When I start outlining a new business idea, one of the last things I think about is technology. That’s awful to admit, but it’s true.
It’s more fun to stay in the creative phase of a project where you get to dream about what it will look like. But over time I’ve come face-to-face with the importance of knowing exactly how something will be created instead of only knowing the “what” or “why”.
In online entrepreneurship, that often includes some form of video technology. More specifically, webinar hosting.
Why webinars? According to the Content Marketing Institute, webinars are used by over 60% of marketers in their businesses. That’s huge!
With 60% of businesses already using webinars, is the market too saturated for you to successfully host one? Not in the slightest. While more small businesses and creators are seeing how powerful regular webinar hosting can be, there’s still enough room for you to make an impact with your content.
Since we already covered the benefits of hosting webinars in previous Tradecraft articles, let’s jump into the solid next steps of getting started with actually hosting your event.
Five powerful webinar platforms to test
Before you start promoting your webinar, it’s good to have an idea of where you’re going to host it. You may not have time to personally test every webinar hosting tool on the market so we’ve done some of the heavy lifting for you. Below, you’ll see some of the pros and cons of each webinar platform so you can choose your best fit.
Created by the popular GoToMeeting software, GoToWebinar was created to help you easily host webinars and online conferences. One of their taglines is “Turn a presentation into a conversation, and a conversation into a sale.” We absolutely love this approach to webinars.
- Include polls, surveys, and ample time for Q&As.
- Webinars can be recorded and downloaded in HD quality.
- Custom branding capabilities to keep everything on-brand.
- Encourage live interactions with participants through the chat section.
- Record webinars to make them evergreen.
- Some users have had their live stream go out without warning if they’ve had too many participants tune in.
- Other users complained that customer support was not always available when they needed help with hosting their webinar.
- Monthly recurring cost rather than being able to buy the tool outright.
Starts at $89/month for up to 100 participants
While Skype and Google Hangouts have become huge video call competitors, Zoom takes the best of both platforms and combines it with webinar capabilities. We even use this tool for our ConvertKit team calls every week and our own webinars. The tool does it all from video conferencing to private meetings, but here’s why you may want to use it for webinars.
- HD quality video for great screen sharing on any device.
- Unlimited meeting time when you purchase their Pro paid package.
- Record videos to use at a later date and for repurposing.
- Widely used by 750,000+ companies and a recognized tool for many participants.
- Includes closed captioning for participants who learn in different ways.
- Your participants have to download software to see the Zoom call.
- If you only use the free account, meetings are limited to 40 minutes long.
- Event assistance is available, but at an additional cost.
Starts at $54.99/mo/host for up to 100 participants
WebinarJam has become an instant favorite among many online creators (30,000+ of them to be exact), and for good reason. WebinarJam’s main goal is to make webinar hosting accessible to everyone and they do this by creating an incredibly easy-to-use interface.
- You can livestream your webinar to Facebook Live, YouTube Live, and beyond to hit your audience where they already are.
- Password protected webinars for extra exclusivity.
- Polls, live chats, and virtual whiteboards all included.
- Advanced data and analytics about viewers, watch times, and conversions.
- Invite up to six co-presenters for easy collaborations.
- WebinarJam doesn’t host your videos on their platform, but rather on your own website.
- If a registrant leaves a field blank when signing up for your webinar, they’ll have to re-fill their information all over again.
- There are no monthly options so you’re locked in for a year when you buy.
One time payment of $479 for one year OR three payments of $189 for one year
Many creators (like Carrie Grace and Elle & Company) have opted to use Crowdcast for their ongoing webinar series and workshops. As a great fit for online summits, Crowdcast has become a unique platform among the big players.
- Hosting unlimited events at any paid level.
- Includes Zapier integrations for advanced app options.
- No software for participants to download.
- Instead of having to jump up to the next package with more than 100 participants, you can stay at the lower package and pay 50 cents for each additional live participant.
- Crowdcast can be purchased monthly or yearly for extra savings.
- Webinar participants need to login with an email address and password to access the webinar within the platform.
- Some browsers have difficulty with showing Crowdcast webinars.
- The quality of video recordings has been reviewed as mediocre to relatively poor.
- Support by phone is only available at the top package at $195/month.
Starting at $49/month for up to 100 participants
AnyMeeting was created to be the one-stop shop web conferencing solution for small businesses. Since it offers a free trial, it may be a great tool to test out for yourself.
- Integrates with social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter for easy promotion.
- Phone support at any paid level.
