Why Web Conferencing?
The top performers in our review are Onstream Meetings, the Gold Award winner; Adobe Connect, the Silver Award winner; and GlobalMeet, 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 programs.
Web conferencing allows you to interact with customers and potential clients over the internet. Unlike webinar and webcasting services, web conferences let you give more personal attention. You can share your computer screen with your attendees. You can access your client's computer remotely, which is handy for helping with technical support or walking a customer through how to use a new program.
Web conferencing functions as a great tool for intercompany interactions. These programs allow participants to join conversations and collaborate on projects. One tool, application sharing, is great for letting attendees collaborate on an important project.
Other useful features of web conferencing services include a preparation mode that allows you to do a dry run of a meeting to test the software and your presentation before others enter the room. Reports help you keep track of attendance and other data for improving meetings. Integration with Outlook is an added convenience because you can schedule and launch meetings from Outlook and get reminders before the meeting.
Which Solution Do You Need?
Web conferencing software is good for interoffice meetings, especially if you have more than one location or workers that telecommute. These programs give you an easy way for everyone to come together and collaborate. However, most of these solutions can only handle a small audience: 50 people or less. While more people could log in, the more attendees you have, the more the overall quality of the presentation and program will decrease.
These programs are also good for IT and other customer support issues. Most have a program that allows the presenter to have remote access of the client's computer and either teach or virtually walk through the answers with the client. If you have multiple clients experiencing the same issue, you can hold a web conference and allow more than one attendee to log in to watch your presentation. You can also record the program so other clients can download and access it.
If you discover that you need to host a larger number of people, 100 or more, check out our webinar services review. These are designed to host audiences up to 500 people. Many also include web conferencing features and are featured on both this site and our webinar services review site. One example is ReadyTalk, although you may have to pay more for a higher package that includes features for both conferencing and webinars.
Webcasting is another similar program to web conferencing. Webcasting is designed for large audiences, over 500, and for broadcasting and recording large events, such as press conferences or seminars. These programs allow patrons to log in and view your presentation as it is presented live. However, since you can record the event, you can have it available for participants to access it later, either through your website or as a file share link. These programs are capable of hosting a small web conference.
As with the webinar services, we have reviewed and ranked the top-performing webcasting programs, several that are also included on our web conferencing comparison. Cisco's WebEx has been reviewed for both sites and has ranked high on both lists. However, the cost of using a webcasting service is much higher compared to web conferencing services. It may be more economical for you to invest in the web conferencing program if you plan to hold smaller presentations.
If you are not sure if you should go with a web conferencing, webcasting or webinar software, use the questionnaire located at the top of the page to help determine your needs, to know which program you need and to get a list of possible services that match your business focus. Additionally, we have several articles on web conferencing, including tips on how to create effective PowerPoint presentations.
What We Tested; What We Found
When testing web conferencing services, we held several web meetings with a group of participants. We used each service to conduct the conference, invite people to attend, create informational pages on the conference and include a bio for our presenters. We evaluated the user experience from both the presenter and attendee side.
We were able to use PowerPoint presentations to help our participants see and understand the material being presented. There are only two services that let you use screenshots as part of your presentation – our top-ranked service, Onstream Webinar, and GoToMeeting. We recorded each meeting and used the editing tools before making the web conference available to our attendees.
Participants should be able to easily get into the meeting with both voice and video access. The ability to get into the meeting without downloading extra programs or putting in codes is an advantage. Additionally, some services provide you with a toll-free calling number that allows participants to call into the meeting without an extra cost to them. However, not all services provide this option. iLinc is one solution that offers toll-free calling as part of your monthly subscription. Other programs, like ClickMeeting and Intercall Unified Meeting, also have this feature available, though you are required to pay extra for it.
Participation and collaboration serve as the main purpose of web conferencing; as such, participants should be able to jump in via chat or voice Q&A, which are included with all of the services we reviewed. We used the Q&A features when available to receive participant and presenter feedback. The experience of these services helped determine their overall score and ranking.
It's also handy to have breakout rooms. This enables smaller teams to gather privately during the meeting to work on a specific issue before returning to the group. Adobe Connect, Cisco Webex and Intercall all feature such rooms.
Our Verdict & Recommendation
Onstream Meetings, Adobe Connect and GlobalMeet are our top picks for web conferencing services. Each of these programs is very simple to use and includes some of the best tools and features compared to other web meeting software. Some solutions, such as ReadyTalk, have options available for webcasting and webinar services that give you the chance to host presentations, both recorded and live, regardless of your audience size. The questionnaire and additional buying guides, including those available through our sister site, BuyerZone, can help you determine your exact needs and point you toward a solution that is right for you and your company.