The question recently was posed, “Who is filling the niche previously served by Citrix GoToWebinar?” That solution provided structured webinars for very large audiences of 500-1000 people at a very low fixed price point for the conferencing software. Citrix used to charge a flat $99/month license cost for GoToWebinar room capacities of up to 1000. That changed in February of this year. But the reality of the situation may just be hitting some account holders who had been on annual prepayment programs. They will see their renewal cost jump from last year’s $948 to a new annual price of $4788. That can induce a fairly large *gulp* when looking at budgeting for a small business.
There are actually plenty of low-cost (and even free) web conferencing choices and managed webinar services on the market. More seem to be showing up every day. But the problem is that these cheap/free solutions are limited in a variety of ways.
The first limitation is audience size. Some solutions allow audience sizes of up to 150 and display advertising during the session. Other free versions of conferencing products typically support between 3 and 20 people. Once you get up to 500-1000 person meetings, it is common to see a line on the vendor’s website saying “Contact us for a quote.” A word of caution – this doesn’t mean you are about to get a ridiculously low price.
The second limitation is webinar features. This refers to the administrative functionality that separates true webinar software from web conferencing software designed primarily for one-to-one peer-level collaboration. When you are dealing with 500-1000 person events, you need automation and support in order to deal with your audience effectively including customizable registration pages, presenter hand-off, user roles for Presenters and Organizers allowing tiered functionality in a meeting, post-webinar survey creation and display, reporting on registration/attendance/Q&A/polling/interactions, email templates for registration confirmation and reminders, integration of telephone and computer audio, and room branding. These kinds of capabilities don’t get added to budget conferencing solutions.
The third limitation is support. As you move down the chain to less expensive product offerings, you often encounter support that is only active during the company’s local business hours – if at all. Or you queue up waiting to talk to the one person who can help you. Or you are told that you have to go through an automated system before you are allowed to speak to a human.