Webinar Services Review
Why Use Webinar Services?
The top performers in our review are Cisco WebEx, the Gold Award winner; Onstream Webinars, the Silver Award winner; and Webinato, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a platform to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 services.
Webinars are quickly becoming an important business tool that allows companies to find new customers, educate current clients and strengthen their customer service. When using a webinar service, it's easy to create and share a PowerPoint presentation outlining certain products and services you offer or to allow customers to see screenshots or a live demonstration of the program, making troubleshooting more simple.
Webinar hosting has become more easily accessible to both businesses and viewers. Nowadays, attendees can join a webinar without downloads or complicated codes and join a meeting simply from a web-browser. Webinar programs have three main feature categories: presenter tools, moderator options and webinar features. These focus primarily on the attendee experience, including security, integrations and needed downloads before attending your webinar.
For added convenience, services are gearing their platforms for mobile devices so that attendees can join in from cell phones or tablets. Many of the services even allow you to present from a mobile device, making the platform even more convenient. Integration with Outlook is a great convenience to you and your attendees as it lets you invite, remind and schedule webinars from this common program. Social media integration makes it easy to invite people at large, share webinars and have attendees promote for you. The best services also offer encryption and passwords for security.
With archiving, you can hang on to your recorded webinars and share links if you don't want to transfer files onto your own website; although, most services allow you to download the recordings as well. Most of the webinar services have limited editing software for these recordings, usually just for cutting out sections. With this limited editing, you can remove dead time and off-topic questions for a higher-quality final product.
Presenter & Moderator Tools
All services have VoIP capability and webcam functionality, but being able to handle phone-ins as well is a plus. Though all the programs we reviewed have these options available, a few of them, such as Adobe Connect, require you to purchase them separately rather than including them with your subscription price. Additionally, many of the services offer a toll-free option for attendees to call in with for an additional monthly fee.
Every webinar service we tested allows for screen sharing and loading of documents, such as PowerPoint slides, into a webinar "library" for use in the webcast itself. The services also allow you to share your desktop to attendees, broadening the applications you can share with your audience. Some of the services even allow you to share individual applications so that you do not have to reveal your entire computer screen to your attendees. This feature not only makes sharing applications more convenient but also adds a layer of security to the webinar.
Webinars are meant to be responsive to the audience, so it's useful for presenters to be able to see their planned slides before they post it for the attendees to see. This allows presenters to adapt the presentation to the audience.
Businesses want webinars for marketing and revenue, so monetization features play an important role. Some services have lead-generation tools that go beyond simply asking questions during the registration or survey process. Also, some services, such as GoToWebinar, can integrate with customer relationship management software so that your sales representatives can follow up with attendees interested in your company or service. A logout redirect lets you send attendees to a URL of your choice after logout, such as a survey, a buy link or a webpage with more information about your product.
Which Service Is Right for You?
When we tested webinar services, we looked for platforms that work well for small and medium businesses and can easily accommodate around 100 people. Though it could support more audience members, it is important to realize the more people you have, the less bandwidth you may have to share your live presentation, resulting in some possible lag.
If you need to reach an audience greater than 500 people, check out our webcasting services reviews. In addition to supporting live meetings, they provide you with a way to create your meeting on your own time, then upload the presentation on your website for clients to download and listen to on their own time.
If a small, more collaborative meeting is what you're looking for, we’ve reviewed web-conferencing services that do just that. These have many of the same features as webinar services but also include tools to make it easier to allow attendees to interact with the presenter. Web conferencing typically serves a more educational purpose rather than a marketing tool.
Our sister site, Business News Daily, has a quick guide for choosing the best webinar service. Likewise, BuyerZone has a questionnaire that allows you to compare a variety of services, including web-conferencing services, depending on your business's exact need. We also have several articles on webinar platforms and other business-related services.
What We Tested; What We Found
When testing webinar platforms, we used the available trial versions to hold a small meeting. We scheduled guest presenters and used the service features to set up the meeting with a summary page, presenter bio and images. We created webinar information pages and fliers, then looked at the capability of sending out bulk email invites.
During the webinar itself, we noted the sound quality, ease of setting up the platform and logging in as an attendee, and the usability of a presenter. We tried some of the most common features, such as muting and moderating attendees, adding PowerPoint slides, putting up graphics and video, and using transcription and poll features.
We looked closely at all of the features specified on each company's website and used our test group meetings to verify these features were included and functional. One important tool that we looked for is the ability to remotely access your attendee's screen from your computer. This is especially helpful for customer service and technical issues. This option lets you quickly fix any problems with the software, or even some computer hardware issues, without requiring your clients to watch the presentation, then remember each step. All three of our top choices include this feature.
Our Verdict; Our Recommendations
All of the webinar providers on our review adequately support your need to present live presentations for both educational and marketing projects, though our top three services, Cisco WebEx, Onstream Webinars and Webinato, are the easiest to use and include most of the basic and advanced options for presentation software. Some products, such as ClickWebinar, include remote-access abilities that are helpful for customer service interactions, especially for technical support. A few products come with options for monetizing your webinar. Whether you need a webinar platform for education, marketing or technical support, our lineup displays the best webinar services to help you find the right product for those needs.