The top performers in our review are Cisco WebEx, the Gold Award winner; Onstream Webinars, the Silver Award winner; and GoToWebinar, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 systems.
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 technology has become more easily accessible to both businesses and viewers. Nowadays, attendees can join a webinar without downloads or complicated codes. 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.
With today's mobile society, it's important that attendees can join in from a cell phone or tablet. 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 onto 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 require you to purchase them separately rather than including them with your subscription price, as ReadyTalk does.
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. Those that made our top ten also allow sharing of individual applications so that you do not need to reveal your entire computer screen to your attendees.
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 iLinc, can integrate with customer relationship management software so that your sales representatives can follow up with attendees interested your company or service. A logout redirect lets you send attendees to a URL of your choice after logout, such as a survey or a webpage with more information about your product or even a buy link.
When we tested webinar services, we looked for webinar services that work well for small and medium businesses and can easily accommodate about 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 is typically more educational 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 will allow you to compare a variety of services, including web-conferencing services, depending on your business's exact need.
Part of a good webinar is creating an engaging PowerPoint presentation. We have a good resource, a tutorial of the Best PowerPoint Presentation and PowerPoint Tips, to help you create effective presentations. We also have several articles on webinar services.
When testing webinar services, we used the available trial versions and held a small meeting with a group of authors. 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 logging in as an attendee and using the program as a presenter. We tried some of the most common features, such as muting, including PowerPoint slides, putting up graphics and video, and using transcription and poll features.
We conducted a Q&A session within the webinar program following each presentation that included discussion and feedback from those that attended. This included comments on the overall quality of the program used, the simplicity of attendees logging into the program and the ease of using attendee features. Similar questions were asked of the presenters as well.
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, as does omNovia. MegaMeeting also has this feature available, though you have to purchase it in addition to the basic program.
All of the webinar services on our review adequately support your need to present live presentations for both educational and marketing projects, though out top three services, Cisco WebEx, Onstream Webinars and GoToWebinar, are the easiest to use and include most of the basic and advanced options for presentation software. Some products, such as omNovia, 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.
Though these products could be used for presenting to a very large audience, we recommend no more than 100 people. We have reviewed other services, such as webcasting services, that are better suited for 500 plus people.