Not Sure Which Web Conferencing Tool is Right for You?
Webcasts and web conferencing offer enormous potential in many areas and choosing the solution and using it correctly is essential to achieving your virtual meeting objectives. Whether you’re doing a webcast to generate leads or collaborating with your team on a web conference, using the wrong format can result in falling short of your goals.
But, how do you actually go about knowing which tool is right for your event? It’s not as overwhelming as you might think—as long as you know what to consider. To help ensure your next production is successful in exactly the ways you need it to be, follow the five-step plan below.
Webcasts and web conferences can be used for a variety of reasons, including:
- Hosting “face to face” meetings with remote workers incurring travel costs
- Training employees or onboarding new hires
- Conducting product or other demonstrations
- Sharing information with small groups
- Holding brainstorming or planning sessions
- Providing informational seminars or presentations to large audiences
- Presenting news and updates to investors or other stakeholders
Like any good communications effort, your planning should start with the “why” of the event. To make sure it’s as productive as it can be, some of the questions you should discuss with your team include:
- What are my goals and desired outcome for the event?
- What audience segments do I hope to target?
- How will I reach my audience and entice members to participate?
- What is the best timing for the event to realize our goals, including accommodations for international participants?
- How will I measure success?
- How will we follow up to ensure our goals have been met?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you’re going to have a good working plan for your webcast or web conference. And you’ll quickly see how the answers influence how the production should be structured and created.
The first step in planning your production will be to choose the right format—webcast or web conference. Making the right choice typically depends on two key questions:
- Is this a meeting or a presentation?
- How many people will participate?
You can determine the difference between a meeting and a presentation relatively simply. A presentation is typically one or two people delivering information to a group, which is better suited to a webcast. A meeting is a more interactive event where everyone may contribute in some way, by speaking, submitting questions, or in other ways, which may be better suited to a web conference.
What’s the difference between a webcast and a web conference?
A webcast is a streaming video that primarily communicates from one or a few to many.
A web conference is a more interactive format that allows participants to interact with each other.
Next, look at how many people will participate. Typically, web conferences work best for 100 participants or fewer, especially if interaction is required between audience members and presenters. A webcast is often a better option for more than 100 participants, especially when the communication is primarily from one or a few to many.
Which format is right for my event?
- General Application
- Audience Size
- Quality of Video
- Web Conference
- Small, highly interactive meetings where collaboration is important
- Small to medium
- Limited by platform
- Lower video resolution
- Limited post-event editing capabilities for archiving and on-demand viewing
- Software download often required; audio through VoIP connection or via a phone
- Participants can collaborate in real time, share webcams, have dialogue, brainstorm
- Large-scale presentations and events where sharing the same message with many is critical
- Medium to large
- No limit
- Higher video output streamed in broadcast quality
- Comprehensive post-event editing capabilities for archiving and on-demand viewing
- Typically no sofware download required; video and audio through a single browser
- Participants are more passive; there to consume information with limited interactiviy
Let’s say your organization is looking for a way to streamline onboarding roughly 100 employees a month. You need a format where you can present information, share documents and answer questions without transporting all of them to your headquarters. This will be a very different type of format and structure than if you’re presenting a seminar to 1,000 people and need a vehicle where you can share visuals, but where audience participation would be unwieldy because of the number of participants.
One of the most important considerations for your webcast or web conference is the partner you choose to host your event. You need a service-oriented team that will ensure your event runs seamlessly. If the platform is “glitchy,” difficult to use, or confusing, you’ll lose participants and undermine your success. In addition, you want to ensure that you have access to customer support during your event in case something goes awry.
Some of the questions you should ask prospective providers include:
- What services do you provide, and will they meet my needs?
- What is the audio and video quality I can expect?
- What document and image-sharing capabilities do you provide?
- Will I be able to record the web conference or webcast?
- How user-friendly is the service?
- Will customer support be available before and during my event?
- What is your pricing structure?
- What makes your solution better than other providers’?
Once you have a reliable provider secured, it’s time to start thinking about your presenters. Who is the best person to communicate what you need to say? Do you need more than one presenter? Some of the aspects you’ll need to consider when choosing presenters include:
Credibility: Choose the source with the most knowledge about a topic and in whom audience members would place the most trust. For example, if you’re webcasting an earnings report to shareholders, the speaker should likely be the CEO. However, if you’re hosting an online training seminar in a new technology tool, your information technology (IT) specialist will likely be the best presenter.
Style: Some people have a natural ease with speaking and presenting, while others get nervous or tongue-tied. Either way, work with presenters to ensure they rehearse what they’re going to say and keep their answers brief and to the point. Rambling monologues rarely go over well in any presentation.
Number: Sometimes, one presenter is all that you need. For multifaceted or complex presentations, you may need more than one. For an hour-long event, typically three to four presenters is the maximum you should consider. Having too many presenters risks not giving any of them enough time to get their points across.
Moderating: If you have more than one presenter, it’s a good idea to have a moderator to ensure that each person stays on topic and ensure the conversation moves forward to stay within the period you’ve indicated. Many of the tips for leading an effective conference call apply to webcasts and web conferences.
Work with your presenters to determine their areas of expertise and the key points they wish to get across. The average person speaks comfortably at roughly 160 words per minute but note whether your presenters tend to speak slowly or faster than average. That will help you judge how long they need to communicate their key points.
Create an outline of the presentation, including the important information you wish to communicate to make the most of your meeting time. For each point, assign a time limit so speakers know to structure their comments accordingly. If you have one speaker, this helps them not go on too long about one issue, shortchanging the time they have for others. When you have multiple speakers, it helps prevent one person dominating the presentation.
Unless the content is highly structured and needs to be stated in a specific way, consider using bullet points as speaker prompts instead of writing a full script. This will help the speakers sound more natural while reminding them of the content they need to cover. And there will be less of a risk that they’ll simply read the script, which can make them sound dull.
Be sure to work with your provider to plan a dry run of the event a week or so ahead of the actual webcast or webinar. This will allow you time to coach your presenters, adjust content, change the pace, and ensure the presentation goes smoothly.
Once you create your web conference or webcast, you still have a few action items to make it most successful. First, be sure you have a mechanism to capture participants’ contact information and feedback. Promote the event often to your audience to help ensure maximum participation and encourage your participants to promote the event to relevant audiences, as well.
After the event, have a follow-up plan, especially if you’re using the event for lead generation. Use surveys to get feedback and, in some cases, to capture leads or contacts with whom you should follow up. This will help you determine how successful the event was, too.
Finally, enjoy your webcast or web conference. Producing these events requires some important groundwork, but the results of a successful production can yield important benefits for your company or team. With the right partners and presenters in place, your event can be an exhilarating success story.