Egads! This isn’t as much fun as it looks.
I love the idea of doing webinars.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of my work is getting to talk to people about the topics I find most fascinating. Webinars present a great opportunity for a conversation with dozens of people interested in the same topic, and without all the logistics for renting meeting space, getting the chairs set up, transporting presentation equipment to the event site, and so on that are associated with a physical event. Great idea. So much promise.
I eagerly evaluated the following options: (Do a quick scan, then come back and analyze after reading the rest of the article, and it will be much more meaningful.)
|Software||Monthly cost||Attendee limit||Notes||Website|
|Webinar Jam||$33.00||None||Works off google hangouts; hosted by platform; integrates with autoresponders; use Ever Webinar version for automated webinars||https://www.webinarjam.com/ or http://EverWebinar.com|
|Easy Webinar||$33.00||None||Works off google hangouts; hosted on own website; integrates with autoresponders; live and automated webinars; some w/ extra costs||http://easywebinar.com/|
|Anymeeting||$18/78||25/200||Standard webinar features; free for 200 with ads, no autoresponder email integration||https://www.anymeeting.com/|
|Meeting Burner||$40/100||50/1000||Autoresponder email integration; integrates with FB also; can’t customize registration page||https://www.meetingburner.com/|
|Zoom||$15/$55||50/100||Real-time broadcast features; no autoresponder email integration; no registration email sequence; more like Skype for more attendees||http://zoom.us/pricing|
|GotoWebinar||$99/$499||100/1000||Standard webinar features; Integration with Instapage; industry standard||http://www.gotowebinar.com/|
|Maestro Conference||$97/147||75/150||Allows breakout sessions (small group discussions); can be web and phone or just phone||http://maestroconference.com/|
|Crowdcast ||$29||50||No longer is there a version that works on GHO tech. There used to be a free plan that provided unlimited attendees and all features except email exports or audience analytics, but it has been discontinued. Recommended for occasional webinars, since $29 is month-to-month price.||https://www.crowdcast.io|
|Webinar Ninja||$85/155||200/500||Major price increase recently because now off GHO tech. Now is real-time. Also now includes anytime offers appearing. No integration with email providers, but well developed internal email notification system.||http://webinarninja.co|
|WebinarAlly||$||None||This is basically just a way of embedding a GHO session into your WordPress site. You create your own landing page that you integrate with your autoresponder for sending notification emails. It provides no stats or chat function.||http://abitionally.com/webinarally|
A few special notes as you analyze this table… I’ve translated all costs into monthly, but you pay a year in advance for WebinarJam (WJ) and Easy Webinar (EW) and Webinar Ninja (WJ). The others offer monthly payment plans, which I’ve listed, and provide discounts if you pay a year in advance.
Also, the price for WJ supposedly goes up at midnight tonight, so I listed both prices.
WJ and EW both use Google Hangouts to stream the webinars. This has its pluses and minuses. You can have unlimited attendees because hangouts allows that, and you can also make your events discoverable on Google+ if you want that. Webinars are also automatically recorded to your YouTube channel associated with your Google+ profile (won’t go to page’s YouTube channel!).
If you don’t want those features, then they would be minuses, but most people will consider those benefits. The downside is that free technology isn’t always the most reliable. And Google has no incentive to keep its technology in sync with the code add-on vendors are using to profit off their free service. This may be why I’ve had so many problems with WebinarJam.
My [Original] Must-Haves
Because I use MailChimp for my autoresponder email software, it was vital to me that any Hosting software integrate with that, so that I could see attendance and other webinar related information in the same place I segment to send targeted emails. If I know someone registered for the webinar but did not attend, I would send them a different email than someone who attended, for example.
I also wanted the ability to combine live event streaming (for Q&A especially) with some pre-recorded portions, for optimal training delivery. Being able to “set it and forget it” for automated/evergreen webinars would be even better.
Lastly, I didn’t want to pay a lot for this, because I knew they were going to be free webinars intended to introduce the public to the topics that interest me most and hopefully find good matches for my mailing list (people who would want to actually read the weekly emails I would send them).
