How to Choose and Implement a Webcasting Solution
In contrast, webcasting and conferencing solutions deliver the PowerPoint slides in a much more efficient graphics format; that’s why you typically have to upload presentations in advance. In addition, in most webcasts, video is constrained to a small corner of the player, with other elements, such as PowerPoint, Q&A, polls, and quizzes, claiming the majority of the real estate. So for many webcasts, the webcam-only limitation isn’t a significant constraint, and neither is the inability to stream adaptively. On the other hand, if the bulk of your presentation is video, say of a discussion panel, a webcam won’t get the job done, and adaptive streaming will be a real benefit.
Another consideration relates to webcasts involving multiple speakers in different locations. LSSPs can handle multiple speakers sequentially but can’t easily integrate multiple speakers into a group presentation. Some webcasting solutions can integrate multiple speakers, but usually for an additional cost. In contrast, handling multiple video feeds from disparate locations is an essential component of virtually all conferencing systems.
Along the same lines, once you start to look at other presentation components, conferencing systems begin to shine (Table 4). Most support a shared whiteboard, enable screen sharing, allow users to swap files, and have a robust chat function. In contrast, webcasting systems are typically designed to display PowerPoint slides and a talking head. Though you can demonstrate software or share a screen by sending video captured via a product such as the NewTek TriCaster or Telestream Wirecast, these capabilities are not intrinsic to the system. LSSPs don’t even support native PowerPoint; you’ll need a tool such as the TriCaster or Wirecast to integrate any screen-based element into the video.
LSSPs also lack interactive components such as polls and quizzes, which are very useful for engaging the audience to maintain their interest or help guide the direction of the presentation. If you’re training employees or partners, the ability to award and deliver certifications based upon quiz results is an important capability.
Of course, the more features a service offers, the larger the task of porting it for mobile platforms. While mobile support is becoming increasingly important, it varies greatly among all the companies in all categories. If mobile playback and interactivity is important to your application, get this on the table early.
This is another category in which LSSPs can’t compete; they’re simply not designed to provide user-specific viewing data. In contrast, the ability to integrate per-user viewing and response data for lead generation or training is an essential function of most webcasting systems. Most conferencing systems with webcast or training-oriented modules can supply this data, but you’re certainly not going to get if from a conferencing-only application such as Google Hangouts on Air (Table 5).
Post Webinar Components
After the webinar, you’ll want to make it available as an on-demand presentation. Since there’s typically garbage time at the start and end of the presentation, you’ll want the ability to trim that out, which all three system types generally enable (Table 6). Again, webcasting systems are designed with effective post-webinar editing in mind and go much further. For example, since the video and PowerPoint slides are separately maintained, you can typically change the timing of slides, or even submit a new audio or video component or swap out a slide. Beyond this, many webcasting services can extract text from the PowerPoint slides and index the presentation to those slides. So if viewers want to jump directly to slide 14, How to Lose Weight Without Dieting, they can. Some even convert the speech to text to enable text search of the content. This not only helps viewers find what they want, it improves search engine optimization.
Not surprisingly, beyond simple trimming, you won’t get any of these capabilities from LSSPs. You’ll also find a great diversity in the recording and output functionality provided by conferencing systems.
Every webinar is different, and every webinar producer has different goals and budgets. To choose the best category of product for your webinar, start by identifying your budget and high-level goals, and then define the types of content incorporated into the webinar, the desired user interaction, the target platforms served, the required analytics, and the features integrated into the on-demand presentation. This information will not only help you select which category is best for your webinar, but also choose between various alternatives within that category.
This article appears in the 2014 Streaming Media Sourcebook as "Choosing and Implementing a Webcasting Solution."
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