Finding the right Web Conferencing Software for you and your organization.
When we are asked to coordinate with a live event, screen casting, or any live web remote web conference; we are asked, “Which web conferencing solution is the best?”
It’s understandable that people want the best solution possible, especially when presenting to a large audience, but the answer isn’t as simple as listing a vendor name and getting that software in-house.
Before we dive into a review of any particular we need to discuss what is a web conferencing client and what features does it need for the job at hand. Then we can evaluate the client’s current request and future needs to start determining which software best fits the organizations needs.
Let’s take a quick look and discuss features that all web conferencing software packages should have.
- Presentation Sharing: This would be the key element of any web conferencing software. You need to share information to others who are not in the same room with you. Typically your presenter will normally speak to Microsoft PowerPoint presentations or Apple Keynote presentations. Your presentation software should be able to present these files without the presenter needing to run the parent application on their computer.
- Application / Desktop Sharing: Another key feature is the ability to show the presenters desktop or current application. Screen sharing is useful for demonstrating software, collaborating on presentations, and making changes to documents as the group meets.
- Text Chat: This feature is not used enough by presenters but is key feature allowing attendees to type questions, problems or anything as they need during the presentation, to be viewed by the presenter or a moderator. Moderators can handle any chat requests behind the scenes allowing the presentor to continue with the presentation to the larger group.
- Record and play back: Digitally recording presentations has become a more key feature now days as presentations are saved for later sharing & training sessions are recorded for later review.
- White board (shared): This feature allows users to make notes or draw diagrams on a whiteboard like window. Sometimes an idea needs to be drawn where a verbal or text description is not enough to convey a point. The white board is key to collaboration.
- Live Video / VOIP: We group these together but the ability to hook a live camera (web cam or other) to the presentation to share video, and the ability to stream audio via voice over IP, not only cuts down on the use of a phone system, but keeps your voice and group audio recorded with your presentation.
The list above reviews the basics of any web conferencing software, and you will find almost all vendors have these features. Lets look at some advance features or other “nice to have” features that will help separate the vendors apart.
- Polling: Polling provides instant feedback and polling of your audience. We have used it in the past to gauge a level of expertise in the audience at the beginning of a presentation to tailor our presentation to the audience. We have also used it in the end of a presentation to find out which attendees we should touch back with. Polling is not the same as surveying, but that is a different topic.
- Remote desktop or application sharing: If you have 2 presenters, or need to be able to see someone else’s desktop, you will need remote application sharing to allow presentation control to switch. Application sharing is key in collaboration for internal meetings when working on document revisions or showing what the other participant is speaking to.
- File deliverability: Presenters can upload files for participants to download during the presentation. Helpful for passing out materials to those that attend without gathering email addresses and sending afterwards.
- Customization features: Looking to brand your web conferencing portal or create your own help system for your presentations? Authoring tools or customization options will need to be enabled for your account.
- Customer support: As we are using a vendor’s software for web conferencing, we need live support for when participants can’t connect, or have trouble with the software.
- Elearning: These are modules built into the software that allow for structured distance learning with proper tests taking modules and student monitoring.
List of vendors to research for your web conferencing software solutions.