The Software Spectrum – Webinar Tools


Webinar, Screensharing, and Teleconferencing Tools – The Software Spectrum

There are companies that invent, companies that dominate, and companies that innovate. These first movers are usually rewarded with high margins, bigger-spending customers, and low competition… for a while. The business cycle generally comes around and companies come along who want a piece of the pie too. They do things like create similar products for less or lower minimum entry barriers to take advantage of the larger masses of potential clients in smaller business markets. Often in the software industry, really good products are recreated in the open source world, offering tools that imitate for-pay products for free!

This is fortunate for small businesses who can’t afford the most expensive products on the market. These alternatives give you the chance to try good ideas at a lower cost. You have to be careful though, because lower prices or open source products don’t always equate into an advantage. There can be problems or delays related to learning curves or lower customer acceptance.  In fact, they can sometimes cause you more problems and waste your time… but not always. This is the “The Software Spectrum” and if you understand it, you can find good (even great) tools at affordable prices.

One of my goals is to present good ideas, practices, products, and marketing automation tools to businesses, large and small, who can then benefit from the growth these tools offer. The Software Spectrum is my opinion and nothing more.  It comes from visiting websites, experimenting with tools, and talking to other users and vendors.  I try to save you time by eliminating tools and sites that don’t impress me and including a reasonable choice of the best tools and services at the best prices; people who want to talk to me and who want to reach out to small businesses rather than focusing only on the clients with the most money.  We don’t need them.

I include teleconferencing tools because I believe they are a great way for beginners to get into the habit of creating regular content for their clients.  There are a lot of you who are not comfortable in front of a camera (although you don’t have to film yourself in webinars; most webinars contain screen shots).  Regardless, teleconferences are a great tool and I know of more than one very successful entrepreneurs who have built large audiences using them.  Plus, the tools available allow you to get started right away at almost no cost besides the time it takes to prepare, invite, and run the teleconference.  These tools even allow you to record and replay them; at no cost.  So I’ve included them in this report.

So these things said, here are my picks and The Software Spectrum for:


WEBINAR AND SCREEN SHARING TOOLS

GoToWebinar
MeetingBurner
AnyMeeting
FreeScreenSharing

TELECONFERENCING TOOLS

FreeConferencing
Telepacific

Go To Webinar – www.gotowebinar.com

GoToWebinar.comGoToWebinar.com is recommended by many experts and is one of the leaders in the industry.  I consider them a gold standard and reasonably priced.  The reason I like them is because most of your users are probably already configured to use and view your webinars using their service.  Many webinar products require a download or client-computer-configuration and this can be a barrier, discouraging some of your users as they try to sign up for your webinar.  I like the product for the same reason I liked Microsoft over the years, everyone uses it!  It’s easy and familiar.  This benefit cannot be overstated.

The challenge, of course is that they start out at a minimum of $99.00 per month to conduct a webinar with up to 100 users.  If you’re a small business or don’t yet have experience running webinars, this could get costly pretty fast.  I like products that allow you to learn without a lot of up-front fees. GoToWebinar.com doesn’t offer that. At the time of this writing, they offer a 30 day trial, but I find that 30 days goes by really fast. It’s not much time for small business owners to get up to speed and see a return.

Meeting Burner – www.meetingburner.com

MeetingBurner.comI’ve participated in a few MeetingBurner.com webinars and I liked it. They have a free-forever plan for up to 5 participants and their Pro Plan for up to 50 participants costs only $39.95 per month.  It seems like an easy way to get your feet wet and practice the skills of running a webinar with full screen sharing. Too bad their free plan doesn’t include recording so you could see the result of your work and get good at it.  If you have Camtasia, you may be able to record and listen to your screenshares that way.

Regardless, for a reasonable price, you get a nice set of features including automated email reminders and in-meeting chat. I also think that the $99.00 Premier version is a bargain considering it provides for up to 1000 participants (GoToWebinar charges $499 for that presently).

Any Meeting – www.anymeeting.com

AnyMeeting.comAnyMeeting.com is really interesting.  They offer an ad supported, full featured (but free) version for up to 200 participants.  If you don’t mind your clients seeing an ad while they participate, this looks to be a great bargain for small and medium sized businesses.  The thing you have to consider though is whether your clients will be distracted by the ads (or click on them while you’re presenting).  This is considered “leakage” and is a worthy consideration.  But I think that in most cases, this is a useful and scale-able tool that gives you a lot for the money.

