Choosing the best webinar software for your small business can be very overwhelming.
The wrong solution can make you look like a fool – plus, can drive away precious sales and customers.
But please know, you’re not alone.
Thousands of businesses like yours want to tap into the power of webinars and are shopping around for a new software to avoid a potential webinar disaster.
In this article, I’m going to reveal the latest webinar features available in the market, so you know what to look for to select the best webinar software that’s right for your business.
Before you start looking at the different webinar features available, there is one element we recommend you start with. That’s getting super clear about your webinar purpose.
Why are you running a webinar?
What do you want to get out of running a webinar?
Do you want to:
- Generate new leads
- Generate more sales
- Deliver value
- Increase brand awareness
- Deliver paid content
- Or something else…
Webinars can be incredibly powerful for most businesses. Spending the time to understand what the purpose is for running a webinar, will help get your clear on how this will impact your business (even before you start to look at the latest functionality available).
Once you’ve clarified the purpose of your webinar, we then recommend you confirm the goal you have for your next webinar. What specifically do you want to achieve?
Check out the following table for some examples:
The clearer you are about what your webinar goal is, then the easier it is to assess whether you achieve it or not at the end. But more critical to this discussion… Confirming your webinar goals will help you review features considering what you want to achieve. On that note…
Webinar Feature Warning!
Whether you’re looking at your first webinar or your 100th, if you are looking for a new webinar software, then a word of warning. Sometimes you can easily get caught up with the bells and whistles of tools out there. Don’t get me wrong, I do too! But remember, go back to why you’re running this webinar in the first place.
Ask yourself this question as you review each of the following features…
“Will this feature help me achieve my goal?”
Or is it just going to get in the way? Take a moment to think about your answer…
“HOW will this feature help me to achieve my webinar goal?”
Really ponder this and get clear on how exactly it will. Then, I want you to ask yourself this question….
“Will it really?”
Ok, hopefully, you get the point 🙂 Sometimes the best features out there are more of a nice to have… Or potentially something that you may use one day, but doesn’t warrant the effort/expensive or importance placed upon them right now.
Your Webinar Schedule
Alright, we’re clear on the purpose and webinar goal, now before we get stuck into presenting the latest webinar features, we wanted to give you some context to how this information will be presented. To accurately assess a webinar software, it’s important to consider how the software features stack up within the three distinct stages of a webinar schedule. Oftentimes business owners only focus on the actual webinar itself. Yes, that’s critical, however, that’s not the only part that matters. In fact, oftentimes we’ve seen over the years, businesses who neglect the first and final stage, unfortunately, produce less results from their webinars.
Let’s look at the 3 key stages in your webinar schedule:
1. Pre Webinar
This stage symbolises all actions and features related to when the webinar is being set up ready for registrations, through to when the speaker/s join the webinar ready to present.
2. Run The Webinar
This stage refers to the live webinar that the registrant experiences, regularly this is 60-90+ minutes.
3. Post Webinar
The post-webinar stage is anything related to the webinar after it has officially finished (whether registrants attend or not).
The reason why we wanted to share these features this way, was to help you design the right webinar experience for your prospects/customers and consider what functionality/features you’d need in each stage in order to achieve your webinar goal.
Access Your Webinar Software Selection Checklist
To make this easier for you to assess the different webinar software out there, be sure to download your free copy of the “Your Webinar Software Selection Checklist”.
You’ll get access to the consolidated list of features making it faster for you to compare how each webinar platform stacks up so you can more easily select the webinar platform that’s right for you.
Overall Webinar Software Functionality – What You Must Assess…
Before we list out the available functionality in each stage, it’s important to cover off some general requirements. These features impact potentially all stages or relate to the overall platform itself. We realise that some of these may be a deal breaker. If that’s the case, you can eliminate a tool at this point or any stage if it’s not going to cover off something fundamental. We do however recommend you go through the entire list first and assess whether it’s essential or not. This will be a solid foundation to then compare all options against. Let’s take a look at some of these overall software considerations.