The Ones I Purchased and Tested
Because of my must-haves, I was able to rule out everything except EW and WJ. The others were either too expensive or didn’t integrate with MailChimp.
I bought WJ first, because it cost $100 less. (Yes, I actually am that price sensitive. Not that I don’t have the money to spend if I want, but my financial approach is to maximize revenue and minimize expenses, particularly recurring expenses.)
I was really wanting to love it. And honestly, I did love it’s free training series, WebinarGenesis. That was really helpful and informative and worth the price of loaning this company $297 for a few weeks while I clarified that this can’t possibly work for my current webinar intentions.
Hate May Be Resigned to WebinarJam
I have backed off from hating this app, now that I understand its limitations and have accepted them, and gotten other parts of the system to work properly. But I wasted
three five days of my life trying to get their system to work, including countless support tickets. I believe I now know the size of their support team, because I’m sure I spoke with all of them at some point. They tried to be helpful, but were sometimes uninformed.
Like when I was told that the YouTube channel video never shows the segments of the webinar where you play any pre-recorded video. That only their “replay” version within their system does. Okay… then tell me where I access this perfect recording you claim you made for me.
That took an extra couple days, but then when I did hear back I was given misinformation. I was sent a video in which the presenter copies the live link from the webinar to access the replay. Multiple hours of testing and emails later, I finally figured out that she meant I needed to use the “back door” link to access the replay. Still, I really appreciate the effort that went into helping me get the feature to work, to the point of creating screencast videos showing it. Would have just helped so much more to be sent the correct info the first time.
Turns out 1) there are no automated events with WJ, only live (this is now handled by purchasing Ever Webinar and getting Webinar Jam with it); and 2) You cannot download the replay to edit it, then upload the edited version. (You can only download the YouTube version, that lacks any WJ features, like pre-made video you included, chat, etc.) So if you intend to have different promotions at different replay times, you’d better just have those on a changing sales page and not mention the details in the live webinar at all.
They are coming out with a new product that will allow automated webinars. With my purchase of WJ, it seems that when that is released I will get 6 free months, meaning it will be an extra cost after that.
That was just one thing. I also couldn’t stand the lack of flexibility with its registrations pages, but unfortunately encountered a CSS conflict between its button and my website. So I wound up having no choice but to use one of their templates, where you can’t even change colors.
This of course is unlikely to affect most people. I just wish they gave me the option of using my own button with a simple URL to pass people to their registration process, instead of forcing me to use their button that includes its own CSS. I don’t have time to wade through all my CSS to try to fix the conflict.
I also couldn’t stand that I had no way to do upsells on the thank you page after people register for the event. That is where I would normally offer attendees an inexpensive extra that would compliment the free material in the webinar.
It is good to do that not only to cover some of your expenses for marketing the free webinar, but also to determine early on whether a new contact is someone open to buying from you, or just a consumer of free information. You can’t know that early if they are definitely the latter, but you can certainly find out if they are the former, by their willingness to accept the thank you page offer.
I could go on like this, but suffice to say,
I couldn’t get it to work the way I want in sundry ways, and will be getting a refund as soon as I get around to it. though it has significant drawbacks, WJ is still in the running for the platform I will use for my webinars.
Why Easy Webinar Gives Me a Sad Face
After my experience with WJ, I was ready to pay the extra $100 to upgrade to Easy Webinar (EW). Unfortunately, it seems I need a degree in web sciences to use this thing. Easy? Easy Webinar?
Look, I’ve made a lot of websites in my day. I made this one. And I’ve implemented I don’t even know how many different business technology systems for companies in the Fortune 500. I’m not exactly tech-challenged. But this is a lot of work to set up.
Turns out that having it hosted on your website instead of their own platform means you have a lot more to customize. Plus, from the sending of the pre-event emails to the hosting of the pre-recorded videos you want to incorporate into your live event, you will find yourself being prompted to integrate outside services.