- Personalized meeting URL and mobile-friendly, making it attractive for viewers on all devices.
- Up to six presenters can collaborate during the webinar.
- Live polls and audience reaction emojis make the webinar interactive and fun.
- Pre-recorded webinar footage can be used during the live viewing.
- Some attendees have reviewed that it’s hard to switch from audio to video.
- The interface is more dated than other webinar platforms.
- Some attendees have said they have had trouble logging back into a webinar if their Internet connection is lost.
Starts at $78/month for up to 100 participants
If you’re looking to experiment with webinar hosting to see if it’s truly the right fit for your business, you may want to look into free options. You won’t have as many features or advanced capabilities, but you’ll get practice with teaching and connecting with others through a live stream video.
You may have heard of Google Hangouts On Air, which was recently rebranded as a YouTube product. Although Google Hangouts On Air has been discontinued, you can access the same features through YouTube Live.
Once you sign up for a YouTube account, you can set up a livestream video in the Creator Studio tab. You have the option of streaming live right at that moment or creating a future event to livestream at a later date, which we recommend.
After scheduling your live event in YouTube Live, the platform will automatically generate code for you to embed into your website. You could host the webinar in the YouTube live platform, but embedding the code into your website keeps your webinar branded and all your participants are kept in one central place.
In my DIY stage of business, I used YouTube Live to host five different webinars and it worked well as a free option. It doesn’t give you some of the advanced options like the webinar software options above, but it’s great for beginners who want to get their feet wet.
If you’ve been building a strong community inside a Facebook group or you’re interested in building your Facebook Business page, Facebook Live could be a good option. Facebook Live videos feel more casual and often allow viewers to connect with the face of a brand rather than a slideshow.
Facebook Live was built for interaction so it’s a great fit if you’re looking to answer audience questions or want real-time feedback on your topic.
The downside, however, is that viewers need to be Facebook users in order to participate. While it may seem that everyone is on Facebook, you may alienate some of your audience if becoming a Facebook user is a requirement.
Facebook Live and YouTube Live both allow you to download your videos to repurpose and share on other platforms, making them great options for recording evergreen webinars, too.
The webinar gear you need in your toolbelt
After you’ve chosen the right webinar platform and created your content, you’ll probably be thinking about what tools you need to bring your ideas to life. There’s no shortage of tools and software to choose from, but here are our best recommendations.
While your computer has built-in speakers, it’s not going to produce the best sound quality. Investing in an external microphone is important if you want to create consistent video or audio content. In our video gear guide, we recommended the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB microphone for beginners on a budget who also want great sound quality.
Whether you use small earbuds or noise-cancelling headphones, wearing headphones will dramatically improve the sound quality of your webinar. Wearing headphones is especially important if you collaborate with a partner for a joint venture webinar so there’s no echo.
Most laptops and desktops come with built-in webcams, but if you begin to host regular webinars, you may want to invest in a higher quality webcam. Caleb Wojcik, our resident video expert, recommends the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920.
If you’re interested in hosting live webinars, including a live chat within your webinar is a major benefit for your audience. Think of it like a dedicated chat room where all of the participants can sign in and interact with one another.
There are a few third party live chat platforms on the market, but Chatango and Tlk.io are two we hear about the most. I’ve used Chatango for all of my webinars and it runs so smoothly. It takes me about two minutes to set up, grab the custom code, and embed it into my webinar hosting website page. Then I’m ready to go!
Pro tip: I would not recommend trying to participate in the live chat while you’re trying to present. I did that once and it totally threw off my rhythm. If you do want your business to have a presence in the live chat, I suggest hiring a virtual assistant or community manager to help you moderate the chat.
Website platform and email marketing
When you promote your webinar, it’s important to collect the email addresses of people who are interested in attending your webinar. One of the easiest ways to do this is by investing in in a website platform and email marketing tool.
You can use your website platform (like Squarespace or WordPress) and ConvertKit forms to introduce your webinar and collect leads. Your webinar opt-in forms can be placed on your blog, homepage, or a separate landing page. Advanced webinar hosts may also want to look into using special landing page tools like Leadpages.
Next steps in setting up your next webinar
Phew! That was a lot of information to chew on. I recommend taking at least ONE of the action steps below to put these tips in practice so you don’t forget what you’ve learned.
- Research two or three webinar platforms and compare them.
- Sign up for a free trial of one webinar platform and take notes on your experience.
- Sign up for a YouTube account (if you don’t already have one) and create a practice live event so you know how to use the platform.