I confess…13 years in the web conferencing industry and I’m still excited that I can have a real time audio/video/visual chat with someone ten time zones away.
When I recently had a chance to chat with Agnes Jozwiak, the Poland-based Brand Manager for ClickMeeting (ClickWebinar), I was half tempted to talk about life, culture, and what life is like in Poland (I’ve presented to a Polish audience before in an EU-sponsored event for higher ed, but I’ve never been there).
That said, she gave me both a quick look at ClickWebinar, ClickMeeting’s webinar offering, and an account I could play with to go a little deeper. A few observations…
In my terminology (not theirs), here are three levels or categories of observation…account, setup, and realtime. As usual, here I’ll avoid pricing or competitive comparisons and focus on those things I found that had a degree of “interestingness” (I make up words, don’t you? :)).
ClickWebinar’s “account level” features align with personal or small/medium business (SMB) values
Personal profiles and customization
At the account level you can create a personal profile page, upload your logo, customize the colors, show your CV, etc. If you like personalization, you’ll find ClickWebinar’s level of customization consistent with what you imagine doing with your Yahoo! profile (or equivalent).
A couple nice ideas you’ll find throughout is the idea of persistence…of which I’m a big fan.
Want a consistent URL for a recurring product demo, team meeting, or ongoing webinar series? Having the same “room” URL is handy.
Separately, do you want access to a variety of uploaded-and-accessible resources (e.g., .pptx, .pdf, .mp4, etc) across multiple events? ClickWebinar does that, too.
Editing webinar recordings
ClickWebinar allows you the ability to do rudimentary editing of recordings. One nice thing about ClickWebinar’s version of editing is that you select a range of the recording to “trim.” You can trim the opening or closing, but you could also select a time range in the middle of the recording. Note…when I tried this I did get a “time selection is too short” notification, so trimming out just the F-bomb your guest presenter dropped isn’t going to be possible (at least in my MacBook Pro-driven test).
A few features smaller organizations are likely to value include the ability to save contacts (think “light CRM“). This does NOT mean a larger organization (organisation? :)) won’t find value in the offering. Given, however, that larger organizations are likely to have systems in place for some of these features (e.g., contacts) or policies that influence web behavior (e.g., integrating with social media or branding guidelines), some features may not be perfect for them.
ClickWebinar’s “setup level” features have many of those “hook-ish” twists
One of the reasons I love the “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” commercials is that they highlight some very specific feature, function, or process that is important to somebody. Similarly, the purpose of these posts are to highlight some of the less-common things that readers may find interesting or useful. Why waste space talking about screen sharing when every platform does it?
Options for security
If you’re security-conscious, ClickWebinar takes an extra step beyond password protection (which they offer) with what they call “tokens.” In short, only those you’ve sent an invitation to can get into the webinar.
“On the air” widget
When it comes to system-generated response emails (confirmations and reminders), ClickWebinar has both something I love and something I, uh, don’t love.
Schedule your confirmations and reminders
If you want refinement of when webinar reminders go out, they’re all schedule-able. Instead of “two days in advance” of a Tuesday webinar can be tailored to “go out on the date you want” (presumably Monday in this example).
One things I found that is NOT my preference is the inability to customize the default response emails. I think it’s important to customize webinar confirmation and reminder emails so they don’t just reiterate the what and when, but also the why. Think about it…two weeks ago I registered for some reason, but now my calendar is full…why did I sign up for that? You’re competing for someone’s precious time, and unless your webinar title says it all, it’s useful to reiterate the benefits of showing up (e.g., “learn these things,” “be entered into the drawing,”). Customized communication is also useful for other related activities such as, “Also follow us on Twitter” or “Would you please also take this short survey?”
ClickWebinar’s “realtime level” features offer some “way better than free” value
Recently I responded to a LinkedIn post asking, “Why would I want to pay money for something beside Skype?” There are many when you compare Skype to professional web conferencing, but here are a few specific to ClickWebinar:
Annotate a video
ClickWebinar lets you not only upload a variety of resources to share (e.g., PowePoint, PDF, .mp3, etc.) but you can draw/annotate on them (see the screenshot above). I uploaded a .mp4 file, drew an arrow and added some text. Can’t do that with Skype, and it’s powerful for communicating.
Have attendees invite others in realtime
Two ideas are useful here…”social proof” and “real time.” Participants are invited to share during the webinar on a social media network (think “forward to a friend on steroids”). Imagine someone you trust posts something of interest on Facebook and it’s available to you right now and you click through. Bingo…you just became a “lead” without having to fill out a form or check your future calendar. If you’re doing external webinars, training sessions or product demos, this could provide a nice boost to leads and attendance.
Redirect attendees for additional engagement
At the end of the webinar participants are dropped off on your personal profile page. Want attendees to your webinar to see (and be able to share) your personal profile page, including links to your resources, CV, or whatever? The viral opportunities are endless as they have the ability not only to review, but share your FB page and/or Twitter or LinkedIn profile(s).
Enable realtime translation
We live in a growing-smaller world. ClickWebinar enables participants to choose their language of preference and have it translate in realtime chat. To the best of my knowledge this is the first service anywhere to embed this function.
One other observation:
ClickWebinar uses a pod-based schema for the layout of the desktop (a la Adobe Connect). If you’re not familiar, this is the flexibility to choose a “pod” that has a purpose (e.g., chat, show a video, etc.).
To their credit, they not only give you complete flexibility on this, but they have some pre-baked templates or layouts. I confess a little style bias here, but I prefer to open up chat and other “at a glance” tools to be BIG, but ClickWebinar lays out the view for your attendees the way you do on your desktop. This is NOT a showstopper…just something to be aware of in terms of your virtual presentation style.
The bottom line
There is no perfect web conferencing solution like there is no perfect automobile….the distinctions, and which ones are right for you, tend to be discovered in the details. While speaking with Agnes and later while using the tool I had my own share of “Dang! That’s cool!” moments. I also realize that some things that I like are not common to everyone.