Hey, Zoom… Thanks for wasting my morning. I have a few meetings set up for a client. They have a list of people they want to invite. They don’t want these people to have to self-register and they don’t want... Related Stories ON24 Registers To Go ...

 

Zoom Needs To Improve Group Registration and more...



Zoom Needs To Improve Group Registration

Hey, Zoom… Thanks for wasting my morning. I have a few meetings set up for a client. They have a list of people they want to invite. They don’t want these people to have to self-register and they don’t want to send out a generic meeting attendance link that could get forwarded and shared. Each person should have their own login link that will allow us to track participation.

So far, so good. Zoom is set up for that. I simply check the box in the meeting setup to require registration. And now I can load in the names and emails of the participants who should get their login information…

Aha! The shoe drops. If this were a Zoom webinar, there would be no problem – I can import a CSV file with all the names and emails of my participants. But for a meeting, I can’t do that. I have to bring up the interactive registration page and type or paste in the first name, last name, email address, and email address again for confirmation. Then click the register button. Then go through I’m Not A Robot validation, which can currently take up to twenty selection clicks, multiple attempts, and delays while waiting for replacement images to get displayed. Over and over and over, for each and every person in each and every meeting session. It’s maddening.

It’s also so easy to avoid. Zoom could allow bulk upload of a CSV file for meetings… We know the code and the design is already in place. Or they could allow a bulk input screen for account administrators to use while logged into their account, with slots for multiple records of first/last/email and no robot verification required. Or they could build a group registration page that offers the ability for a group coordinator to enter multiple participants with a single human validation check.

I’m perfectly willing to accept that most meeting participants self-register, one at a time. But that’s no reason to make it the ONLY way to get people registered.


 

Check Your March Webinar Times Now

Twice a year I make a quick blog post or tweet to watch out for nonstandard time conversions during the transition in and out of Daylight Saving Time. I figure it might be nice to get ahead of the curve this year as you may be starting to schedule your March webinars.

The key takeaway is that you should not make any assumptions about the equivalent starting time for people in other locations. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of common knowledge such as “London is five hours ahead of New York.” That is not always the case!

There is no global standards board for Daylight Saving Time (DST). Different countries can choose to observe it or not, and they can choose when it starts and ends. In many places, different localities within a country can choose their own DST conventions.

Here in the USA, Arizona, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico are examples of states and territories that do not change clocks for DST. In Canada, quite a few areas choose not to observe DST – and they don’t even correspond to the rest of the province they are located in!

In the USA and Canada, areas that observe DST will change their clocks on March 14 this year. In the UK and most of continental Europe, the time change won’t occur until March 28. In Palestine and Paraguay, clocks will change on March 27, while Australia and New Zealand will change their clocks on April 4 (except for those areas in Australia that choose not to observe DST).

So while you may think you know the time offset between two locations, you could be mistaken on any given date in late March and early April. This also applies to your audiences… Don’t trust them to figure out the starting time where they are based on your posted starting time where you are.

How do you deal with the situation? I usually prefer to list the local start time for a few representative major cities and then provide a clickable web link that lets people look up the equivalent time in other locations:

----------------
WEBINAR TITLE
March 27, 2021 – 60 minutes – Free Admission
New York:9am / London:2pm / Dubai:5pm
Click here to find your local time
----------------

I prefer to use city names to avoid ambiguity. For instance, CST can mean US Central Standard Time or China Standard Time or Cuba Standard Time. IST is used for Indian Standard Time, Irish Standard Time, and Israel Standard Time. And in areas where time zones are nonstandard within a country or state, giving the city name makes it clear where to start the conversion.

The “click here” link I used in my example comes from a tremendously useful free online utility. Timeanddate.com provides an “Event Time Announcer” – you specify a date, time, and anchor location, and it generates a table showing equivalent times in other locations. You can include the generated page link to direct people to the custom timetable for your event. The website is very good about updating their algorithms to account for new legislation altering regional time calculations – It happens more frequently than you would guess.

