“Life is about choices.”
This phrase was the opening statement my microeconomics professor uttered ten years ago on the first day of class and those words still ring true for me today. Life is about choices, choosing what outfit to wear, food to eat, book to read or movie to watch. Everyday you and I are put into situations that have a variety of options to choose from. For this project, choosing one webinar platform provider out of many has taken much effort, however, as of last week we finalized our platform choice.
My goal for today’s post is to take you deeper into the platform selection process and to help guide those who are contemplating the addition of webinars to your member and community educational programs. I will provide an overview of the webinar platform, share the decision-making process for our platform selection and offer four tips in the initial phases of webinar planning to assist those interested in webinars.
THE WEBINAR PLATFORM
A webinar platform is an online meeting room where webinars are conducted. The platform acts as a space where the presenter and the attendant meet online. The platform performs the same function that libraries, classrooms and auditoriums perform for in-person seminars. Currently, there are over 127 platform providers who vary in quality, features and prices.
Five Key Components of the Platform (Components vary amongst providers)
1- Platform Features are online interactive tools that help keep the attendant engaged throughout the webinar, such as: polling, Q&A, web camera and hand-raise.
2- Audio Options allow the attendant to hear the webinar online.
- Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP): The audio is received through the computer speakers of the attendant.
- Toll Bridge Number: The audio is received through the telephone, with an “area-code” phone number.
- Toll-Free Number: The audio is received through the telephone with a toll-free number.
3- Technical Support is the manner in which the platform provider regularly assists their customers. For instance, some platform providers offer 24/7 customer support, where the webinar facilitator can receive assistance at any given time.
4- Administrative System deals with the different aspects of running the webinar from the set-up, to reminder and follow-up emails, as well as recording options.
5- Platform Pricing (Pricing varies amongst providers)
Three key areas of pricing include:
- Set-up Fee: This is a one-time initial set-up fee per registered presenter.
- Monthly Service Fee: This is a fixed monthly charge determined by the number of registered facilitators on the agreement and varies depending on the webinar audience size agreement.
- Audio Fee: This is determined by the audio option you choose.
VOIP: According to my research, when this option is available, it is usually free of charge.
Toll Bridge Number: According to my research, the majority of providers offer this free of charge, however, a long-distance fee could be applied to the attendant since the phone number will have an area code. Additionally, if the attendant uses a cell phone, minutes would accrue.
Toll-Free Number: Apart from cell phone minutes, this option is free for the attendant, however, the company/organization facilitating the webinar will be charged. The cost is calculated by a charge per minute for each attendant using the toll-free line.
OUR PLATFORM SELECTION
In the process of searching for a platform provider we asked ourselves, “What is important to us? What are our priorities? Though reasonable pricing and strong platform features were high on our list, our primary concerns were (1) the Member/Attendant experience, and (2) the webinar administrative system.
The Member/Attendant Experience: Focusing specifically on the audio function, we asked ourselves, “Would a toll-free line be enough for our attendants?” That question arose because BECU currently uses another platform provider for internal purposes such as training and staff meetings. The platform function is solid with a great price; however, the audio option of the current provider is limited to only a toll-free number. If we were to use this provider, our attendants cell phone minutes would accrue and their cell phone battery life could be affected. Thus, we decided it was vital we offer both VOIP and a toll-free number for our attendants to receive audio. As that decision was made, our platform choices were narrowed down since only a handful of providers offered both VOIP and a toll-free number to simultaneously operate during the webinar.
The Webinar Administrative System: As Financial Educators, we spend the majority of our time out in the community. We teach a wide-range of seminars at schools, financial fairs, community centers as well as in our own credit union branches. With that being said, time is a valuable commodity. It is extremely important that the webinar administrative system is user-friendly, quick and accurate, supported by an easy set-up function, automatic reminders, follow-up emails to attendants, and convenient recording features.
As we continued our research and defined our priorities, the platform choice became clear to us. We had a group webinar demonstration with the platform representative and our decision was finalized.
4 TIPS TO HELP YOU IN THE WEBINAR PLANNING PROCESS
1- Learn all you can about the many facets of webinars. I recommend attending some webinars to become familiar with the concept, reading books and online website information for more specific details, and seeking out peers who have experience in delivering webinars.
2- Know what is important to you. Start by asking yourself, “What is important to my credit union in delivering webinars? What are our priorities?” One way to discover your priorities is to complete the following sentence, “In offering webinars to our members and the community we must have ___________________________________ because __________________________________________________.” Knowing your priorities will help refine your platform provider list, thus, making the process easier.
3- Contact multiple platform providers. Ask them questions such as; what do you have to offer? What differentiates you from other providers? Can you give me an idea of your pricing scale? Request a webinar demonstration, this will allow you to get a feel for how a webinar works from the presenter’s point of view.
4- Keep an updated platform provider list. After every interaction with a platform provider be sure to record details such as; the platform features, pricing, administrative system, support options, as well as your own personal thoughts and feelings. Keeping an updated list will help you stay organized throughout the process.
If you are looking for more information about webinars or would like to hear more about my experience, send me an email at Justin.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Well that’s it for this post. I hope you gained a deeper understanding of the platform selection process. As for me, my next step is to create our 1st webinar presentation, learn the platform software, and launch our 1st BECU Financial Education webinar.
Thank you for following the blogs and I hope you have a fantastic rest of the week!