Disclaimer and the reason-why of this post
I used to work for B2B startups before I decided to create Livestorm. And webinars was a recurring topic in every single one.
I’m aware there’s is a TON of webinar softwares out there, and believe me I tested EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.
I struggled a long time before going back to the usual suspects because I did not find something that would fit specifically our needs. That is part of the reason why we built Livestorm.
And from I saw on Quora or blog comment sections, you are also struggling to find the right webinar tool for your need.
The objective of this post is to share my experience choosing a webinar tool and give you some kind of guidance.
Don’t worry I’m not going to shamelessly self-promote our solution. I am not saying that Livestorm is the best webinar software for EVERY use case.
There’s a long way to go before that. We’ll do whatever it costs us to accomplish that.
In the meantime I will help you do webinars. That’s all that matters.
What you will find in this post, or not.
This post will help you define your webinar needs. We will go through every aspect of it. From the technical details up to the pricing.
You will also be presented with most of the webinar solutions out there. I won’t overload your decision process with irrelevant obscure tools.
By the way, I posted a blog post earlier this year on the web conferencing landscape you should probably check it out. I think those two posts would complete each other.
Also, you will not find an exhaustive list of software. It would not make sense to show you a bunch of links or big comparison table without discussing what really matters: your company.
I’d rather give you some recommendations based on your needs. You can always reach out at email@example.com if you need advice.
Finding your objective and use case
Why are you doing webinars in the first place? This is not an existential question. You should have clear objectives. Because doing webinars with purpose X can lead to a specific tool perfect for that use case.
Here are some of the most common use cases for webinars:
- Bi-monthly/weekly demo webinars with potential leads
- Inbound webinars in which you talk about your field of expertise alone or with a guest
- Customer training webinars with your recently onboarded customers
- Internal formation for new hires or when a new version of a product is about to be launched
Some of those use cases may seem similar but they really don’t. They will have repercussion on what tool you should use.
Recurring demo webinars & lead generation webinars
For example, if you do weekly webinars, you will need a tool that has a “recurring webinars” features. And believe me, not every tool has it.
We don’t for example. Not yet, it’s on our roadmap but it is not our priority number one.
Tools that provide the recurring webinars feature would be GoToWebinar or Zoom.us.
Also, since demo webinars are usually done for lead generation purposes, you will need a strong lead generation tool belt inside your webinar software. You will probably want to:
- Drill into your audience data and segment the participants.
- Automatically export your attendees to your CRM or a mailing software.
- Enrich your attendees profile with form data and surveys during webinars.
Is you webinar software analytics strong enough? Does it provide marketing integrations with your apps? Can you customise the registration form and send polls?
If you want to host live discussions between the host and a guest, then you probably want to go for a real-time webinar software that enables you to invite someone on stage. Livestorm provides such feature for example. Crowdcast does it too.
Customer training webinars & masterclasses
Customer training webinars might require a to have a strong Q&A feature and provide screen-sharing.
Masterclasses or training webinars are the most specific use cases. Some companies even need quizzes at the end of their webinar-masterclass in order to give certifications to their audience. This is a very specific feature I’ve only encountered in on24.
What is really important to you?
Some people need their webinar software to be super easy to use, like dead-simple. Others want great analytics or maybe a specific integration. In the end, you have to “enjoy” doing webinars with that tool.
This is where you should lay down the 3 or 4 things that are the most specific to your use case.
For example, if you are using BaseCRM and you want your webinar software to push data into BaseCRM then you want to look for a tool that does just that. I don’t recall any webinar software with that integration (it’s coming on Livestorm though), but you can do that through Zapier (if the webinar software has a Zapier integration).
If you usually do your webinar registrations yourself using Hubspot landing pages for example (it’s the case for Mention for example), then you might want to look for a webinar software that has a both ways integration with Hubspot.
GoToWebinar is an example. Livestorm does it partially (from Livestorm to Hubspot only) but you can use Zapier to cover the other way.
If you are looking for a webinar software that provides great customisable landing pages, I believe we are the only ones :)
Defining your technical requirements
This is a really important part. Because most of webinars problems are technicals. Most of the time we forget those tiny details that will ruin your webinars.
Never forget to check:
- Your average audience size in the short-term. If you’re Moz you will probably get over 150 live attendees (or even 500). Not every tool can handle it.
- Your connectivity (is the bandwidth fast enough?)
- Your network security (is it there a firewall?)
- The most used browsers by your visitors and prospects
- If your potential attendees can download an external software.
If your audience is a majority of Safari users or, worst, IE users working in big corporations based in China, the technical requirements will not be the same.
For example, for that last type of attendees, you will not be able to use a webinar software that functions only in a browser. You should go for a download-only kind of webinar software with potentially a remote access via a phone line.
One last thing, firewalls are a webinar arch enemy. They can block any video incoming/outgoing video stream. So make sure your network is safe. Ask your attendees to check as well.
Browser-based webinar software vs. download-only webinar software
Browser based webinar softwares such as Livestorm or Crowdcast use WebRTC as a technology. Which is beyond awesome for many reasons, having real-time live webinars is so much more enjoyable.
But this technology is also very young and edgy. It will prevail soon, but it’s not quite there yet.
Note: Hangout-based webinar software such as WebinarJam are not using WebRTC. At least it is not real-time webinars, you will get a 30 sec buffer between “reality” and what people see.
Long story short, if your audience is mostly on IE then avoid WebRTC-based webinars for now…
…Unless they have solved compatibility issues via a browser extension or if they provide a native app!
This is where Livestorm is going to offer to solve that specific problem. We are going to provide both solutions to cover all use cases.
In the meantime, “Classic” webinar software (GoToWebinar, on24, Webex, etc.) and Google Hangout-based tools have less compatibility issues.
But then, why shouldn’t I always use download-only webinar software like GoToWebinar?
No. Other webinar software have other great advantages that you don’t want to overlook.
If you are looking for a simple UX, analytics and data management or real-time live streaming then avoid GoToWebinar.
A lot of people are complaining about those tools. There are many good reasons for that. Plus, remember, compatibility issues are only temporary.
What about the price?
That’s a tough question to tackle. Webinars can be expensive, like really expensive. But if you look at the big picture there is a solution for every budget.
Often, browser-based webinar solutions are less expensive. Crowdcast has plans starting at $79, we have plans up to $299 max, WebinarJam who uses Google Hangout has a plan at 400/year.
On the other hand, prices for heavy webinar solutions such as On24, Webex, Adobe Connect, GoToWebinar (GoToWebcasts) or BrightTalk can skyrocket above $1000.
So should you pay $1000 for a webinar software?
I personally don’t think so.
Unless, as mentioned above, you have very specific needs. Paying $500 a month for On24 because they are the only ones to offer post-webinar certifications? Why not if that’s mandatory. But again watch out for your margins.
Now, paying $500 for basic webinar features is just a waste of money. For that money, you can get so much more from a different tool.
Recap: Webinar Software Landscape
Do you have any feedback?
If you have any feedback on what’s above please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I don’t pretend to know by heart every competitor feature or pricing, so if I missed a data point please let me know.
Also, I would be curious to know what are your priorities when you are looking for a webinar software. Use the comment section below to share your experience.
EDIT: I had some feedbacks on that graph from Clickmeeting saying they were browser-based. Which is correct. To be completely fair I added a category called Flash based webinars to add Clickmeeting and On24. Those webinar softwares are indeed browser-based but the fact they are flash based implies certain things: no mobile support unless they have an app to download and potential risk with modern browsers that don't support Flash anymore (e.g Chrome).