Webcasting is no longer just about getting a message to your company. The internet is arguably the main source of information for most people. As such, businesses across the globe are using webcasts to build their reputations as thought leaders in their industries, promote themselves to a larger audience and attract new customers. Webcasting technology has made it easier than ever to create engaging webcasts.
Webcasts traditionally have been a one-to-many communication that limited interactivity, unlike webinars and web conferences. However, that is changing, and webcasts now are engaging attendees to a greater degree than before. In addition, webcasts are so accessible that people can easily watch them in the comfort of their offices – or anywhere – on computer monitors, tablets and smartphones. However, if you are looking for a service that offers high interaction with a small number of people, check out our web conferencing services reviews. For one-to-many communications with strong interaction, you should look at our webinar services reviews.
We offer side-by-side comparisons and reviews of webcasting solutions to help you choose the best solution for your company. Check out our top three products: Onstream Media, Adobe Connect and Cisco WebEx. For more information, read our learning center articles on webcasting.
A successful webcast depends on the basics. Webcasts should be able to handle hundreds of people with the ability to expand to thousands if need be. The fewer downloads needed, the easier it is for you, your presenters and your audience. For further convenience, your audience members should be able to join in from a smartphone or tablet. Several services also have a phone-in feature for those who lack Voice over Internet Protocol capability.
If you need a webcast larger than your current plan, it's good to know the maximum plan size, and most webcasting services allow you to upgrade for just a month. Multiple room capability is also a plus if you are planning a conference or have a need to break your audience into smaller groups.
The purpose of webcasts is to reach as large an audience as possible, which means invitations and reminders are important. Outlook integration is a great convenience to you and your attendees, as it lets you invite, remind and schedule webcasts. Social media integration makes it easy to invite people at large and have attendees promote for you. With archiving, you can hang onto your recorded webcasts 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 webcasting platforms have limited editing software, usually just for cutting out sections, but this lets you remove dead time and off-topic questions for a high-quality final product. You can also isolate sections of the webcast to share on social media.
Even though webcasts strive for a large audience, you might have times when you want to limit your audience. Encryption and passwords are included for those who are concerned about security.
Sometimes, you want a panel of presenters rather than a single lecturer. While all the services allow multiple presenters, most limit the number of simultaneous video streams. Even those that don’t set limits caution that if you have too many, you might lose quality because of bandwidth issues. A few services in our lineup only allow one stream at a time but give you the option to switch presenters' webcams.
Every webcasting service we test includes screensharing, although some required a special download. Most included application sharing, which lets you share a single application rather than your entire desktop. Many of the sites let you upload video to enhance your presentation. Others provide in-webcast slide preview, a useful feature that lets you skip or move slides during the webcast without the audience noticing. This lets you adapt your presentation on the fly.
A system check ensures that your own internet connection is up to par for the webcast. Several of the sites have the ability to operate in a different language or to translate the chat.
Webcasts don't always mean computer-to-computer communication. If you hold a live event, such as a press conference, live class or town hall, most of these companies offer live broadcasting of your event over the web.
With hundreds or even thousands of people participating in a webcast, a Q&A chat can get confusing. Moderation tools can help you keep control of the chat while still receiving audience participation.
The raise-hand feature makes it easy for the presenter to see who has a question. Screening questions allows the presenter to see the question first in order to decide whether to answer publicly, privately or not at all. Some webcasting services forego the raise-hand feature because the Q&A box is separate from the chat. Muting or removing attendees can take care of troublemakers or those who simply don’t realize their background noise is bleeding into the webcast. Most webcasts rely on text-based Q&A, but a few have audio Q&A. Some services even have operators who can serve as moderators for your webcast. These are usually for hire and not part of the package.
In addition to the advantages of becoming a thought leader in your industry, you can use webcasts for marketing and revenue, so monetization features play an important role. Some services integrate with your PayPal to take payments for you.
Charging for registration, while useful, isn't always the best way to use a webcast, especially when the goal is to improve your reputation as a leader in the industry as well as attract future customers. Therefore, some webcasting software integrates with Customer Relationship Management software so that your sales representatives can follow up with attendees. Reports and evaluations can help with this as well by showing who was interested in what sections of your webcast.
Finally, many of the webcasting platforms in our lineup let you brand your webcast room. You can program a logout redirect to send attendees to a URL of your choice so you can lead them to a survey or a webpage with more information about your product or even a buy link.
Help & Support
Webcasts are getting easier for attendees and presenters alike, but there are always occasions where you need help, whether to figure out how to use a feature or to solve an issue with the audio. Phone support is best when it’s available 24/7, and chat support is a great feature so that you aren't interrupting your lecture by talking with tech support. Live training is a plus offered by several of the services. All the services have guides or knowledgebases, but the best have video guides for attendees as well as presenters. The latter are especially handy because you don't have to worry about training people who have never attended a webcast and are unsure about how to participate.
Webcasts can be a fun and effective way to increase your company's reputation in the industry and bring in new customers. With a webcasting service that best fits your needs, you can create webcasts that inform and entertain your audience while helping your business.