know virtually. There are plenty of services available to assist with the technical aspects of the webcast itself, from invitations to broadcasting.

3. Product launch: Webcasts are a great way to announce new products to existing customers or across the internet. With webcasting, you can show off the product, share testimony from beta testers or early adopters and generate leads from viewers. Afterward, you can trim the recording to show just the highlights and post it to social media or run it on your website.

4. Product demos: Most webcasting software allows for screensharing or application sharing. It's easy to see how this works when you have a new program or online service, but you can also use this for physical products or services. You can make videos of the product in use to show the audience how it works while your presenter discusses the details.

5. Product training: Along the same lines as product demos is product training. If your product is a program or something you can manipulate on the computer, you can show off its features. You can also field questions and if a user has problems working a specific function, you can demonstrate how to do the function. Even with physical products, with a good video stream, you can teach users in a way that's visual and interactive.

6. Classes: Many businesses use webcasts to help clients get the most out of their product. This goes beyond simply training them on the functions. Webcasts can include best practices, unique uses and general information related to the product. For example, a webcasting service might hold a class on how to advertise a webcast on social media or how to use surveys to generate leads. Live event webcasts can broadcast classroom-style courses that are being presented to people in the room. In this way, you can have live classes do double-duty; triple, if you consider that you can record the webcast for others to view later.

7. Thought leadership: Businesses looking to increase their reputation as an industry leader can use webcasts to demonstrate their expertise, as well as share their knowledge both with their peers and potential clients. Webcasting software and a little imagination can make a white paper or case study come alive. If your company is presenting at a convention or seminar, webcasting the event lets you expand your audience both in immediate numbers and in new viewers over time if you post a recording.

8. Advocacy: Webcasts can do more than sell a product or educate. You can combine a live person talking with compelling visuals and video to create a powerful tool for advocacy as well. Whether you have a political, environmental or other issue you want to speak out on, webcasts can provide a versatile venue. Even more, the recordings can be edited to create snippets for social media. If the issue is controversial, the ability to screen questions and mute people at will can be an advantage over live events, as you can cut off trolls before they have a chance to cause trouble.

9. Web-a-thons: These are especially popular on YouTube. A YouTuber hosts a marathon on his or her channel, running a certain number of hours on a topic or topics, taking questions and comments, sometimes accepting challenges. Some do this to raise money for a cause, while others do so for sport or to show off something   a new video game they are beta testing, for example. You can certainly try something similar for your business. Perhaps your company can pull an all-nighter for a local charity, or webcast the stress test of your software, from the bugs uncovered to how they are resolved.

10. Fun publicity: Not everything has to be serious or product-related. Think outside the box. If your company sells home improvement products, you could make a webcast on making a hovercraft out of leaf blowers. If you have a new cookbook coming out, you can try a recipecast, where you cook one of the meals in the book. A behind-the-scenes webcast can give your company a human face or show off its unique culture.

How you use a webcast depends on your company and your product, as well as how much time and effort you can dedicate to its production. However, most webcasting services are designed to make the actual execution of the webcast simple. From there, it's up to you. Whether you plan a full-on live event webcast or just use a webcam and some PowerPoint slides, webcasts make an effective communications and marketing tool.

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