Webinar: The Modern Meeting
Webinars are effective tools for getting large groups of people into a central location without incurring travel expenses or losing productivity. While an informative, vibrant presentation can keep your audience's interest, finding the right webinar hosting can be almost as important.
A webinar hosting company helps you deliver online meetings, presentations, or seminars to your audience without ever leaving your office. Interactive features like polling and live chat help keep the audience involved. And getting set up could not be simpler - you need only a phone, audio-enabled computer, and high-speed Internet connection. Best of all, reliable webinar hosting ensures everything is up and running when you're ready to present your information.
Types of webinar hosting
The type of webinar hosting you'll use depends on whether you'll work with an application service provider (ASP) or in-house software.
With an ASP, the webinar hosting company manages all webinars from their servers. Simply access the software from the ASP's web site, use the applications to set up the webinar, and then deliver your presentation.
If you use an ASP, you're incredibly reliant on the webinar hosting provider. When there's a problem, you have to contact their customer service. Also, since the Internet can't stay up 100% of the time, there may be times you can't access the software when you need it.
With in-house webinar hosting, you'll manage the software on your servers. This provides you with the most complete control, which is critical if you're going to conduct regular webinars. You can invite as many guests as your infrastructure can support, but you must have your own IT staff to do the webinar hosting, maintain the software, and stay on top of emerging problems. You'll also have to maintain a separate server so you don't compromise day-to-day activities on your network.
When choosing webinar services, make sure you get one that supports the software you want to use to share documents. Almost all support PowerPoint - but if you want to be able to share other applications, check with your vendor before you commit to a service. Discover how to manipulate the system for your presentations. Is it easy to upload the presentation or create in their software? While there is always a learning curve, knowing ahead of time the complication, or lack thereof, in creating the presentation allows you to further evaluate the effectiveness for your company.
Also, ask for a demonstration or a practice module to evaluate their application on the viewing side. Is it easy to use for the average person or geared more towards someone with an IT background? Your staff and your customers will have varying degrees of comfort with computers. Anything too difficult and they may not want to participate because they are uncomfortable navigating the system.
Webinar hosting benefits
One of the key benefits to webinar hosting is redundancy. If the first server fails while you deliver your presentation, the functionality transfers over to a different server. Each guest receives notification that the connection is being restored. To keep the presentation on track, you may decide to take questions or conduct interactive polls during this time.
Another benefit to webinar hosting is you can archive past presentations for later viewing. With archiving, guests can revisit certain parts of the presentation, or view the entire webinar at their leisure. You can either pay to store the archived presentations on the webinar hosting provider's servers, or have them uploaded to your web site for download.
Besides keeping your presentation up and running, webinar hosting companies can also provide consultants or moderators for your event. Consultants will assist you with the backend of your webinar while you prepare your presentation. This includes checking that everything works right and troubleshooting common problems. Moderators can help manage the flow of your presentation by managing guest registrations, greeting invitees, and controlling the interactive tools during your presentation.
One way webinar hosting companies ensure your company is protected is to offer service level agreements (SLA). An SLA guarantees you won't face downtime, or you may be entitled to a refund or other compensation.
Running a successful webinar
Now that you selected your web hosting, put together a presentation and are ready to go, it is important to do it right. This is another type of first impression. What you present and how you present it is even more important than the right web host. That should run smoothly behind the scenes - you need to be smooth in front of the camera.
- Stage a dress rehearsal. Nothing is more frustrating than finding technical problems as your presentation starts. Even though you'll likely be paying by the minute for webinar services, you should set up a practice webinar - with one or two colleagues in different locations - a day or two before your first real event. In addition to working out any technology issues, you'll be more familiar with the use of the software when the real event rolls around.
- If you aren't early, you are late. This is half an etiquette suggestion and half practical: webinar moderators should make sure they arrive a few minutes early. It's polite to greet participants as they arrive and be ready to start the meeting as soon as possible, but it also gives you one last chance to make sure the webinar is set up correctly. While we're at it, it also makes sense to ask first-time participants to arrive early.
- It's your schedule, stick to it. Whether your webinar participants are customers, partners, employees, or some other mix of people, you should make every effort to respect their time. As the moderator, it's your job to help steer the discussion back on topic if necessary.
- Recycling does not apply. While webinar technology is great in many ways, you shouldn't expect to cover the same amount of material in a one-hour webinar as you would in a one-hour classroom session. Plan to include slightly less content than you would in person, especially if you're new to online conferencing.
- Watch the tape. Many webinar providers include options to archive your presentation. If you're just getting started, try watching your own event afterwards. You'll get a sense of what the audience experiences, which can be much different than the experience you thought you were providing. It will also help you determine what you should improve on for future webinars.
- Know what you need to know. In addition to being the subject matter expert, you can expect to get at least a question or two about setting up the webinar. If the participants are required to install software plug-ins, make sure you can point them to the download location; if there are particular browser requirements, make sure you know what they are. Beyond that, though....
- Know what you don't need to know. Your webinar provider will give you a technical support number. Have it ready - not filed away - in case you encounter any significant issues. Your focus should be on running your presentation - not on solving technical problems.
Selecting the right solution
With reliable webinar hosting, you'll be able to deliver a quality presentation to your audience that leaves a lasting impression. Unsure how to get setup with webinars and hosting service? Let BuyerZone help. Submit a free webinar hosting request for quotes and BuyerZone will match you up with four to six different suppliers. Make sure to connect with each of them to discuss the different options and determine what works best for your business.Ready to Compare Web Conferencing Services Price Quotes?