I never had any plans to use Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Sendgrid, but I’ve now signed up for the former and was on the verge of also purchasing the latter when I decided to take a step back and re-evaluate this entire idea.
Here are the instructions EW provides for setting up your pre-recorded video: EW Video set-up instructions. You tell me how excited you are about diving in.
Now I know why they recommend setting up a business of using their technology to run people’s webinars for them. You could charge people $50/webinar. If they are doing one large webinar per month, that would be a great deal. They don’t pay the high ongoing fees of the other vendors, and don’t have to set up their webinars on Easy Webinar either. In fact, if you’re selling that, contact me. I’m interested.
It wasn’t an extra $100/year. It was AWS (free the first year only and for only 20k accesses), and perhaps sendgrid, and infusionsoft, and so on. It was that, or letting go of one piece of functionality after another, that put it behind the other options out there. In the end, I have to wonder how much cheaper it really is than options like GotoWebinar, yet still relies upon access to free Google technology.
I do like the minor detail with EW that it allows you to click on whatever tab you want in the webinar creation process and go straight there. WJ forces you to page through each tab in order, even if you really just want to edit that last one. Or maybe it’s more that this detail irritates me about WJ.
(Addition after cancelling EW): But I absolutely HATED the nasty email I got from EW when I decided to cancel. Here are the contents of that email:
“We Have a 30 Day Money Back Guarantee
We are confident that EasyWebinar will be the solution for you. We will literally get on the phone with you to make sure you webinarswork.
However, we are looking for real businesses who make real commitments. If you do not plan on using the software, please do not purchase it. If you will not go through the training or get on with our staff to assist you, then please do not use the software. We are 100% confident that the software can work EFFECTIVELY for you, just like so many of our thousands of users…
However, if after your own attempts, followed by our attempts with helping you get your events up and running, you are still not able to have any luck with our software, we will issue you a full refund within a 30 day period of time. Please note: There are no downgrades from one license to the next, however you can always upgrade a license after you purchase if desired.
This is what our refund policy is and we need to live upto its expectation”
Thankfully I’d already received the refund from ClickBank before I got this email, so it didn’t stress me. But what an a**hole way of communicating with customers. Does it occur to them that maybe one is a real business that makes real commitments, and knows how to use their tech, but simply doesn’t LIKE IT for reasons impossible to discover until one is in the app? Hence the importance of the money-back guarantee, so that there is no risk to test it and see if it does in fact work the way you want to work. Never again, Easy Webinar. Bad play.
So, what now?
Good question. I’m still trying to sort that one out. I know after going through WebinarGenesis that I definitely want to do webinars. It’s just perfect for the way I like to connect with people around my favorite topics (like freedom businesses, passive income to support time for spiritual practice, travel, community, etc., and spiritual laws affecting our lives). I’m definitely going to find a way to make it work.
I may have to adjust my ideas about how and at what scale.
Maybe instead of connecting it to my autoresponder, I sign people up for the webinar with the autoresponder itself, then just use the technology to host the webinar with something like Anymeeting. $78/m for 200 attendees isn’t outrageous, and I could even get it for free if I don’t mind immersing my attendees in sundry ads everywhere they turn. I wouldn’t be able to track webinar behavior through to the autoresponder, so it would mean just using it for audience building and nothing more.
Or maybe I let go of the idea of
integrating any pre-recorded material in with live material editing my replays before publishing them or doing automated webinars. If I was going to do all live, WebinarJam would be the better choice, because it allows me to track any product purchases through to the attendee. I hear it gets a lot of its stats WRONG, such as saying 200 people attended when GoogleAnalytics says 350 people attended, but it at least tracks some visitor behaviors in the first place.
If I decide to do completely pre-recorded events, then I would need to go with Easy Webinar, unless I want to pay for an extra product from WJ after 6 months (starting from whenever they get it released in the first place). I’d have to just buckle down and set all this stuff up. Once I’ve done it the first time, subsequent webinars wouldn’t be that bad. If I had back the time I already wasted on WJ I could have already set up EW.
