As more business functions move online, webinars have become a popular and effective mechanism for marketing, sales, and customer support. And since countless providers have entered the market over the years, chances are that you’ll find something that best meets your needs.
In this article, we’ll review four services that caught our eye and that we believe you should know about (mind you, there are more webinar platforms than we could fit into a single piece so we’ve included a few additional resources to check out in the end).
Before we dive into today’s content here are a few important points:
- The web-conferencing solutions commonly have several versions and plans, each tailored to a specific use case (from small private meetings to webinars for large audiences).
- There are many players on the market and pricing can vary substantially with the number of features offered (we’ll point out the most compelling ones from the platforms that we’ve covered in detail here).
We’ll begin with the more expensive options and progress to cheaper ones. Let’s start with Adobe’s offering:
Included in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Web Conferencing, Adobe Connect has three main use cases – web meetings, eLearning, and webinars. Although the service can be a good option for small teams, the fact that it has several deployment options (on-premise, software as a service (SaaS), and hybrid) demonstrates that larger enterprises are the product’s main customer base (the website even lists the U.S. Department of Defense as a customer).
Anyone can choose from two plans online but its clear Adobe would like for you to talk to their sales people. The first option allows up to 25 attendees per host (you can buy up to 9 hosts per account) and comes at a price of $45 per month. The second plan has a pay per use format with a cost of $0.32/min/user (thought up to 500 users can participate at the same time).
As you can see from the page yourself, there are way too many features to list here, but some of the more worthwhile ones include:
- always on meeting rooms with custom urls: you can create and save virtual “meeting rooms” where content is saved
- ability to interact with rich content inside recordings: anyone can download files, click on links etc. when viewing a recorded file
- webinar analytics: a dashboard shows attendee’s demographic and behavioral data at the individual level
- customization: ability to brand the webinar interface, event landing pages, microsites, and email communications with the help of drag-and-drop tools
- extendability: the platform has multiple plugins that allow you to connect it to other software tools
While there are many strong aspects of Adobe’s platform, here are a few downsides to consider:
- Its the most expensive of the four.
- You’ll have to contact sales to purchase the ability to host over 25 attendees (or use the more expensive pay per use plan).
Let’s move to the second product.
GotoWebinar is one of the more popular webinar platforms (thanks in part to the company’s extensive viral marketing efforts) which is part of Citrix’s wide product range that also includes GoToMeeting and GoToTraining.
Although this particular platform has a number of similar features (e.g. customizable pre-event planning, practice sessions, availability of mobile apps), you’ll notice right off the bat that Citrix has 4 plans, the cheapest one starting at $99 per month for 100 attendees and a plan with a maximum of 1000 attendees for $499 per month. Similar to Adobe’s 30 day free trial for 25 attendees, you can take GoToWebinar’s $99 plan for a spin for one month.
The service has several unique features:
- HD faces – high-definition view of participants via webcams.
- Powerful post-webinar reporting – measures audience attendance, engagement, and survey results.
- Toll-free call-in service available in 40 countries (can be added only to the multi-user plan).
- Screen (desktop) sharing and other features for audience engagement(polls/surveys, drawing tools, participants can raise hands).
Despite all of its laudable features, the service’s main disadvantage is the need for attendees to download software and then open the application every they’d like to view a webinar. This adds considerable friction to the process and can result in you losing a large share of your prospects, especially during marketing or sales presentations.
Another close competitor to GoToWebinar is Cisco’s WebEx and since it has a lot in common with GoToWebinar – the overall design, pricing, and features – we didn’t include a separate section for the service here.
Tailored for small and medium-sized organizations and virtually anyone on a tight budget, “AnyMeeting has a disruptive offering that can compete (and undercut) online meeting leaders like Cisco’s WebEx and Citrix’s GoToMeeting” according to VentureBeat.
With only three plans (one free and two paid), you’ll notice the platform’s intuitive design by simply looking at the platform’s clean and uncluttered website. Both the free (ad-supported) and the $78 per month plan let you host meetings with up to 200 attendees while the $18 dollar per month plan allow up to 25 webinar participants.
What’s interesting is that the service is completely web-based and all plans have many of the features offered by more expensive platforms (e.g. pre-event registration and planning, post-event reporting, a mobile-ready platform, video conferencing) for free or at a fraction of the competitors’ prices. The service has other cool functionality worth mentioning:
- Aunique meeting url that can be shared on the host’s website and social network pages
- Tools for audience interaction via chat, polls, and Q&A
- The option of charging for webinars
- Meeting recording and hosting
- Screen sharing, cam-sharing (for up to 6 participants), live Youtube video sharing, uploading and presenting of documents
Option #4: MeetingBurner
MeetingBurner is another strong contender with a platform that’s targeting the small business portion of the market. In a fashion similar to AnyMeeting, the service has one free (with a maximum of 10 attendees), and two paid plans – a $39.95 plan with up to 50 and a $99.95 plan with a maximum of 1000 webinar participants.
With a laundry list of features that vary slightly among the three plans, the service matches many of the competitor’s featres (including webinar chat, a paywall, meeting recording, and mobile support). Skype and Aweber integrations are the two points that are unique to the service. And as it says on the website, you can expect the service to be faster (it’s 100% web-based), simpler, and better.
Similar to AnyMeeting, the free plan doesn’t allow webinars to be recorded and according to some online reviews the interface can seem rather cluttered at times.
Up to this point, we’ve covered one service that can be installed on company premises or used like any other online service (Adobe Connect), one provider that requires software to be downloaded and installed (GoToWebinar and its clsoe companion WebEx) and two online-only solutions – AnyMeeting and MeetingBurner. Another important point is that while Adobe Connect requires users to install AIR, MeetingBurner needs Flash and Java to function, and WebEx another plugin, AnyMeeting doesn’t require any additional plugins or softwtware to be installed on the participants’ devices.
As we’ve hinted already, our list is by no means an exhaustive one – other providers worth mentioning include:
Althought each tries to match various competing offers, each aims to differentiate itself at the same time – you’ll just have to dig deeper to figure out what make each service stand out for you and which one would be a good fit for you as well.
If however, video isn’t on your list of must-have features, we’d like to highlight that Croice can be used as an alternative webinar solution, with audio and chat being two of its core features. You can check it out and decide whether it would fit your goals right here.