November 1, 2014

26 Webinar Tools for Small Business Owners

When combined with great resources, useful downloads, and soft sell approaches, webinars offer a way to engage prospects and customers at a higher level.

Here are 26 webinar services for you to consider.  Most of these define meetings differently from webinars, in both number of participants and pricing,  so if you simply want to run an internal meeting with remote users there are affordable options within this set of providers.

Most of these offer the ability for you to present from a video camera (web cam) or just from your computer microphone via VOIP or via a regular phone. Most do not recommend calling in from a cell phone if you’re the presenter/moderator.  All of these allow you to share your screen, which is usually at the core of any webinar presentation.

Five heavy hitters:

The first five are the well-known heavy hitters in the webinar platform world.  They offer a track record and stability that you have to admire, but if you happen to need other options, we include 21 more!

1.    Verizon Small Business Web Conferencing is part of the Verizon Business focus. You can join the collaboration center and get online meetings and more starting at $24/month, but you need to call a small business representative to get pricing on the web conferencing platform.

2.    Microsoft Office Live Meeting starts at $4.50 per user, per month with a 5 person minimum.  Its standard version allows up to 250 webinar participants. There is no setup fee and with a Windows Live registration you can try it out for free.

3.    Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro has a reputation of being one of the most elegant conferencing solutions and wins awards regularly.  It works as a webinar tool, but adds e-learning components if you need to track how people interact with your material and if they complete certain courses. They offer a 30-day free trial. Monthly fees start at $45, but they also offer a pay-per-use pricing plan which is nice.

4.    Cisco WebEx offers unlimited meetings a month for up to 25 people is $49/month.  They are one of the best known web conferencing solutions and offer mobile access (even from an iPhone or iPad), attendee polls, and all the other cool features you hope for in a webinar.  I’ve used this service a great deal for one-on-one meetings with sales prospects. Offers a 14-day free trial.

5.    GoToWebinar is probably the service I’ve used the most and had good experiences for webinars. Their pricing model changed recently (increased) and that’s probably the only deterrent for small business.  For up to 100 attendees, it is now $100/month.  For up to 15 people, you can use the GoToMeeting service at $49/month. Free trial for 30 days.

Up and coming webinar platforms

One of the distinguishing features of the newer webinar and collaborative technologies is that they require no download of additional software or lengthy plugins – they run in a regular browser. I’ve tried and like GatherPlace, Dimdim, and Brainshark, but the others all have bits and pieces worth considering if you’re shopping for an affordable small business webinar solution.

6.    GatherPlace I like their focus on small business and simple-to-understand pricing model.  They offer a free trial with no credit card and I’m using it with part of my Sales Kickstart webinar series.  Pricing starts at $29/month for up to 5 users.  You can run it in a java-enabled browser (most are) or download a small application from them.  I like the obvious pricing tab on the site (shown here in screenshot).

7.    Dimdim is one of the new webinar players on the market. They have created an open platform with a forever free plan for up to 20 users.  Paid plan starts at $25 for up to 50 people.

8.    Tokbox defines itself as a video chat service, but it does most of the same, if not all, of the things a webinar service offers.  Basic video chat for up to 20 people is free.  Share presentations, documents and videos.  Send pre-recorded video messages.

9.    Brainshark These guys are in a category all their own. As I view them, they are a webinar platform, but one that offers major tracking capabilities. You don’t conduct live meetings with them, but create the material and then allow people to consume it as they want, on-demand.  You can then see what and how your attendee uses and moves through the content.  Sort of like Slideshare, on steroids.

10.    Fuze is figuring out the mobile aspect of running a meeting better than almost any of the other webinar platforms.  You can instantly start a meeting from your iPhone or certain Blackberry models.  You can snap a photo and share it in your meeting, too.  Runs great from a desktop.  30-day Free trial, then starts at $29/month for up to 25 users.  Oh, last cool feature Fuze Fetch: You give them attendee phone numbers and they call them for you.

11.    Freebinar I’m testing Freebinar along with others listed here.  They have a forever free plan for up to 150 people per meeting/webinar. Unlimited number of meetings.  They have an advertiser-based model to support the forever free plan.  Browser based and also has custom registration form options, which is a good feature.

