Research Report

Consulting Industry Reporter

Using a Web Conference Host

Consulting Industry Reporter

You could handle all the details of a Web conference yourself -- from invitations and pre-planning to the event and post-conference follow up. But using a Web conference host can make the whole process easier.

Companies that serve as Web conference hosts specialize in the software and services to make an event run smoothly. Beyond the know-how and the technology, Web conferencing hosts also can take on some of the work to make your task easier.­

On the most basic level, Web conference hosts offer the space you need. You can't have a Web conference without the server space and bandwidth to accommodate it. Rather than running a Web conference on your company's server, a Web conference host lets you and your participants log into their server using a link and access code.

Many Web conference hosts also eliminate the time and expertise needed to install and maintain Web conference software in house. Both you and the participants can take advantage of features such as chat, file sharing, whiteboard, simple polls and results sharing, and streaming video without any special software. However, you may need to download software for interactive features like complex polls and remote control of a participant's desktop.

And Web conference hosting companies provide trained support staff, such as event managers to handle registration and set-up details, and live-tech support to answer questions before the conference or deal with any technical problems during the conference.

The Web conference hosting companies vary in how they price bundled software and services. The most common ways are:

  • Flat monthly subscription: A monthly fee covers services for as many Web conferences as you need to make during that time
  • Pay per use license: One-time or yearly fee, plus a per-minute charge for each conference
  • Shared seat license: One-time fee, plus a charge per participant (seat)
  • Named user license: Yearly fee, plus a charge per conference initiator (named user) per year

Larger companies can buy multiple licenses based on the individual license rate.

If you plan to use a Web conference hosting company, you have dozens of options. Beyond cost and type of license, here are some other factors you may want to consider in making your choice:

  1. System requirements -- most conference software is designed for the Windows operating system.
  2. Specific functions you need in software: Do you plan to use the whiteboard? Chat? Interactive surveys? Meeting recording?
  3. Specific services you need, like an events manager to help you
  4. Ease of use, both for any needed software installation and for functions you'll be using during a Web conference
  5. Security, in terms of meeting accessibility and the vendor's system-level encryption and certified security
  6. Vendor's depth of product and expertise in Web conferencing
  7. Customer service, based on other companies' experience

No conference will be a success without appropriate planning. In fact, you probably will find yourself spending more time on planning than at the conference itself. Look on the next page for more about planning a successful Web conference.