After a recent webinar for a European audience, Marzena reached out with a lengthy email describing how she wants to teach languages using webinars and asking for advice in choosing a tool.
The response itself is lengthy because I respond to her various concerns, but since over and over I see people struggle with using the wrong tools because they failed to evaluate their business, I thought I'd share.
Marzena, I think you are on the right path because you are evaluating your overall business process. The most important asset we have is our time, and the reality is that we have both have to evaluate the tool that allows us to connect with our delegates and the extras that impact how we get that done.
Example: some conferencing platforms have registration built in saves us time doing website work, sending reminder emails, etc., and while this isn't a function of the live interaction with our delegates/coachees, it very much changes how much effort we put in to connect and communicate with them.
I'd begin by evaluating different options just like you have.
If money were of no concern, which solution is best suits you? Some are easier to use, some integrate more of the overall workflow, some include audio conferencing and/or voice-over-IP, etc. There are perhaps hundreds of potential options, and I don't think there is a "best." Personal preference is a perfectly valid thing to consider, too… it's okay just to "like" the look and feel or some other subjective response to how the solution works for you.
The next step is to prioritise the "must haves" from the "nice to haves" in terms of features.
Some things you cannot live without (you expressed a preference for using video to see your audience, for instance). When you do this evaluation, also consider 1) their impact to your time both in and out of session and 2) whether you have extra time.
Then evaluate the value of your time.
Let me use an analogy. I use a lot of stock imagery and other visuals in my presentations, and I spend a good bit of money every month licensing those images. Because I spend many, many hours each week looking for (or creating) visuals, I find that a good search engine in www.istockphoto.com saves me more time than they charge me for the images. I might otherwise be able to find images for free or less expensively, but I've tried, and I spent a lot of time doing it. You will find the same to be true with how long it takes you to set up and manage sessions, course catalogues, recordings, handouts, etc., when you begin using web conferencing with regularity. And this step of evaluation may lead you to discover that, while one solution may be more expensive than another, it's not more expensive when viewed through the lens of "total cost or impact" to me, my practise, my organisation.
Finally, evaluate tradeoffs.
Since we don't have infinite time or money, we may settle for something that isn't perfect, but is good enough when all things are considered…
…and this evaluation is highly specific to you, how you work, and your situation…and your audience/potential audience. Besides technical consideration (e.g., are they on Macs or PCs, what is their likely bandwidth, etc.), there is ease-of-use (some solutions are definitely more user friendly than others).
Adobe Connect, DimDim, GoToTraining, Webex, and many others are all good. And the truth is that many times getting more features and richer experiences cost more. But there is no "best" solution.
If I were in your shoes and money is a concern (I own a business, I completely understand!), I'd start with "inexpensive" for two reasons. One, you will better learn what you like and don't like, need and don't need, and two, you will buy yourself some time to grow into the more expensive solution. There was a time when I did a lot more work per event because I was watching every last euro that went out the door, but now, as described above, my time is more precious than my money, so I'm willing to pay for some conveniences. For you, this might mean conducting more webinars with smaller audiences (capacity for larger audiences costs more), where as later you might find it worth the extra price you pay to save the time (running one webinar with 100 participants instead of five webinars with 20 participants).
All my best!