Salsa Scoop> In the Market for Web Conference Tools

In the Market for Web Conference Tools

DemocracyInAction is back to hunting inexpensive webinar/online conferencing tools. A few weeks ago, our our existing provider sent us an e-mail announcing:
We have decided to significantly change our company's focus, thereby exiting the web conferencing business completely. Because of this business decision, we have stopped renewing existing subscriptions and have ceased selling new subscriptions for our ASAP products.
Since "Convoq is an innovative provider of SaaS integrated online meeting and live chat systems", that must have been one heck of a business decision. All the same, in our two-plus years using Convoq's ASAP tool, we've had great results, so we bid our erstwhile collaborators fair tidings on their journey which we hope does not necessitate harbor in a capitalized and numbered Chapter. What it certainly does is thrust DIA back into the market for online meeting tools. Fortunately, we worked up a tidy little list of some options (the linked blog post has been one of the more popular search hits here on DIAtribe). The spreadsheet (.pdf) therein linked is my starting point for new options. Since we run a goodly quantity of webinar meetings -- probably 40 to 50 a year, plus various one-off demos -- any solution with a per-user, per-minute billing model is right out. And though the promise of open source web conferencing is juicy, we can't go with an Alpha product. Our key need is screencasting. Associated chat/IM/forum-type features for online conversation, and the ability to mark up the screen with easy drawing tools, are both handy extras. That leaves me looking right now in these directions, more or less in this order:
  • ReadyTalk, which I've seen many times as a user on NTEN webinars, and liked quite a lot. Discounts on the tool are an NTEN membership benefit. One of their folks gave me a seductive demo yesterday, and we'll be using it in trial mode for next week's webinar. An excellent extra in ReadyTalk that's not core to this search: the ability to use the tool to remote-access a desktop, which could be useful for us in a high-touch support situation.
  • GoToMeeting, option 1a when we re-upped last year with Convoq and perhaps destined to be ever the bridesmaid. GTM basically does exactly what Convoq does, but in Java instead of Flash (ReadyTalk also uses Java at the moment), and with as friendly an interface as you'd ever want. It's a nice, solid, affordable product, and I'll probably conduct a DIA webinar later this month on a GTM trial account to give it a current test-drive as well.
  • Web Conferencing Central, which I'm less familiar with than the two above although I took a demo tour a few months ago. We'd probably be in a $50/month subscription with no permanent contract, and the central feature sets seem to be essentially comparable.
Further bulletins as events warrant. If anyone has any thoughts or commentary on the above tools, or something I'm overlooking (keep in mind: low end), I'd love to hear them.


Web conference

Thanks for the info on webinar options. I was just getting ready to write you to ask what DIA uses. Has DIA considered adding that to your toolbox? You all do everything else so well, this could be a huge asset for the advocacy community. Of course, I don't know all the technology involved... just a thought!

We'll leave that to the experts ...

... I think the field's pretty saturated as it is, especially since there are so many affordable variants out there already. But your kind words will be duly reflected in your next monthly bill! :) I should add that one other one that hadn't been on my radar but is now was suggested by a client: Unyte. Anyway. I'm test-driving ReadyTalk on a conference call in about an hour. I'll post more about how the various options compare as we get a chance to use them.


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