But I’d have to accept that I won’t be able to track product purchases resulting from the webinar to my webinar attendee list in EasyWebinar. It would therefore be a big headache to track the info to MailChimp also. I’d need yet another piece of outside software, this time https://autopilothq.com, or perhaps somehow Zapier.
may still check out have now done one live webinar with Zoom. I hear it eats up a lot of bandwidth, so your attendees on slower network connections may have a lot of technical problems streaming the webinar. I also saw that firsthand on one Zoom web event I attended, though thankfully my streaming was fine. It also lacks the integration with autoresponders or even its own pre-event email reminder sequence. That’s something most of the other options offer, to great benefit when it comes to getting registrants to actually show up. I wound up adding an event date field to the registration form, and setting a date based auto-responder sequence in MailChimp to do automatic reminders and send the replay afterward. Since I’m already using Zoom for my business, and already have MC as well, it basically cost me nothing to run that webinar.
Another possibility is that I might just pay the extravagant costs for GoToWebinar and simply go with the industry standard. It won’t allow me to seamlessly integrate pre-recorded video the way Easy Webinar would, but it would be pretty reliable (nothing is 100%, and I’ve had GoToMeeting events have technical problems quite a few times over the years). It would be very, very easy to get started using right away, though I would still need to use Zapier to integrate with MailChimp.
(See the conclusion of this post under “And the Winner is” for what I’ve actually decided to do going forward.)
Addition on MeetingBurner…
[Added 4/22/15] I had thought about actually switching autoresponders, using aweber instead of Mailchimp, just so I could use MeetingBurner. Thankfully I heard from their sales support team today that about a month ago they added support for MailChimp and some other autoresponders. I will therefore evaluate that product next. At $40-100/m it isn’t so different from the Google reliant options, unless I want more than 1,000 webinar attendees. Maybe by the time I do I’ll be ready to take on Easy Webinar.
The only problem with MeetingBurner is that if you are using it to grow your list, you may wind up with less than stellar results. That’s because it makes registering for the webinar and subscribing to the email list a 2 step process for the attendee, even if it is only one for you. They enter their info once on a single registration page, yes, but then they get 2 emails–one with all the info they need to attend the webinar and the other your list’s normal double-opt-in email sequence. If they don’t bother to confirm subscription to the mailing list, they can still attend the webinar.
You also have absolutely no ability to edit the registration confirmation page, beside adding a text message of your choice. No HTML, graphics, links, etc. What I loved was that you could let people sign up with Facebook and post their registration to their timeline. Great for ease of use and viral marketing. And being registered through FB still sends them the autoresponder double-opt-in sequence, so if they want to be added to this mailing list they have yet to hear anything about, they can. The email associated with their FB profile will then be added to your mailing list.
Note that MeetingBurner keeps track of a user in the browser with cookies. So if they register with one email address, then come back and try to register again with another, it will track everything to the email address they used the first time. May not be an issue in practice, but I encountered it during my tests, and was glad to see it.
MeetingBurner also doesn’t function properly in Chrome Browser, because as of last week Chrome won’t let Java play. MB relies upon Java running in the browser of the presenter. I had to do all my testing using Firefox, which as Firefox is prone to do, crashed a couple times.
So still not a perfect solution, but I can see why a lot of people like MB. I consider it to be on my maybe list.
Crowdcast UPDATE June 2015: Did a webinar earlier today with Crowdcast.io and have now decided it is absolutely the best webinar software out there once all factors are considered. Not only was it super easy to get up and running with, but I found a way to embed not only the sign up but even the playing of the webinar on a page on my website that was as simple as copy and paste, and then there is nothing to do to make the webinar available as an evergreen webinar. The page just converts from a live sign up page to a replay sign up page as soon as it is done.
I even downloaded my webinar video from YT, edited out the beginning and end where I was stumbling around, then uploaded the edited to version to YT and in just a couple clicks I had the edited version of the webinar available in place of the original. No one would be the wiser. Super easy product to use, and the affordable pricing (free or $30 on a monthly basis if you want to export email addresses instead of emailing only through their system) seals the deal for me.
