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.