Number of Attendees
How many attendees do you anticipate needing? Most platforms calculate this on a monthly or annual basis, so get clear about how many you need. If you’re running your first webinar, you may have grand plans to have hundreds or even thousands of attendees. Be cautious not to overestimate, otherwise, you could be paying for extra attendees that you don’t need. (Plus, if you have limited spots, then you could use this as a scarcity tactic to encourage people to jump on as only the first X people will be able to get in 🙂 ). By estimating the number of attendees will assist in informing the next point focused on the budget.
We recommend before you start going through your webinar options, that you get clear about your budget. In pretty much all cases, there is going to be a cost of purchasing a webinar tool. As you’ll see below, there is a range of tools available at different price points. Whichever you choose, you want to make sure you’re getting an ROI so that your webinars are going to add value to your business, not be a financial burden. Check in with yourself here. If you’re able to achieve your goal from your webinar, how much is that worth to you?
If you’re focused on lead generation or sales, that can be a lot easier to quantify. However, if you have an alternative purpose, then you may wish to look at customer retention or webinar engagement as possible metrics. Whatever the goal, always bring it back to “how does that impact the bottom line of my business”? Keep this in mind as you go through the features list and make sure it will add value to you achieving your webinar goal.
Ease of Setup/Use
Let’s be honest, some people are just not tech savvy. Over the years, we’ve worked with many speakers and found a lot of them are more creative/visionaries of their business, not the detail/techy type person. And that’s completely ok! There are three main backend webinar roles that we’ve identified. You may have a different person performing all roles, or you may have one person who does them all (which of course could be you). Get clear around the who and how easy the setup needs to be to achieve webinar setup/usage success.
- Webinar Initial Setup
- Who is doing the initial setup of the webinar platform?
- How easy does the initial setup need to be to ensure success?
- Webinar Organiser
- Who is going to be the organiser on your live webinars?
- How easy does the live webinar management need to be to ensure success?
- Webinar Management
- After it’s setup, who is going to managing your webinars ongoing (e.g. set up a new webinar/promo etc)?
- How easy does the live webinar management need to be to ensure success?
Finally, do you currently have the right person/s on your team to perform the roles above, or do you need to get some external help to set up, organise or manage your webinars?
I’ve heard some shocking stories over the years of technology failing, including webinar software mid-way through or even before it starts :(. Don’t let that be you! Be sure to assess the reliability of the platform. How long has it been around for? Have you been an attendee on the platform? If so, how was the experience for you? Do you know any colleagues or friends who may use the software, and if so, what was their experience like? [Please note, as webinars operate online, in some areas internet speeds aren’t great, so be mindful not to pre-judge if it’s an internet service issue – not a webinar software issue].
Free trials are a great opportunity to try out any software, even do a test run to understand what it’s like from an admin perspective. Plus, we recommend testing it out to see what it’s like from a user point of view. Does the webinar software give you the option to trial the software for free or do a demo so you can get your hands on it?
Custom branding refers to the ability to include your logo, branded colours, fonts, signatures/sign-offs, email sender details within the software. Some platforms allow you to fully customise the branding, whilst others you don’t get much say in that at all, unfortunately. You’ll need to determine how important is that to you whether no branding, part branding or full branded is necessary.
You’ll notice in the three webinar journey stages we’ll talk about integrations, particularly with your CRM and calendar tools. Integrations refer to the ability to use technology to pass details of your contacts to other platforms. This can include registration, attendance or no show information and other data between your webinar software to other software, such as CRM.
When assessing any software, it can be helpful to check out some customer reviews to get some insights into other people’s experience of the software. Even better if you know of someone who is currently using the platform that you can ask questions or maybe get their personal take on it. Look for any warning signs in the review.