Crowdcast UPDATE November 2015:Well the only thing constant in online tech is change. Crowdcast.io no longer has any free plan and the main service no longer runs on Google Hangouts technology. It also costs much more, and I don’t find it competitive. They have renamed the original services as Crowdcast.io Hangouts (which has since also been discontinued) and discontinued the free plan entirely. You now get a 1 week free trial. It is still a decent price, at $29/m for
unlimited participants 50 participants, but I was really disappointed to see that they didn’t even grand-father in people who’d signed up under the previous free plan.
New Webinar Ninja review
Because the Webinar Ninja (WN) software has changed so radically since I last reviewed it, I’ve decided to completely scrap my previous review (not strikethrough) and start from scratch. Here is my review as of Nov. 2016.
If I was a teacher grading a student, WN’s semester grade would be a B-. Not bad, but definitely needs improvement.
- No 30 second delay, because it doesn’t rely on GHO. This is a life saver for those of us who offer highly interactive webinars.
- Acceptable price point for being off GHO
- Most features work as intended
- Decent number of integrations
- Most needed marketing features are present
- Offers a variety of different types of webinars, including evergreen and anytime
- Useful stats for things like conversions of visitors
- Great support
- Trustworthy company
- CSV exports for attended don’t include replay viewers and in fact I can’t find any way of getting a list of replay viewers even on screen. It just shows you the number of replay viewers on screen, which is higher than the number of people in the “attended” export.
- That wouldn’t be as much of a problem if the tracking code embed feature for the webinar viewing page worked, but it doesn’t wind up embedded even when it is saved to the page, so no way to track attendees elsewhere–like your autoresponder. (Right now they say the only tracking code it actually inserts is the Facebook pixel.)
- People can fast forward in the replays, evergreen and anytime webinars
- Offers show all the time in evergreen and anytime webinars, rather than your being able to choose at what minute in the video they appear
- Autoresponder integrations are too limited in scope (which fields are integrated)
My problem with Webinar Ninja is with the marketing effectiveness of using this. There are more pros, but the cons are deal-breakers for my needs.
For example, I can’t speak about all the autoresponder integrations, but the one with Active Campaign (my current autoresponder) doesn’t include the date of the webinar they’ve registered for. In combination with the above cons, it basically boils down to no ability whatsoever to send certain emails to those who watched the webinar and others emails to those who registered but haven’t seen it (with the latter group only getting those emails after their webinar date has already passed, regardless of how far in advance they registered). In fact, you can’t even send an email sequence to everyone who registered that only begins AFTER the date of their webinar has passed.
Now the tracking code not getting embedded is a flaw needing a fix, so presumably they’ll get that working at some point. Once that’s done, tracking code within my autoresponder will be able to sort out who has attended the webinar, so at least I can trigger emails by that. I’ll have to forgo any way to send automated emails just to those who registered but did not attend live or watch the replay until WN decides to add a “webinar date” field to the integration with AC (trigger: contact’s webinar date has passed and he has not visited the webinar page to attend live or view the replay).
But as of this writing, this is how it is. No ability to effectively market post-webinar without talking nonsense like, “Here’s what you missed” when their webinar hasn’t even happened yet. And certainly nothing beyond that.
That said, you can use the internal email feature to send post-webinar emails and segment by having attended the webinar or not. I suspect that also doesn’t track replay viewers (which generally is most viewers), but I didn’t test that to be sure. Even if that feature would work adequately to accurately track everyone who did or did not view the webinar by the time the email is scheduled to be sent (X days post webinar date), you also have the issue of sending from the WN system.
Your emails won’t look like the regular emails you send with your autoresponder in terms of formatting. They’ll also come from a server that seems to trigger spam filters more than my autoresponder does (even using the same “from” email address for both). And they’ll all be tagged with “You too can be a WebinarNinja” with the WN name a live link to a sales page for the webinar software. Far less than ideal. And I’m not even clear on how their post-emails can be set to go out X days after the webinar date, just that I can create post emails and split recipients by attendees and non-attendees.
