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Webcasting Services Review
Why Use a Webcasting Service?
The top performers in our review are Cisco WebEx, the Gold Award winner; Onstream Media, the Silver Award winner; and Adobe Connect, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a service to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 services.
Webcasting services provide you with the tools and support you need to live stream anything from company seminars to press conferences. Using webcasting, you can increase brand recognition and promote your company to a wide audience. Webcasting services have great recording and editing capabilities and have become more mobile-friendly so that your listeners can enjoy your material from any web-enabled device. This makes webcasting more on-demand and user friendly than webinar or web conferencing services that tend to be geared toward smaller and more defined audiences.
A successful webcast depends on the basics. Webcasts should be able to handle hundreds of attendees with the ability to expand to thousands if need be. The fewer downloads needed, the easier it is for you, your presenters and your audience. Several services also have a phone-in feature for those who lack voice over internet protocol capability.
Webcasting offers much more versatility than webinars. When you need a panel of speakers rather than a single lecturer, all of the services allow multiple presenters; however, some limit the number of simultaneous video streams during a session. Two of our top picks, Onstream Media and Adobe Connect, both have unlimited video streaming. Webinato is the other on our top ten list that also doesn't cap the number of live streams you can have in your webcast. While these services do not limit video streaming, they caution against using too many as it may cause you to lose quality due to bandwidth issues. A few services in our lineup only allow one stream at a time but give you the option to switch presenters' webcams.
Every webcasting service we tested allows you to share your screen with attendees; although, some require a special download. Some of the programs also include application sharing, which lets you share a single application rather than your entire desktop. Many of the sites let you upload video to enhance your presentation. Other services, such as ClickWebinar, provide in-webcast slide preview, a useful feature that lets you skip or move slides during the webcast without the audience noticing. This lets you adapt your presentation on the fly.
With webcasts that range between hundreds and thousands of audiences, Q&A chats may become overwhelming for presenters and confusing to attendees. Moderation tools can help you keep control of the chat while still receiving audience participation.
The raise-hand feature makes it easy for the presenter to see who has a question, though some webcasting services, such as INXPO, forego the raise-hand feature because the Q&A box is separate from the chat. Muting or removing attendees can take care of troublemakers or those who simply don’t realize their background noise is bleeding into the webcast. Most webcasts rely on text-based Q&A, but a few have audio Q&A. Some services even have operators who can serve as moderators for your webcast. These are not usually part of the package.
In addition to the advantages of becoming a thought leader in your industry, you can use webcasts for marketing and revenue, so monetization features play an important role. Some services integrate with your PayPal to conveniently take and receive payments.
Charging for registration, while useful, isn't always the best way to use a webcast, especially when the goal is to improve your reputation as a leader in the industry as well as attract future customers. Therefore, some webcasting software integrates with Customer Relationship Management software so that your sales representatives can follow up with attendees. It is important to note that many of the services, like Onstream Media and GoToWebinar, require you to use an Application Programming Interface, or API, in order to use this feature. This doesn't detract from the value of this feature; it just adds an extra step.
All of the webcasting platforms in our lineup let you brand your webcast room so it reflects your company and services. You can also program a logout redirect to send attendees to a URL of your choice so you can lead them to a survey or a webpage with more information about your product or even a buy link.
Which Solution Do You Need?
In addition to supporting live webcasting services, several of these programs have the basic features and functions for traditional webinars, too. However, since webcasting services typically charge per use, it may be more cost effective to purchase a webinar service if you have smaller audiences and prefer more web interaction with them. We have reviewed some of the top webinar services, many of which also offer webcasting options. Some of these programs, including ReadyTalk, are also listed on our web conferencing review site. These programs are for audiences under 100 and are great for one-on-one situations, including service recognition, program setup and technical support.
If you're not quite sure which solution you need or if you're considering a program that supports all three functions – webinars, webcasting and web conferencing – consider using the questionnaire available through our sister site, BuyerZone. After answering some questions, you will be given recommendations on a solution that best fits your company’s needs. Additionally, we have articles on webcasting services that can help you with your purchasing decision as well as creating an effective presentation.
What We Tested; What We Found
With each webcast service, we went through every step you would in creating a live event. We customized the platforms to display our brand and logo, created presenter biographies, sent out bulk invites with Microsoft Outlook if the feature was supported, and customized invitation and registration pages. The invites included specific instructions for attendees on how to connect to an event, including downloading applications or plug-ins, if applicable, and forwarding passwords or codes to access the program via phone or internet.
We found that programs that allow you to access the webcast on your internet browser were the easiest to set up and use from an attendee standpoint. Both ClickWebinar and ReadyTalk were the easiest programs to set up. The services allow presenters and attendees to access webcasts from a browser without having to download any extensions or plug-ins.
Throughout the webcasts, we tried the various presentation and moderating features, including using live video streams, previewing presentation slides, sharing screens and applications, muting attendees, and monitoring the raise hand feature. We used the phone-in features to ensure a positive experience for attendees that cannot access the event from a computer. We also accessed the webcast as both a presenter and attendee using a mobile device to ensure the app offered the same performance and usability of the online solution. We used the recording and editing features and noted the overall quality for the finished product.
As part of the webcast, we conducted a Q&A session that included feedback about the overall ease-of-use and quality of the webcasting service program from the attendees' point of view. We took careful note of the overall quality of the live event, including how simple it was for the attendee to use the program. We ranked webcasting services based on usability for both the presenter and attendee. We also considered the amount of features and functions included to calculate the overall score of each service.
Our hands-on testing is designed to simulate typical, real-world experiences with webcasting services. For our tests on these services, we received access to them from the companies. The manufacturers have no input on our testing methodology, and our rankings are not shared with them prior to publication.
Our Verdict & Recommendations
While all of the webcasting services offer quality solutions to hosting live events, we found that three of the services out-performed the others in usability and performance. Cisco WebEx, Onstream Media and Adobe Connect offer a combination of high-functioning webcasting services with numerous presentation features, moderator tools and monetization features.
We found these are the best webcasting services. Each of these programs is easy to use for both presenters and attendees. In addition to being able to provide quality live stream of your business event, these solutions have recording and editing features so that you can provide your seminars and press releases for downloading and listening later. And since all of them are mobile-friendly, your clients can access both the live stream and the recording from their web-enabled phone, tablet or other device, making these services convenient and easy to use.