I really like that you can record your screenshares and webinars and play them later.  This is a great feature that extends your time and allows you to offer repeat presentations without having to actually be there. That’s a nice feature.  AnyMeeting.com seems to be a really nice, full featured tool to me.

Free Screen Sharing – www.freescreensharing.com

FreeScreenSharing.comI’m a big fan of the company behind FreeScreenSharing.com.  They offer a ton of value at the cost of… FREE.  I’ve used the service many times with very little trouble.  It allows for up to 96 participants with free audio-conferencing (the audio can be recorded). You can switch control to other presenters during the webinar if you like.  It has an easy system for inviting users (It’s not automated) and can be used with Window or Mac computers.

I admit that it can take a little time for users to get logged in and to see your screen. I’ve had that issue a few times.  To invite others, you have to give them a URL and session number or send it out with an email distribution.  Other drawbacks include that you can’t record the screen and there is no automated way to invite participants.If you have Camtasia, you can record the screen.  Camtasia is a $299.00 product offered at Techsmith.com and records computer screens, very handy tool. Regardless, with FreeScreenSharing.com you get a lot for very little.  I like the tool, especially for beginners on a low budget.

Free Conferencing – www.freeconferencing.com

FreeConferencing.comFreeConferencing.com is probably one of my favorite conferencing tools on the web.  In my view, this is one of the best programs to help a small business or salesperson get started in webinars.  Let me be clear, it is not a webinar tool.  It is a conference call tool.  But it allows you to have as many as 1000 participants.  It is free (except for the reasonable telephone toll fees for all participants when they dial in). And it allows you to record and play back your conference calls later.  You can also download the conference calls for transcription into a document or PDF or to add into your content library.  All of these features add up to an amazing and valuable tool for beginners.  I would place FreeConferencing.com amongst my favorite tools for beginners in the world of webinars (even thought it isn’t a webinar tool – I hope you get what I mean – it helps you get started – it’s an effective training tool for you).

I can’t really think of any drawbacks to FreeConferencing.com.  Once in a while it will act up because the calls use a VOIP connection and are connecting so many people.  There is a slight learning curve but nothing unreasonable. Almost anyone can do it.  The fact that they will store your and that you may broadcast any previously recorded conference calls that are already stored in your account and you may also play .WAV or MP3 files is an amazing tool. In fact, if you don’t have to pay for long distance you can use this as a recorder of sorts at very little or no cost.  There are very helpful FAQs.  You get the point. I’m a fan.  I think this is a very generous and useful service.

Telepacific – https://telepacific.teleconnection.com/

Telepacific.comI’m listing Telepacific here just because I’m familiar with it and it’s been a handy tool for teleconferencing.  It’s free (again, except for the normal dial-in toll fees if you’re not in the same area code as the call-in number).  It seems to be very dependable and has demonstrated high quality for important teleconferences.  It has a very handy invite feature that sends out all details of the call-in information to your invitees for you.  It handles time zone variances well if you are inviting participants to call in from other parts of the world.  It’s a carrier quality solution for phone conferencing.  It also handles up to 150 participants, a great value.

Remember, this too is not a webinar or screen sharing tool.  It is a teleconferencing tool that allows you to silence users (so you don’t have background noises) or to open the call to all participants during question and answer periods.  There is not an obvious sign-up page at www.telepacific.com.  You would normally need to call them to set up a free account.  But at the time of this writing, you can sign up at the URL listed above.

Summary

Webinars and Teleconference Calls are a great way to position yourself as a thought leader and expert in your industry.  They are an essential marketing tool and a key component of content or conversation marketing.  They can be used to find new prospects, to nurture prospects through your sales pipeline, to close immediate sales, and to grow the sales of existing clients. They can be used to educate customers on your products and services so that they are more happy users.  The benefits cannot be overstated.

Another advantage to webinars is that they are convenient, both for you and for your prospects and customers.  Webinars can be recorded.  They can be scheduled to play at appointed times as if they are live. You can then be making money and nurturing prospects and clients without having to be there.  They can also be made into other products such as audio recordings or transcribed into ebooks or PDFs.  They can be sold or they can be given away as premiums or incentives.  To succeed in today’s market you need to get on the webinar bandwagon.

 
Click here and create an account at BrightTalk.com to view a nice Webinar 101 video… | Source: BrightTalk.com | Date posted: 7/31/2012
 


I've been intrigued by the use of automation in marketing since 1996. I started this blog to write, discuss, and review programs, applications, and ideas with others. If you'd like to contribute articles, ideas, interviews, reviews, or a how-to about a product or program, please contact me. I can be reached at (951) 313-7200.

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