Are there other users in your region/location that are having accessibility issues? Are there any complaints or regular issues regarding features that are essential for you? Check the date – is the review recent? I wouldn’t necessarily dismiss a platform based on reviews, but these are features I would investigate further.
Webinar Software Support/Help
With any technology solution, sometimes you may have questions. Whether you’ve got general questions about getting your webinar setup, or if you encounter issues running your webinars that you need to get resolved. Is there a help area available with useful, practical and up to date material? Is there a user group or online forum with active users you can tap into? Otherwise is there support staff available? If so, what are the available hours and how do you access? Depending on how tech savvy/self-sufficient you are, will impact the level of support you are looking for.
Live vs Pre-Recorded Webinar Functionality
Many businesses start out by running live webinars. This is our focus for this article, however as part of assessing software, if recording a webinar and loading it up for people to sign up for later is important to you, then you may wish to add that onto your list of items to assess.
That wraps up the overall webinar platform considerations that we recommend you review. Let’s get stuck into the specific features as needed in the three stages of the webinar schedule.
Stage 1 – Pre Webinar Features
The first stage of the webinar schedule is the Pre Webinar stage. In this section, we’ll cover the common software features available on the market prior to the webinar starts.
Webinar Registration Landing Page
A webinar registration landing page is the critical step in which prospects/customers can express interest and enter their details to sign up for a webinar. The information captured may differ between platforms, but most solutions ask registrants for at least their First Name and Email Address. Some platforms also allow you to capture more data, including a mobile phone. Mobiles are great if you wish to send SMS reminders to boost your show up rates. Be clear about the data that you need to collect though, and be mindful the more information you ask for, usually the lower conversions that you’ll receive (particularly for a cold audience). Remember going back to the original webinar goal, what information will help you achieve that goal?
Landing Page Options
The sign-up optin forms part of the important webinar registration landing page. When reviewing solutions, check out what landing page options are available with the various platforms. Typically they fall into one of the three:
- A hosted registration landing page that you cannot edit (that’s not on your own domain)
- A hosted registration landing page message that you can edit to some degree (that’s not on your own domain)
- A registration landing page on your own domain that you can fully control and integrates with the webinar platform
The webinar registration landing page is a fundamental element to a successful webinar. If contacts cannot easily and successfully register, then you potentially will fall short of meeting your webinar goals.
Webinar Registration Thank You Page
A webinar registration thank you, the page appears immediately after someone has submitted their information to register for a webinar. This thank you page message typically acknowledges them that their registration was successful. However, for some businesses, the thank you page is prime real estate to provide additional information about the webinar and/or another offer.
When assessing a webinar platform’s, check out the thank you page options. Here are some of the common thank you page options:
1. A hosted thank you page message that you can’t edit (that’s not on your own domain)
2. A hosted thank you page message that you can edit to some degree (that’s not on your own domain)
Redirect to your own domain to display your thank you page message – in which you have full control over
Webinar calendar integration allows a user to easily click a button to automatically create an entry in their calendar. Usually, the only action they need to take is clicked save/approve. Without this feature, a registrant would need to personally create their own calendar/diary entry and copy the details of the webinar, including webinar title, login details and update the time etc.
Is this functionality important to your audience? Does the webinar software have the ability for a user to easily add the webinar details to their calendar? This may be done on the thank you page or potentially in the confirmation email. If this is available, which calendars are supported – Google Calendar, Outlook, any others?
Most small businesses have a CRM that contains details of all their contacts, including leads and customers. When assessing webinar software, is there an existing integration available that will talk to your CRM system? Do you have the ability to capture leads in your database and your webinar at the same time or moments apart so you don’t have to manually do it? Otherwise, worst case scenario, can the tool export webinar data and then import into your CRM later? Is the integration deep enough that you can use your CRM/Marketing automation platform to send out your confirmation and reminders? Is this important to you?
