Conference Software

Dear Management Doctor:

I recently began looking at different types of programs that will allow us to make conference calls for more than four people, and will run online meetings and webinars. We don't anticipate having more than 25 participate in a single online meeting. Many of the programs appear to offer free trials, and we're trying one now. It has software that you have to download, which did not appear to be a problem but others appear to be web-based. Do you have any advice for us?

Nancy BB

Dear Nancy,

I recently went through the same process. You have your work cut-out for you since there are so many choices. Hopefully our emailers can share some of their experiences with different vendors. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Google will give you lots of references. There are a few sites that claim to compare various vendors.
  2. There are numerous vendors and it seems like more every day. So I expect the prices will keep coming down.
  3. Some programs limit to 25 or so participants but others are unlimited.
  4. Some programs are fine for just meetings but may have some limitations for full webinars.
  5. For sound, you have two choices. Either through a phone line or using the computer sound. Many of the vendors suggest use of the phone since it is more reliable. For my next webinar I plan to give the participants a choice. If they choose the computer sound, I don't have to pay extra phone charges.
  6. We use sound through Premier Global which ties nicely into our software. Our charge is 6.5 cents per minute.
  7. Some programs have an automatic recording feature. In this case it is important to have the phone/software tie.
  8. If you are going to do webinars, the software features are important. At a minimum, these should include easy ways to do polling of participants, a way for participants to write in questions, various mark-up tools for power point presentations, automatic ties to websites or in-house computers, and calculation of gasoline savings impacting global warming from the participants.
  9. We use a software program called iLink. It has all the features and is Internet based. It is likely more costly than some, running $99 per month. I have been tempted to look at less expensive programs but once you learn one and have it debugged, it is tough to change. We also have found that they provide good support and training.

Anyway you cut it, most contemporary organizations will need this type of program eventually. 

The Management Doctor