12.    MegaMeeting is a high end web conferencing platform that offers a standard subscription that’s good for small business. They also offer the software for purchase and use on your own servers. It comes at a high price point, but if your business depends on webinars it might be worth a look. Offer a free trial and then plans start at $45/month for up to 3 users.

13.    Free Conference Calling There are times when you don’t want all the screensharing and video options and just need a conference calling option, so I’ve included one that looks pretty dependable and robust.  Also, you may have some screen sharing capability and only need the phone portion. This would be on to look at.

14.    ReadyTalk calls itself a white glove solution.  It offers a 30-day free trial and then $49/month for up to 15 users.  They call it white glove because they offer a event support for your important high value events, so you’re not alone in trying to coordinate the many details that often go with supporting a webinar.

15.  Zoho offers a completely free one-on-one online meeting option and then prices start at $12/month for up to five users.  That is one of the best prices in the market.  They also offer a cool feature called Embed Meeting so you can insert the meeting details into your website or blog and actually conduct the meeting right there.

16.  Yugma is one of the innovators in the small business webinar space.  They are one of the only webinar platforms I’ve seen that offers a special subscription for Skype.  They offer a completely free option and then prices start at 14.95/month for up to 20 users. They have a special running until the end of April 2010 for only $75/year for the 20 user package – that’s 50% off.

17.  IBM Lotus Unyte.  Okay, these guys are clearly 800 pound gorillas and should be listed above, but hardly anyone I knew realized IBM had a webinar platform.  They offer a free 30-day trial with unlimited use for up to 14 people.  They also offer a completely free one-on-one option that you can use for desktop sharing.  Events subscription starts at $99/month.

18.  Elluminate offers a few different online collaboration products and has an e-learning background.  So if your program or offering has an educational focus, then their products might be very useful. They offer a free trial and product starts at $499/year for up to 50 users.

19.  Intercall is an audio, video and web conference tool and I was impressed with the iPhone and Blackberry add-ons they have built into it.  They have a Small Business Plan section that they just introduced and it starts at $39/month for unlimited webinars.  Free trial, of course.  Also, they offer a pay-as-you-go for 17 cents per minute/per user which might appeal when you only need something every now and then.

20.   Saba offers Saba Centra which has an eMeetings option which is good for up to 25 people at $59/month and then bigger packages, if you need them. They offer mobile phone options, too.  It appears to be more like some of the heavy hitters above, but since they were not as well known I listed them here.  Free 30-day trial.

21.  Nefsis makes some bold claims that they are more powerful than Webex and so it made me pay closer attention.  Having done a bunch of webinars,  many platforms can have issues with audio feedback.  This is when you have someone with an open microphone somewhere and it causes static and screeching.  Nefsis states they’ve solved this.  They offer a free trial but their pricing is at the higher end of the scale for SMBs: $70 per user, per month.  It might fit a specific need for the advanced small business owner doing remote meetings and webinars.

Customizable webinar platforms

These last five appear to be more customizable.  I could not find pricing information without a demo or talking to a sales rep, but the home page summaries inspired me to include them.

22.    iLinc offers e-learning, webinars, meetings and a way to tie it all into Salesforce.com and create a great customer tracking option.  This will be an important option for many small businesses that have automated much of their marketing work.  They offer a free 30-day trial.

23.    STREAM57 is a Flash webcasting software product that appears to be quite robust and high quality (the demos I saw look like professional newscasts).

24.    StageToWeb offers a technology platform for your web events and much more.  It is a high end custom solution and they help you set up a virtual room and there’s live support to guide you through an event.

25.    PGi Better Meetings appears to offer several solutions — its own, plus Adobe, Microsoft and other webinar products as part of its custom approach.

26.   Dialcom offers a collaboration software tool called Spontania that is a client-server solution.  There was no pricing available, but it is used by many large corporations and some smaller ones.  They offer some useful case studies to show how banks, healthcare, and manufacturers have used their video conferencing and collaboration software.

Let us know which platform or service you like and use in the comments.  We love hearing from you.