Webinar Email Confirmation
An email confirmation with webinar details is pretty much a standard practice these days with most tools. Be sure to review the message, does it deliver the necessary details? Does it include key information about the webinar event, link information, dial-in details and a personalised message etc.? Can you customise the message if needed? If so, is that important?
Webinar Email Reminders
Sending out the webinar details is one thing. Reminding someone to attend is another! And probably the most important thing! Show up rates are dramatically affected if you don’t do this! Make sure you check out the ability to send reminders out at different intervals to ensure that you’re getting as many bums on seats as possible. Can you send multiple reminders, tailor the delivery to when you want to send them (e.g. 1 hour before it starts) and customise the message to build greater urgency around why they need to be there etc.?
Webinar SMS Confirmation & Reminders
As outlined, text messages are a great strategy to boost your webinar show up rates. If you’re considering sending SMSs not only do you need to capture the data, you need to be able to access it and send it. Of course, you can capture this and send manually – but I’m sure you’ve got better things to do! If you wish to send SMS confirmation/reminders, does the webinar platform offer this? If not, are there integrations with SMS providers or your CRM/Marketing Automation tool to be able to do it automatically for you.
Personal/Unique Webinar URL
Some software automatically creates a personal webinar join URL that is unique to one person (and ideally can’t or shouldn’t be shared). This allows you to restrict access, track engagement and know who attends or not. Some platforms have the same URL for all registrants to log into, while others have a unique URL so you can track each individual registrant.
The features outlined above indicate the most common functionality available in the Pre Webinar stage from webinar setup, registration to reminders. Let’s now move into stage 2 of the webinar schedule 🙂
Stage 2 – Run The Webinar Features
As mentioned, most businesses focus on stage 2 first when choosing a webinar platform. Yes, this is the most critical part, considering this is the main experience that registrants have – the actual webinar taking place. Let’s look at the most common requirements during this stage.
Number of Organisers/Administrators
During the webinar, you may wish to have staff perform administration type functions whilst the speaker focuses on presenting (or potentially you may do the admin yourself). Can the software have organisers/administrators that can look after the backend of the webinar – e.g. screen sharing, post polls, interact with the registrants, manage/respond to questions etc? Are there any other duties you’d like an organiser/administrator to be able to do behind the scenes whilst the webinar is live?
Number of Presenters
You’ll always have one speaker on a webinar, however, do you need anyone else to speak? How many presenters/speakers will you need on the webinar? Will you have a host or will it just be you presenting? Do you require the ability to unmute participants (standard registrants) so that they can talk for everyone to hear?
Webinars are fantastic because not only are you able to speak, but you can use a variety of visual aids to enhance the user experience. Some of these common visual features include:
- Screen share – the ability to share a monitor or desktop screen to show a presentation/slides or something else, this could be done two possible ways depends on your needs:
- One way (presenter only)
- Two way (presenter & participant/s)
- Ability to play videos (for example play a youtube video to your audience)
- Webcam – the ability to share your face and present to the audience
- Whiteboard – to draw/write live for your registrants to see
- Go online – the ability to browse the internet on screen whilst also being on the webinar
- Other – any other visual requirement
Be clear about your requirements on the visual front that will add to you achieving your webinar goal, and not detract from it?
Webinars are incredibly powerful as you’ve got access to a global market, as you’re not requiring anyone to travel to get to a particular location. Because of its online nature, registrants must be able to easily join on their own. This can make or break your webinar if it’s too hard or not accessible from where the registrant is.
Some common accessibility requirements include:
- Ability to dial in via a local phone number
- Ability to dial in internationally/toll-free
- Ability to access via desktop
- Ability to access via mobile
The most successful webinars that I’ve run as well as our clients have run over the years, has come down to one major component.
