The top performers in our review are Onstream Webinars, the Gold Award winner; Adobe Connect, the Silver Award winner; and Cisco WebEx, 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.
Webcasting lets you provide live stream of company seminars and press conferences to help you increase brand recognition and promote your company to a wide audience. Webcasting services have great recording and editing capabilities, and have become more mobile-friendly, so that your listeners can enjoy your material from any web-enabled device and at a time that is most convenient for them. This makes webcasting more on-demand and user friendly than webinar or web conferencing services that tend to be more geared towards smaller and more defined audiences.
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. Several services also have a phone-in feature for those who lack voice over internet protocol capability.
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. Two of our top picks, Onstream Webinars and Adobe Connect, both have unlimited video streaming. omNovia is the other on our top ten that also doesn't cap the number of live streams you can have in your webcast. 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 tested includes screensharing, although some required a special download. Most include 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. Other services, such as ClickWebinar, 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.
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, though some webcasting services, such as INXPO, 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, such as ON24.
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. It is important to note that both Onstream Webinar and GoToWebcast will require to use an Application Programming Interface, or API, in order to use this feature. This doesn't detract from the value of this feature, it just adds an extra step.
All of the webcasting platforms in our lineup let you brand your webcast room so it reflects your company and services. You can also 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.
Which Solution Do You Need?
In addition to supporting live webcasting services, several of these programs have the basic features and functions for traditional webinars, too. However, since webcasting services typically charge per use, it may be more cost effective to purchase a webinar service if you have smaller audiences and prefer more web interaction with them. We have reviewed some of the top webinar services, many that also offer webcasting options. Some of these programs, including ReadyTalk, are also listed on our web conferencing review site. These programs are for audiences under 100, and are great for one-on-one situations including service recognition, program setup and technical support.
If you're not quite sure which solution you need, or if you're considering a program that supports all three functions, - webinars, webcasting and web conferencing, consider using the questionnaire available through our sister site, BuyerZone. After answering some questions, you will be given some recommendations of a solution that may be the best for meeting your company needs.
Additionally, we have articles on webcasting services that will help you with your purchasing decision, as well as creating an effective presentation. We also have a tutorial, Best PowerPoint Presentation and PowerPoint Tips that has some ideas on how to create presentations that are engaging and memorable.
When we tested webcast services, we used them to conduct a live event with a specialty group of authors. We lined up presenters and used the program to create info pages and bios. We also sent out bulk invites to ensure those programs that integrate with Outlook. These invites included instructions for attendees for connecting with the event, including any downloading of, or passwords to access the program.
Throughout the webcast we tried the various features, including using live video streams, previewing presentation slides, muting attendees and the raise hand feature. We used the phone-in features to ensure a positive experience for attendees. We used the recording and editing features, and noted the overall quality for the finished product.
As part of the webcast we conducted a Q&A session that included feedback about the overall ease-of-use and quality of the webcasting service program from the attendees' point of view. We took careful note of the overall quality of the audio of the life event, and how simple it was for the attendee to use the program. We ranked webinar services based on both of these points. We also considered the amount of features and functions included to calculate the overall score of each service.
We highly recommend Onstream Webinars, Adobe Connect and WebEX by Cisco are the best webcasting services. Each of these programs is easy to use for both presenters and attendees. In addition to being able to provide quality live stream of your business event, these solutions have recording and editing features so that you can provide your seminars and press releases for downloading and listening later. And since all of them are mobile-friendly, your clients will be able to access, both the live stream and the recording, from their web-enabled phone, tablet or other device.