In the end what I’ve realized is that though for the 2 webinars I’ve done with the new software, and the one additional one I have coming up tonight, all of which are with people I have an existing relationship with, OK. This has worked well enough. I don’t really need to market to them after the webinar beyond sending the replay and whatever offer reminder within that email. And the system does send one replay email or the other to everyone, so good enough.
But by the time I need to do this with a group of people who barely know me at the time of the webinar, I’m going to need something much more robust for the marketing. Honestly, for what I’ve done so far I almost could have just used Zoom, which I already have for group program meetings.
My next step is going to be to take a look at some of the webinar platforms you readers have suggested in the comments since I finished my last batch of testing & reviews. Watch for new section additions as I see what I see. Wish me luck folks! I’m going back in.
Autumn 2016 Update and Current Conclusions
I see three good options, that will appeal to different people for diverse reasons, but that on balance between pluses and minuses present the best deals.
1 – There are those who won’t be doing webinars that often, won’t have audiences above maybe 50-100 participants, and want something highly interactive. That’s like me, and for me it’s back to Zoom and
Active Campaign Mailchimp for live trainings, and regular video players behind an email gate for “evergreen” ones. It’s not perfect, but: 1) it’s tech I already have for other purposes; and 2) Zoom costs me only $100/year for up to 50 participants per training (which is enough for my current audience sizes), so even if I did have to buy it just for this purpose, would be a negligible expense.
I do however have to manually upload the replay after the webinar, then manually add that newly created link to the reply email before it goes out. I also have to create my own landing page, whether using my site theme of something like LeadPages or ClickFunnels (be ready for the auto-playing video on the clickfunnels site).
If you don’t plan to do a post-webinar email sequence using your autoresponder, Webinar Ninja may prove to be a good option, since not relying on GHO means there is no 30 second delay. It’s pricier than the Zoom option, but does come with more marketing support (like attendance stats, clickable offers that appear when you show them, pre-made landing pages, etc.)
2 – There are those who will do frequent live webinars that are not that interactive (so no problem using the GHO tech to run the webinars), may have larger audiences sometimes, and just want something on their own website that does more of the work for them than option 1 does. For them WebinarAlly at only a one-time cost of $99
27 is a no-brainer. I may even switch to it myself at some point, if I decide to make my webinars less interactive.
With WA the replay is available on the website immediately. You still have to create your own landing page though, and that will also provide integration with your autoresponder.
3 – There are those who will be doing evergreen webinars where they want to control the viewer experience (no fast forward or replay, click through offers display at certain times, etc.), don’t mind relying on the GHO tech, want landing pages, attendance stats, and integrated emailing without needing an autoresponder. For them the best option seems to be Ever Webinar right now, but I’m going to be researching this one further. (I just found an offer for $1 for 60 days from them, so just changed that link to be that!)
I’m still a little iffy about that company, to be honest. But I’m hoping to see an increase in their transparency in the coming months and years. On a purely technical, dollars and sense level, they seem to be presenting the best evergreen, hybrid, live full-service webinar platform. They definitely offer the best webinar training program included with purchase of the webinar service.
Addendum: I can’t speak from personal experience, because I haven’t used it myself yet, but I’ve been hearing more and more good things about Zoom Webinars. You basically pay extra on top of a regular Zoom subscription to also have the webinar feature, which among other things allows you to stream directly to Facebook Live. It’s about $40/m for 100 attendees (on top of your regular Zoom subscription) and goes up from there. I’m probably going to be giving this one a try within the next month or two, and will come back to report my findings.
How about you? What are you using? What is your “must-have” and how much are you willing to pay each month for webinar technology?
(Note that I’ve used affiliate links where I could find them above, but I search for and add affiliate links after I write my articles. Just find what has the pluses that matter the most to you and the minuses that matter the least to you. Go forth and prosper.)