Interaction via a webinar can be achieved in multiple ways, including:
- Real-time chat – private – attendees and admin/organisers can communicate private messages to each other that no one else can see
- Real-time chat – all – attendees can see all posts/comments/questions from other participants
- Ability to share links during the webinar – ideally through a messenger platform
- Bulk messages – Admin can send a bulk message/broadcast out to everyone via chat
- Polls/surveys – the ability to ask standard questions of your entire audience and easily gather collected responses to get real data on the webinar from your registrants
- Share poll/survey results – with the audience
You notice that I put the emphasis on real-time chat above. Unfortunately, I’ve been on a webinar as a paid customer of someone else’s program years ago, where there have been up to a 20 second delay 🙁 As a customer, I was left feeling frustrated and wondered what I was paying for if the company couldn’t invest in a decent platform that we could have a real-time conversation! Ok… clearly, I haven’t gotten over that experience! 😉 But something that you should think about, how are you creating engagement in your webinars?
Most webinars offer something during or at the end of the webinar. It may be a simple call to action – download this file, sign up for this free thing or go here to buy. What is the offer or CTA (Call To Action) at the end of your webinar? Do you have one? Most lead generation or sales based webinars you will want to offer something, whereas other types of the webinar you may not have any offer at all.
This could include:
- Download this toolkit (file) here
- Visit this page to request your free report
- Visit this page to complete an application form
- Visit this page to request a free consultation
- Click this link to pay for product/service
If you do have an offer that you wish to present, does the webinar software have any pre-built functionality in there to share the offer via link to the audience? Can you easily share a link to that offer to your attendees? Are their custom pages in-built available to share the offer? Or can you redirect to a landing page once the webinar finishes?
In stage 2 we’ve covered off some of the key feature requirements when running a webinar. Remember to consider your audience’s experience. What’re the minimum features you’ll need to create the user experience necessary to achieve your webinar goal?
Stage 3 – Post Webinar Features
The final stage of the webinar journey is the Post Webinar features. The webinar is over, so this includes functionality from this point forward. Let’s go through some of the popular post-webinar functionality available.
A common request of webinar software is the ability to be able to record what you present. Whether you wish to share it with your registrants, people who didn’t show up or you wish to repurpose this material and use it later. Do you need a copy of it? Does the software record? If so, where does this file get stored? Is it hosted and if so, are there any time restrictions on that, or can you download and save it locally? What’s the quality like on the recording? How big is the file?
Whether you’re running a sales webinar or a client webinar, tracking the success of each webinar is crucial to know whether you achieved the goal or not (even if it’s around engagement of your existing clients).
Regular webinar reporting that’s available includes:
- Registrants – how many and who specifically registered for the event
- Attendance – out of all the registrations that you had, who attended?
- No Show – who registered and didn’t show up?
- Questions/Responses – what comments, questions, responses, poll/survey answers were submitted and can you get that on an individual level?
- Engagement – how interested was your audience in your material? (some platforms give you a score of interest and attention)
- Duration – when did someone join, when did they leave and how long did people stay for?
- Call To Action (CTA) – what time did the CTA happen, how many people saw it and who
- Sign Ups – how many people signed up to the call to action from the webinar
Having been a business analytic focused on reporting in a past life, reports are great and very useful, however, please, pretty please, think about if you had this information, what would you do with it? Sometimes if a tool doesn’t natively have the data that you’re looking at, you go with another solution that does, only to find you never used the information anyway…. (yep been there, and done that!). Go back to your goal – what reports do you need to help measure whether you achieve it or not? Focus your attention there first.
As mentioned previously, you may wish to integrate your webinar with your CRM to update a contact’s master record and follow up according to their participation/action in the webinar. What information do you want to pass back to your CRM? Just that they attended or not? Some other data that you may wish to pass back if available include whether they saw the offer, what questions/responses submitted, duration and pretty much most of the options listed above, under the reporting.
Post Event Follow Up – Attended
Imagine the webinar is done and you had a bunch of people who rocked up – woohoo! Are their options to generate follow up based on whether the registrant attended via the webinar software? If so, can you set when they go and/or how many emails are sent to the contact? Also, can you customise these messages? Or is this not required from your webinar solution as you’ll be sending your follow up through your CRM via an integration?
