Think of a webmeeting and one name probably comes to your mind immediately. WebEx is a word that, like "Google" and "Kleenex" has come to stand for just about anything in its field. This is awfully annoying to Livemeeting, Adobe Connect, Dimdim, Telenect, Freebinar and a host of others. You might be surprised to know that there are over 125 webmeeting platforms out there, though. How do you choose the right one for your team?
Having options is nice. Having a hundred choices might seem like a good thing, but it can be paralyzing to those of us who don't want to spend a long time evaluating tools and don't even know where to start. In my work with clients, it's the single most asked question: "Which tool do I choose?" Like all good consultants, I give them an honest but annoying answer: It depends what you want to use it for.
To get really into the weeds, there are a couple of sites that do a good job of introducing some of the options. Webinar Hero has just started offering comparisons and reviews. Robin Good also offers some great insight. Meanwhile, here are the three things to ask yourself when looking for a webmeeting platform:
- How often do you want to use it? Is this tool going to be a workhorse for individual contributors and teams? Will it be used daily? Then it had better be inexpensive, easy to learn, and not be a hassle to connect to. Look to Bright Talk and Freebinar. There are also platforms like Via3, which includes file sharing a la Google Docs. If you're going to use your webmeeting capabilities mainly for larger, company-wide events with hundreds of attendees, then you'll want something robust and classy looking. Telenect and Netbriefings have great video quality.
- Is it for internal use or will you be inviting outsiders? Some tools work great behind your own firewall and on your network. If the majority of your presentations and meetings will be internally with people on your LAN, then you can use a program like Sametime. But for outside presentations, you'll never get your sales team to adopt a platform that requires downloading a plug-in or takes too long for the customer to connect to. (Some companies go apoplectic if sales reps ask their people to download anything in order to watch a webmeeting, and that will alienate your customers and prospects even more.) In this case, look to browser-based platforms like Glance, Dimdim or iLinc as options.
- How much do you want to pay? This is not as simple as it seems. Some providers have an unlimited use model, others charge per minute per connection. Some provide their own telephony, and others work with your existing teleconferencing service. Figure out if you want to make this a part of every manager and sales person's toolkit or if you want to reserve the use to specific people. Cheap doesn't always mean value, and expensive doesn't mean you'll get your money's worth.