Choosing the Right Webinar Software and Tools: Ultimate 2023 Guide
The webinar software and tools you use directly impact the quality of experience for attendees as well as hosts. With the many platforms available today, choosing the right option for your needs and budget requires in-depth evaluation.
This comprehensive guide covers key features to look for and questions to ask to select webinar software and tools capable of powering seamless, professional, engaging webinar events of all scales.
Why Webinar Software Matters
The right webinar platform will:
- Enable an intuitive, glitch-free viewing experience for attendees across devices
- Provide robust engagement features to drive participation during live sessions
- Allow flexible, polished presentation options for hosts
- Integrate easily with marketing, sales, and analytics tools to capture ROI
- Scale seamlessly as your audience or content needs grow
- Deliver detailed viewer analytics and metrics to optimize future webinars
Subpar software leads to tech headaches, lackluster viewing experiences, and limited engagement. Investing in a robust platform upfront avoids costly do-overs later.
Key Webinar Software Features and Tools to Evaluate
Not all webinar software is created equal. When comparing options, look for platforms that offer:
Intuitive viewing and participation
- Easy access options (one-click links, call-in numbers, mobile apps)
- Clear HD video streaming with no lag or buffering
- Good audio quality with noise cancellation
- Simple interface and navigation
- Q&A, polling, chat, raise hand capabilities
- Downloading of resources or assets
- Note-taking, bookmarking, tagging features
- Closed captioning and accessibility options
Host presentation capabilities
- Slide sharing with synced presenter view
- Annotations and drawing tools
- Multi-presenter management
- Green screen / background customization
- Webcam video integration
- Screen sharing and switching
- Recording and playback
Webinar creation and scheduling
- Registration and email preset templates
- Calendar integrations and reminders
- Custom branding and themes
- Presenter bios and content previews
- Time zone targeting and translations
- Post-event thank you emails and follow ups
Engagement and interactivity
- Live polling, surveys, quizzes
- Q&A, chat, digination, whiteboards
- Feedback buttons, emojis, and alerts
- Breakout rooms for small group discussions
- Gamification elements like badges, rewards, leaderboards
- Social sharing capabilities
Integration and analytics
- Marketing automation, CRM, and email marketing integrations
- Lead retrieval, tracking, and contact management
- Dashboards showing engagement metrics in real-time
- Custom reporting on registrations, attendance, views, leads, ROI
The combination of tools and features influences how polished, easy, and interactive the webinar experience will be end-to-end.
Questions to Ask When Evaluating Webinar Platforms
Beyond features, when vetting webinar software options, ensure you get clear answers on:
Core webinar use cases and limitations
- What webinar formats, scales, and durations does the platform best support?
- Are there attendee limits or caps on certain features based on pricing tiers?
- Can the platform handle webinars globally or only certain regions?
- What customizations or configurations are available?
Ease of attendee access and participation
- How easily can attendees access webinars from any device?
- What options are available for those with disabilities to fully participate?
- Can you customize and brand what attendees see in the viewing interface?
Presenter and host capabilities
- What tools and freedoms do hosts/presenters have to share content and engage audiences?
- How many presenters can co-host and how easily can you switch between them?
- What moderation and audience interaction abilities do hosts have?
Video, audio, and streaming quality
- How consistently high quality is the video and audio? Any known issues?
- What streaming capacity does the platform reliably support?
- How do they ensure no lag, buffering, or other playback issues?
Security and compliance
- What security measures, certifications, or compliance is in place?
- How is attendee data protected?
- Where are the platform servers located?
Support and customer service
- What training, onboarding, and ongoing support is included?
- Is live support available 24/7 in case of urgent webinar issues?
- How responsive are they addressing technical difficulties or glitches?
Getting clear, detailed answers to key questions like these allows you to make a truly informed software choice.
Conducting Hands-On Assessments Before Committing
Before finalizing a webinar software choice, be sure to actually test driving platforms yourself.
- Schedule demos to tour the interface and capabilities live
- Sign up for full-access free trials to evaluate the end-to-end experience
- Build sample webinars from scratch to gauge ease of use
- Test at scale with large groups of practice attendees
- Assess recording, editing, hosting, and sharing of completed webinars
- Review attendee dashboard and engagement analytics
- Join other live webinars happening on the platform as an attendee
- Review case studies, sample videos, and tutorials showing the platform in action
No amount of sales pitches substitute hands-on experiences for making the right selection. Vetting thoroughly upfront prevents frustrations later.