55 Comments ▼
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TJ McCue - Product Editor


TJ McCue TJ McCue served as Technology/Product Review Editor for Small Business Trends for many years and now contributes on 3D technologies. He is currently traveling the USA on the 3DRV roadtrip and writes at the Refine Digital blog.

55 Reactions

  1. Hi TJ, good list.

    Regarding Adobe Acrobat Connect — I like some of the informal interactive elements of it. But I’ve had sound issues and video issues when a lot of people join in. It will work fine in a rehearsal with a few people, but once live with hundreds of people, it shows its stress. Have you had that experience?

    – Anita

  2. TJ,

    WOW! Fantastic job with this one…

    I had no idea that there were that many webinar players in the market.

    A trend, for sure.

    Great job with the reviews, too

    The Franchise King

  3. Hi Anita, yes, I’ve had that challenge with Adobe (via a client project). To be fair, I’ve had it with GoToWebinar, Webex, and several of the smaller players, too. It is a hard thing, I think, to create an interactive experience with so many variables – sound, video, operating systems, phones, etc. That’s no excuse why the co that claim to be able to do it can’t do it better, but I do think it is more complicated than I sometimes realize. You’ve been doing webinars for a long time, so your tips would be welcome to those of us trying to lead the less-frequent webinar. I’m testing several for my April small biz sales series and hoping to have it down to only one or two for the May series!

    The biggest challenge is feedback. Just one person with an unmuted line can wreak havoc. And the thing I want the most is to be able to show the participants a youtube video (or some hosted video or even from my own machine), but I’ve not had that work at all. Calling in the sound gurus…

  4. I’ve had the best luck with GoToMeeting, but Adobe Connect Pro has some really cool features (though I was on one of Anita’s webinars when Adobe went haywire, so I feel her pain there).

    • Robert,

      And that was one of the times when we had done a complete rehearsal a day or two earlier — everything was perfect during the rehearsal. Then day of the webinar, I logged in a half hour early, and again during the half hour everything was fine.

      But that all changed when we went live with lots of people. “Boom!” In the space of 30 seconds I went from having a perfect connection, to people complaining they couldn’t hear me because I was too loud, or too soft, or sounded distorted, and so on. Absolutely nothing had changed on my end. I was using the same PC, the same webcam, same Internet connection, the same everything.

    • Many of our attendees use Mac’s and GoToMeeting does not support Mac’s (Safari). Asking them to download Chrome would just add more confusion. We’ve tried Fuze but have had problems with connecting. We’re back to WebEx… ugh. Not one of them is perfect, but better than nothing at all!

  5. I think its pretty crazy. I am a college student, paying top dollar at a well-known business school yet I have not heard of any of these programs.

  6. Hi,

    I work in Cisco’s Small Business marketing department. I just want to thank you for mentioning and recommending Cisco WebEx to small businesses.
    Thank you!

    Marie

  7. Great list TJ…we use DimDim and love it!

  8. Great article! I’m converting to mp3, now and only want audio. What do you recommend as a service to use? I will have 1 off site guest (who needs to log in or call in) and want to produce a mp3/quicktime/itunes audio when finished.

    Also, is there an easy way to edit?

    Thanks, so much, if you can point me in a direction. I currently use GotoMeeting.com, but can’t convert their WMA to mp3, and realize I need something different

  9. TJ, nice list! I’m going to be reviewing some of these platforms myself for clients, and you’ve given me a nice head start. :)

    Anita, I’ve used Acrobat Connect Pro’s hosted service for years. I have a theory about what you’ve experienced! Perfect rehearsal, perfect everything ahead of time, and then right when you start the audio goes all to hell… same thing often happened to me in MarketingProfs online seminars when a large number of people were joining the meeting at once. It’s as if the app can’t keep up with the mob at the door! Things would settle down after the initial rush, but it sure does frustrate everyone.

  10. Great article, and lots to run through. I was searching for a webinar tools so freebinar looks just about perfect. thank you.

