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Writing an RFP for Maximum ROI

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Vendors need to demonstrate that they understand your needs and that they are stable and experienced enough to win your confidence. You also want to know whether they have the ability and knowledge to grow with you as your webcasting needs develop. For example, you may start with a full-featured, corporate webcasting platform, but in the future, you may decide to add self-service webcasting so your employees can create webcasts at their desktops or vice versa. Product datasheets, or "at-a-glance" charts, may cover minimum requirements only, so ask your prospective partners to tell you exactly what you’re getting and why. Additionally, ask each vendor to supply screen shots to get a visual representation of their capabilities.

Here are questions to ask about the product line:
—What are your core webcasting products?
—What other products do you have (or have in the pipeline) that may be relevant?
—Do you provide services as well as products? What is the split between them?
—Do you sell a software or a hardware solution?
—Does your company have plans to expand the line? Are there planned upgrades?
—What differentiates your products and/or services from the competition?

Here are questions to ask about the company:
—Are webcasting systems your main focus?
—How long has your company been in the webcasting business?
—What is the history of your business?
—What industries have you served? How big are the companies that you typically serve?
—What makes your technology unique? Do you hold any patents?
—Did your company develop your system directly or was it purchased?
—Is there prior, current, or pending material legal action involving your company?

Webcasting Product
Functionality Considerations

There are many facets to implementing a corporate webcast program. The vendor and product evaluation processes work together. As you consider each potential vendor and product line, you should examine in detail certain specific components of product functionality.

Live and/or On-Demand Webcasting. Understanding the in-depth functionality that a vendor offers is a critical piece of information. If your organization plans to run live webcast events or wants this option for the future, it is important to look at the functionality of the product from a viewership perspective as well as a management perspective. There are many components to a live webcast experience, and, through the research you do with your userbase, you can determine which ones are essential.

For live webcasting, you need to decide which options you require, such as the ability to poll your viewers during live events. Management features are critical to ensure that everything goes smoothly during these events. Since there are a lot of moving parts, it is essential that your provider’s live event management features are flexible, intuitive, and easy to use. This includes the ability for one producer to control all aspects of a webcast, if necessary, or for the tasks to be divided among many producers. For example, with a dynamic live event that has a lot of interactive components, you may want one person controlling slides and another person controlling polls. If you do not want the person controlling the polls to have access to the slides, then make sure the management tools you are considering have permission controls in place. Also, be sure to ask vendors to back up their reliability and scalability claims for live events with verifiable customer examples.

A well-designed live webcasting system lays the foundation for a good on-demand system. Much of the functionality overlaps, but the on-demand system involves additional considerations, such as editing previously published content and archiving content. (Please see the sidebar, "Components of a Webcast Experience—Live or On-Demand.")

Here are questions to ask about live webcasting:
—What is the maximum number of concurrent viewers that your system is able to support? Are there extra viewing costs for more viewers?
—Can your software manage multiple concurrent live webcasts?
—Can your system stream live from and switch between multiple different (or remote) presenters or video sources?
—What is your overall webcast "look and feel"? Can you provide screen captures and graphics?
—Does your system allow for live-screen demoing?
—How would you describe the functionality of your system related to the moderation of live events and the ability to accept, filter, sort, and deliver inquiries and questions to the audience? What about the ability to deliver filtered results to presenters for live response?
—Explain how your system’s functionality allows for content to be changed on-the-fly prior to the start of an event.
—Is your software application capable of failing over between servers in order to offer redundancy during live events?

Here are questions to ask about on-demand webcasting:
—How can video content be edited? Can live event content be edited? Critical items to look for here include the following: support for all standard formats (video can be edited, imported, and exported), slide-sync editing capabilities, ability to preview edited content items before publishing, manual entry and editing of metadata and keywords, and ability to import and export other media files (e.g., AVI).
—What is the archival process for allowing viewers to view an on-demand version of a live webcast? Does your system allow for the creation of on-demand-only presentations?
—Does your system have the ability to allow departmental end users to create on-demand webcasts without the need for studio production assistance?

Customization. The latest technological advances allow you to realize the benefits of true customization, which enables you to meet unique organizational and departmental needs. The ability to customize interfaces is also a powerful tool for controlling branding, and incorporating consistent elements into company presentations will help you achieve greater brand recognition over time.

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