Choosing Between All-in-One or Standalone Webinar Services
A key decision is using an all-in-one branded platform or choosing separate standalone tools for different functions:
All-in-one webinar platform
- Fully integrated end-to-end experience
- Consistent interface, branding, and tracking
- Unified support and training
- Often simpler for basic to intermediate use
- Can be pricier for advanced use cases
- Limited flexibility mixing and matching other tools
- Potentially tied into one vendor’s ecosystem
Standalone webinar tools
- Mix and match only the pieces needed
- Choose specialized tools for specific uses
- Avoid vendor lock-in or bundled packages
- Often greater scalability and customization
- Complex multi-tool integrations required
- Less cohesive experience and analytics
- More expertise needed to orchestrate smoothly
- No unified platform for support
If opting for standalone tools, be sure to thoroughly test interconnected workflows across video conferencing, streaming, engagement tools, landing pages, email, and more.
Comparing Leading Webinar Software Vendors and Platforms
While every webinar software platform has pros and cons, leaders in the space include:
One of the pioneers in webinar software, GoToWebinar makes hosting and joining webinars simple across devices for potentially large audiences. Key features include robust registration, email, and audience management tools along with strong analytics. Drawbacks are higher pricing for advanced uses and less engaging video experiences compared to newer competitors.
Extremely popular for video meetings and webinars thanks to its quality streaming, video engagements, and reliable infrastructure. Features include cloud recording, audience Q&A, extensive customization of branding, countdowns, and more. Limitations are lower attendee caps on free plans and more basic webinar management features compared to dedicated platforms.
A newer, web-based platform gaining traction especially among small businesses for its intuitive interface optimized for marketing and sales uses. Strengths include lead generation tools, custom landing pages, and excellent video quality. Drawbacks are fewer large event features and third party integrations compared to legacy players.
Known for supporting highly scaled webinar events with tens of thousands of attendees thanks to its robust streaming infrastructure and production capabilities. Especially popular with media, sports, and enterprise brands. Downsides are much higher pricing for advanced accounts and steeper learning curves managing the extensive toolset.
An affordable SaaS webinar platform with strengths in host presentation modes, engagement tools, and built-in monetization options. Drawbacks are attendee caps on free plans and less enterprise integration capabilities. But the company specializes in client onboarding and live event management support.
A automated webinar platform focused on pre-recorded webinars and on-demand replay capabilities with limited live event support. Best for sales and marketing content played on repeat. Downsides are lack of live interactivity, custom branding, video conferencing, and less intuitive interfaces.
While these highlight popular platforms, look broadly at reviews, use case studies, free trials, and peer recommendations when comparing all options for fit.
Scalability Needs to Consider
When evaluating webinar software, think carefully about current and future scaling needs so capabilities align with long term plans, including:
- Attendee numbers – Will you host small team trainings or major public events? Look for platforms that accommodate both or enable easy upgrades.
- Presentation complexity – Do you plan basic screensharing or multi-feed productions? Prioritize robust host tools aligned to your content goals.
- Engagement features – Consider whether you’ll run basic Q&As or leverage multiple interactive widgets and surveys over time.
- Integrations – Weigh future needs around analytics, email marketing, operations software, and other platforms you’ll eventually connect.
- Customization – Do you require extensive branding, landing pages, custom fields etc? Prioritize flexibility.
- Global needs – If aiming to expand webinars across countries and languages, ensure the platform can support multi-regional delivery and translations.
Plan ahead for where you envision your programs growing rather than having to switch platforms after outgrowing basics ones.
Pricing Considerations and Models
Webinar software pricing varies widely but generally falls into a few models, each with pros and cons:
Per event – You pay a flat rate each time you run a webinar. Scales costs to your frequency but provides little incentive to improve and offers no bundled services.
Per attendee – Fees based on the number of live attendees. Makes large events costly but small events affordable. Can yield unpredictable budgets.
Per seat – Pricing based on named host accounts, best for internal uses. Adding external attendees increases costs.
Tiered packages – Platforms offer set bundles (e.g. basic, pro, business, enterprise) with increasing features. Can still limit flexibility.
Flat monthly/annual – A reliable set fee regardless of webinars hosted, usually supplemented by fees for add-ons or overages. Most predictable budgeting but reduced ability to scale down in slower periods.
