I give a lot of webinars on a lot of different platforms — and I cause all kinds of problems because of the interactive nature of my presentation. I would guess that 75-95% of webinar presenters will have a PowerPoint deck that can be easily uploaded into the platform, while the other 5-25% of us need other features to do what we do.
Here are some things to think about if you’re looking for a webinar platform that will be flexible enough for different types of presenters and presentations:
How does the system handle video and audio files? It’s a complete disaster for me when I have to send all my clips in advance and have someone upload them to play.
Can attendees talk to each other? Can we unmute them? I ask a bunch of questions of the audience during the session and enjoy when they comment to each other about the topics i’m discussing. Some platforms don’t allow for this kind of interaction. GoToMeeting, for example, lets attendees submit questions but not chat, so I just read them out as they come in.
- Mac Compatibility
Even in 2017, I come across platforms that freak out when they are on a Mac. And some struggle with different browsers as well.
- PowerPoint Alternative Compatibility
Can the system handle Prezi? Apple’s Keynote? Perhaps they can deal with it with a screenshare (see below), but you should ask to make sure.
Because I switch back and forth between showing demos of the tech tools I’m covering and the slide deck, I always prefer sharing my desktop over just uploading a slide deck. Is this easy for the platform to do (on both Mac and PCs)? Is it easy for the organizers to give control, or do you have to make the presenter an organizer to let him/her share the screen?
- Waiting Room
Some platforms have a wonderful waiting room for attendees so that they don’t see the presenter setting up or hear her say, “Ok. I am going to run to the restroom and come right back.”
- Dry Run
Does the platform have a way to hold a practice session? Some platforms let you use the same webinar setup to do a practice run, and others make you set up a completely different meeting to practice. And no matter how many times I’ve done webinars, I ALWAYS request a dry run, and I request that the coordinators do the practice on the computer that they’ll be using.
- Webcam Capability
Webinars can be pretty boring if you’re just staring at a slide with bullet points while the presenter speaks. I love using my webcam to create a better connection with the audience, even though it means that I have to wear makeup and the appropriate undergarments.
- Live Interaction Capability
Yesterday I presented at a conference in Florida from the comfort of my home office here in San Diego. We used Zoom, and the coordinators logged into the system with other devices so they coild walk me around the room so I could see the audience as they interacted and asked questions. Sure, it’s kind of scary for the participants to see my disembodied head on an iPad as I watch them do group activities, but that interaction helps me feel closer to my audience.
As you can see, my concerns probably go beyond those many presenters may need, but if you’re searching for a new platform (and you want to hire an outlier like me), these features are great to have.
So, which webinar platforms would you recommend based upon those criteria?
We have tried numerous platforms. The really good ones are too expensive for our low-budget needs. We had another consideration on this list, the ability to have attendees call into an 800 number. Many of our members participate from schools and also in rural areas where internet and cell phone reception may not be great. A good number of school phones do not allow calling long distance numbers. So, we needed an option that would offer attendees a toll-free way to join in.
If your association is a non-profit (either a c3 or c6), often times you can get a really low per minute rate for having an 800 number to dial in on.
We used to use accuconference, until it was purchased by Arkadin and it became too cumbersome for our users. We now use Anymeeting.
Another thing we needed to consider was the ability to have attendees register for a meeting. Some platforms do not offer a registration form, or you are locked into a predefined registration form.