Post Event Follow Up – Absent/Not Attended
Don’t worry, I don’t think I’ve seen one webinar over the years where every single person has shown up for a webinar (even by some of the best speakers out there!). Similarly, to the post-event follow up attended functionality above, are you looking for messages to be sent out via your webinar platform for those who don’t show? If so, when and how many emails and can you customise these messages? Is this something that your CRM will take care of, so you don’t need this from a webinar tool?
Now, that rounds out the requirements after the webinar has happened in the third Post Webinar stage.
That concludes the main features that we recommend assessing between the different webinar platforms so that you can create the ultimate webinar journey considering the features that will help you achieve your webinar goals.
Your Best Webinar Software Selection Checklist
Before we present the list of webinar platforms you should review, be sure to get a free copy of the Your Webinar Software Selection Checklist.
This provides a concise list of the webinar features outlined above, so you can outline your webinar goal, rate the priority of each feature and then score each platform.
This will help you select the most suitable software faster.
The Best Webinar Software
The webinar software market has exploded in recent years to give small businesses like you more options.
As these tools are constantly evolving and improving all the time, we recommend you download the checklist above, then go and assess each solution against your essential requirement that you need right now.
What’s important to one business, may not necessarily be important for another business.
Therefore, we encourage you to complete this assessment yourself according to your own criteria.
To speed up the process for you, we’ve put together some of the most popular live webinar software tools out there for you to review.
Best Webinar Software Options:
|Webinar Software||Name||Webinar Type||Link|
|Zoom||Live||Here’s our link to a free account|
|GoToWebinar||Live||Here’s our link to access a 7-day free trial|
|EverWebinar||Recorded||Here’s our link to a 14-day free trial|
|StealthSeminar||Recorded||Here’s our link to a free trial|
|BigMarker||Live/Recorded||Here’s our link to a free trial|
|LiveWebinar||Live/Recorded||Here’s our link to get started|
|Webex||Live||Here’s our link to get started|
|Facebook Live||Live||Here’s the link to access Facebook Live|
|Microsoft Teams||Live||Here’s our link to get started|
|WebinarJam||Recorded||Here’s our link to a 14-day free trial|
|LiveStorm||Live||Here’s our link to get started for free|
|GoToMeeting||Live||Here’s our link to access a 14-day free trial|
|Bluejeans Webinar||Live||Here’s our link to get started|
|Vidthere||Live||Here’s our link to get started|
|Demio||Live||Here’s our link to get started for free|
|Webinar Ninja||Live||Here’s our link to a free trial|
|ClickMeeting||Live||Here’s our link to get started|
|CrowdCast||Live||Here’s our link to a free trial|
|EasyWebinar||Live||Here’s our link to a free trial|
* Facebook Live – some would argue that this isn’t a webinar platform, which I would mostly agree, but it is a solution worth considering depending on what functionality that you’re looking for.
Remember too, just because you select one webinar software today, doesn’t mean that you’re stuck with it forever. As you grow or use webinars differently in your business, you may wish to change/upgrade to another platform as your needs change.
Webinar Wrap Up
We know how stressful it can be to select the right webinar platform for your business. Remember, it all comes back to three key questions:
- What’s the purpose of your webinar?
- What’s your specific goal?
- Does that feature help you to achieve it or not?
To make it easier and faster for you to review the options above, be sure to download the “Your Webinar Software Selection Checklist“. We consolidated this features list, plus added in there how you can rate how essential each element is, then compare the different platforms out there.
Whether you’re doing your 50th webinar or your very first, we’re super excited that you’re tapping into the power of technology to help you leverage time, reach more people and grow your business.
Good luck selecting the best webinar software for your small business!
If you discover any other webinar solutions worth adding to this list, we’d love to hear! Pop a comment below and we’ll check them out.
Happy webinaring!!! 😀