Freemium – Basic features are free but more advanced capabilities require upgraded paid plans. Allows testing capabilities at low risk before making purchase decisions.
Think through your current and future webinar volume, production needs, integrations, and budget to determine the pricing model that brings most value long-term.
Key Budget Factors Beyond Core Platform Fees
Keep in mind that additional services and costs often supplement base webinar software fees:
- Support packages and training
- Added storage, streaming, or overage fees
- Integrations, custom development, or modifications
- Design, branding, or content production
- Lead retrieval or list services
- Incentives, giveaways, or gamification
- Additional presenters, hosts, or moderators
Factor these add-ons into your total budget as needed so final costs align with value delivered.
Securing Executive Buy-In for Webinar Software
When requesting budget for webinar software, build a compelling business case by quantifying:
- Cost savings over in-person events or other content formats
- Revenue growth from higher quality lead generation capabilities
- Marketing reach expansion into new geographies and audience segments
- Content repurposing opportunities across channels
- Productivity gains by standardizing webinar workflows
- Risk reduction from platform security, compliance, and support
- Employee training use cases enabled by interactive video delivery
- Customer engagement lift based on proven webinar ROI metrics
Back claims up with credible data sources, analyst reports, and case study examples. Tie technology budgets directly back to strategic business goals for greatest chance of approval.
Keys to Choosing the Right Webinar Software: A Recap
The key steps for making the right webinar software choice include:
- Evaluate core features needed across streaming, engagement, analytics, and user experience.
- Get clear, detailed answers on how well various platforms meet your current and future use cases.
- Conduct thorough hands-on testing via demos, trials, and example webinars before purchasing.
- Weigh the pros and cons of all-in-one platforms vs integrating specialized standalone tools.
- Compare leading established players but also consider newer or more specialized platforms.
- Choose technology aligned with long term plans for scaling attendee numbers, productions, integrations, and budget.
- Build a strong business case tied to strategic goals to secure executive approval and funding.
While the software investment upfront requires due diligence, the right platform pays dividends through optimized webinar experiences and results for years to come.
Evaluating and Updating Your Webinar Technology Stack
Even after choosing an initial webinar software platform, regularly re-evaluating available technologies against your evolving program needs is wise:
Assess emerging features
New software releases constantly expand capabilities. Keep current on new features that could enhance your strategy.
Audit ongoing platform performance
If glitches persist despite support efforts, an alternate vendor may better fit needs.
Map expanded use cases
If your program grows in terms of formats, sizes, interactivity, personalization or other aspects, assess if your current tech stack can still support those ambitions.
Review attendee feedback
Indirect or direct feedback highlighting technology pain points from your audiences helps reveal where upgrades may be beneficial.
Monitor competitive options
Regularly trial free versions of alternative platforms to stay current on the market. Just a few hours of testing can provide helpful perspective.
Track cost/benefit tradeoffs
Weigh investments into existing systems against potential gains from migrating to new tools. Stick with current platforms unless clear value is demonstrated.
Talk to peer brands
Ask peers and partners about the technology approaches working best for their respective webinar strategies to glean lessons learned.
Revisiting software decisions proactively ensures your tech stack remains the right fit as programs scale and evolve.
Choosing the right webinar software and tools is foundational for reliably delivering polished, seamless, engaging webinar experiences that drive adoption and impact. While many options exist today, taking time to thoroughly evaluate features, test drive platforms extensively, assess long term scaling needs, model budget, and quantify the business case will lead to technology choices that fuel webinar success both now and in the future.
- 1 Choosing the Right Webinar Software and Tools: Ultimate 2023 Guide
- 1.1 Why Webinar Software Matters
- 1.2 Key Webinar Software Features and Tools to Evaluate
- 1.3 Questions to Ask When Evaluating Webinar Platforms
- 1.4 Conducting Hands-On Assessments Before Committing
- 1.5 Choosing Between All-in-One or Standalone Webinar Services
- 1.6 Comparing Leading Webinar Software Vendors and Platforms
- 1.7 Scalability Needs to Consider
- 1.8 Pricing Considerations and Models
- 1.9 Key Budget Factors Beyond Core Platform Fees
- 1.10 Securing Executive Buy-In for Webinar Software
- 1.11 Keys to Choosing the Right Webinar Software: A Recap
- 1.12 Evaluating and Updating Your Webinar Technology Stack
- 1.13 Conclusion