There are a number of web conferencing platforms available in the market today but only a few of them offer the ideal solutions with the adequate level of reliability that is required to conduct successful webinars, online trainings or presentations.
The features and characteristics you need in a web conferencing system naturally depend on the purpose of your presentations. Offering a weekly sales webinar has different requirements from conducting 6-hour online trainings on a daily basis. However, there are requirements that are common to most usages of web conferencing as businesses increasingly use this powerful online tool for new applications. On this page, we discuss the 10 most important features and how they can benefit your business based on our experience with omNovia customers.
No 10: Controllable Document Sharing
You should be able to allow your attendees to download files such as brochures, agendas, presentations and such within the web conference interface without having to email them. Shared Folders provide this function. There may be times that you would need to mark a document as private so that only selected moderators or presenters can access those files.
No 9: Configurable Chat
Although all web conferencing platforms offer some type of chat (ability for attendees to type messages), many lack some important features that can enhance your online meeting experience. You may want to have the option to privatize the chat so that attendees cannot read each-others’ messages. You may also need a configurable and controllable Private Chat function between attendees. Ability to create a moderator, the person who is in charge of selecting the questions to pass to the presenter, can be very useful particularly in large presentations. And finally, having the ability to make major announcements is also a plus as it helps your important messages not get diluted among the many messages that scroll up.
No 8: Powerful Slide Show
Although you can use the application or desktop sharing function available in most systems, it is preferable to use a Slide Show function of web conferencing platforms to show Microsoft PowerPoint presentations. There are three reasons behind this:
Your viewers may not have the same screen resolution as you do and they may get scroll bars on presentations if you show your desktop
Fast animations may not be seen properly through desktop sharing
When running a PowerPoint show, it covers your entire screen (although this is configurable) and would not allow you to see participants’ messages and questions
You need a Slide Show module within a web conferencing platform that supports both PowerPoint 2003 and 2007. You also need to make sure it does support all or most animations. The majority of web conference slide show functions do not do a good job at supporting animations. Another important feature is the ability to annotate your slides live.
No 7: Flexible Recording
The ability to record and archive a presentation is critical. Most systems produce either very large file movies or low quality ones. You need to ensure the recording function provides a compromise between quality and file size so that your viewers don’t need to download Gigs of data to see a 30-min movie. Another important factor is the ease of accessing the movies. The advantage of having the archive in Flash format is that they can be accessed from any browser on PC or Mac without any software installs. In addition to traditional recording methods, omNovia provides a unique Recast technology that does not produce any large movie files. The conference room “remembers” every step of the presentation (including audio and video) and at the time of replay rnoeproduces the event exactly the way it happened live in an interactive environment. This means that during the replay time, the viewers can access shared files and take polls, for instance, as if it was live.
No 6: Full Reporting
The back-end administration of web conferencing platform is also very important. You should be able to access reports on attendance, archive views, typed messages… as soon as an event ends. You should also be able to export reports in Microsoft Excel format and/or use APIs to download them automatically and interface with your CRM systems.
No 5: Ease of Customization
Our advice is to seek a system that can be easily integrated to your website and be customizable in terms of look and feel as well as functionality. Integration to your site does not only mean a link from your site. It should mean the ability to have attendees access the conference room with a click from your Members Area. This would make user-management easy for you but also offers a better experience for your customers.
No 4: Integrated Voice
With the advanced VOIP (Voice over IP) technologies available today, you should demand the system have a fully integrated voice system. This means that your attendees would simply listen through their computers without using the phone or any other device. A bridge to outside telephone lines, however, offers more flexibility. You might have attendees or presenters not always able to use the audio on their computers. Most systems however lack the high quality voice that you need in web conferencing.
No 3: Versatile Desktop Sharing
When it comes to sharing your desktop or a particular application, three factors are critical: 1. Image transmission should be fast 2. It should go through most firewalls. 3. It should not use too much CPU (your computer’s calculating power). Advanced systems optimize image transmission speed and reduce required bandwidth by only sending the areas of the screen that change.
No 2: No software installs
One of the most important factors is the ease of access and use. No matter what type of webinar or online presentation you want to carry out, you need to make sure your attendees can access your conference room in simple steps. Having a browser based system that truly does not require any software installs is important. Many systems claim being web-based but require installing a large Activex or run on Java (which is not present on a significant portion of computers) that defeat the purpose of being browser based. Systems such as the omNovia Web Conference run on Flash which is already present on over 98.5% of computers worldwide. In addition to making the access easy the first time, no software installs means it that there will not be necessary to make any software upgrades which makes system maintenance convenient.
No 1: Reliability
If the key word in real-estate is Location, Reliability applies to web conferencing. No matter how good the features, the up-time of the system and its ability to automatically correct problems will determine your success during your webinars. The majority of web conferencing platforms (especially some of the recently developed low-cost systems) provide a “good-enough” platform that works 97% of the time. But web conferencing when used for business critical applications is similar to electricity. It is “not good enough” to have 3% of the time technical problems. It has to work all the time. Many systems allocate 1 server to 10,000+ users to reduce their costs. Reliable systems cost a little more but provide servers with less users, high availability and more importantly the ability to instantly and seamlessly switch to another server or servers in case of technical trouble.