  11. I am looking for a solution that:

    1) Allows you to integrate with web tracking code, like “Google Analytics,” so I can measure how many people register for my webinars as a result of a PPC campaign

    2) Allows people to share the webinar on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn after registering

    3) Allows me to embed the registration for on WordPress

    4) Integrates with MailChimp

    Any ideas?

  12. You may be interested in adding RHUB http://www.rhubcom.com to the list. This is an appliance based web conferencing and remote support solution for PC and Mac. Attendees can also join meeting through a web browser.

  13. Thanks for your work…TJ, very helpful
    I have used a combination of Glance and Free Conference Call.com in the past….worked okay…
    What I am looking for now is a platform allowing hands off sign up and sign in to webinars. In other words, purchasers could buy on-line, pay online, receive instructions for logging in….and then come on by themselves for the Webinar…in other words….an automated system for the most part..
    Any ideas..
    Thanks Jim

  14. Who do organizations choose for the huge webinars, with thousands of attendees?

  15. Solid list, but missing a key player!

    http://www.meetingburner.com — fast, easy, tons of features and FREE (not ad supported either).

  16. BigMarker is a cost-effective and very functional tool for online meetings, training, webinars, etc. These can be public – anyone can attend – or private, by invite (link) only.
    BigMarker is a http://www.BigMarker.com

  17. I have had the worst experience with Citrix with GoToWebinar in terms of pathetic customer service, pushy and shady sales tactics, and a very cumbersome webinar system. Run like hell away from Citrix and GoToWebinar.

  18. Tj, do you have an update to this 2010 article?

  19. There is a new option out there for webinars: WebiWave.com. Good luck and thanks for a nice resource.

  20. I must also mention ON24 (www.on24.com). I like the features, the pricing’s not bad and they are mobile-focused. If you’re looking for analytics, they’re very good.

    As an aside, I find the that the quality of the VOIP audio really affects the satisfaction, engagement, and effectiveness of the webinar experience more than the video! I’ve been using these for 8 years and the #1 audio has to be GoToMeeting/GoToWebinar. My worst audio experience? Webex and Adobe.

  21. Hi, thanks for sharing these webinar tools and services, i think Freebinar for start until i decide to start using GoToWebinar which always come highly recommended. Keep up the good work on the blog.

  22. Thank you very much for sharing the list of webinar tools such as WebEx, gomeetnow, readytalk etc. Alternatively, one can even deploy on premise web conferencing appliance such as RHUB appliances in order to conduct webinars, web conferences, online meetings etc.

  23. This is definitely one of the best lists I’ve seen. I’d like to add that I use ScreenConnect (http://www.screenconnect.com/), the tool I’d been using a year of support. They just integrated meetings into the functionality and it allows for unlimited participants. Right now it is a little limiting as they haven’t incorporated VIOP but I talked with management and they urge that it will be added soon. Once that comes bye-bye to subscriptions forever.

  24. Awesome. Pleased to have all info in one list.

  25. Hi,
    This is great! Which do you recommend for 60 – 90 minute pre-recorded video lessons? Don’t need to be live or interactive.
    Thank you!

  26. Thanks for such a comprehensive review of available webinars. I was having difficulties deciding which service to use and your article has been a huge help.

  27. Hi!

    Thank you for that overview! As a professionial trainer for excellent webinars I have experimented with some of them. And my favourite tool is “edudip” – which is not on the list. You find it here: http://www.edudip.com

    Best wishes!

  28. What about Meet Cheap. Does anybody have a feedback?

  29. If you are looking for a true webinar based marketing solution for thought leadership, demand generation, and lead nurturing please come check us out @ ON24.

  30. Good list of tools.

    You missed the one FREE tool that is versatile (for webinars, video conferencing, screensharing, and more) and also gets you some Google love – Hangouts on Air broadcasts via YouTube and Google+, so you know it’s got excellent SEO potential built in, can reach unlimited audience/viewers, can be pre-scheduled, and made private (for training or selling your webinar seats).

    Add a “wrapper” like Webinar Jam, Webinar Iginition or Runclick for autoresponder integration, evergreen webinars, replays, etc and makes Hangouts on Air as easy and systematized as expensive competitors like GotoWebinar.

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