The first time you use the tool, you may not notice options that let you customize the table even more to your liking. I put red highlights around some of the options that let you choose how the reference cities get listed. Pick the display you like and then just copy the resulting URL out of your browser address window.

Sample output from Event Time Announcer on timeanddate.com

This is a useful tool at any time of the year, for any online event. But it’s especially critical if you are scheduling something during the “shoulder season” of late March and early April when all bets are off as to what time it is from one city to the next.

* Fun fact for the fastidious… Time conversions are not always in 60-minute multiples. If your event starts on the hour in the USA, India and parts of Australia see it start on the half hour. And people in Nepal as well as a few small islands see it starting on the quarter hour!


 

ON24 Registers To Go Public

On Friday, ON24 quietly put out a press release announcing its SEC registration to make an Initial Public Offering. At this point, no date or offer price is set, although the total amount to be raised is specified in the registration document as one hundred million dollars.

ON24 may not be as well known to the rank and file end user, as the company doesn’t compete in the peer-to-peer “low cost, high volume” online meeting space against products like Zoom, GoToMeeting, and Microsoft Teams. ON24 is all about large audience structured web events (they go back and forth from year to year on whether they offer a webcasting or webinar platform).

I have been watching their marketing and positioning over the last year with some amusement. It feels like they vacillate between wanting to play up the webinar side of things and wanting to downplay it in favor of a larger and more nebulous positioning as an enabler of “digital experiences that convert customer engagement into revenue.” That’s a higher value pitch, but can be harder for prospects to get their heads around.

Way, way back in April of 2010 I wrote a blog post expressing excitement about the new user interface ON24 was introducing at that time. I said it represented a “quantum leap in user configurability and control.” I remain enthusiastic about the ON24 attendee experience in web events and I’m surprised that more vendors haven’t tried to emulate the flexibility of a completely window-oriented GUI where each attendee can open, close, move, and resize content panels just as they do in day to day operations on their computer.

ON24 has held out against the tide of transparent pricing over the years. If you are interested in licensing their product or products, you need to go old school… You contact a sales representative who talks to you about your needs and provides a customized pricing quote. They really aren’t interested in dealing with one-off events or Mom-and-Pop businesses. Their high-touch sales and support model is designed for large enterprises that can commit to producing numerous events on an annual basis.

If I recall the company’s history correctly, early emphasis was on investor relations calls and corporate communications requirements. They made a push into the publishing vertical for a while as well. Naturally, they can handle any type of application that needs a good webcast/webinar platform (I used it on a series of professional training lectures for accountants). But the current positioning is very strongly marketing related, which lets them push their bundle of associated products and services designed to support customer acquisition, content management, and revenue generation.

This is not the first time ON24 has looked at the public option. I found an article from 2012 indicating that the company seemed to be positioning itself for an IPO that never materialized. Obviously, the current environment feels right for potentially riding the wave of investor euphoria for virtual communications. Investors who missed the opportunity to ride Zoom stock from an offering price around $60 to a high of $560 might well try to cash in on another IPO in the space (even though the two companies, products, and use cases are dissimilar). But that enthusiasm has to be tempered by the fear that virtual growth might slow down with a successful COVID vaccine and a return to more travel and in-person experiences. Zoom itself has been on a steady decline since that high price was reached last October.

Still, with BrightTALK getting purchased by TechTarget just before Christmas, there aren’t many of the old independent webinar vendors left to invest in. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a good opening gain for ON24. I should think they will try to get the IPO out to the market as soon as they can. Momentum is everything right now. I wish them well!

(Disclaimer/Disclosure: I have no financial interest or investment in ON24 or its competitors. This article represents my personal opinions and is not based on any interviews or communications with executives, employees, or representatives of ON24.)


 

eWebinar Automates Recorded Presentations

eWebinar is a relatively new entrant in the remote presentation space. Its mission is to allow companies to find a sweet spot between just throwing a recorded video up on the web for passive viewing and running a fully live, interactive webinar with hosts, administrators, and attendees all in the same conference at the same time.

The idea is that you create a video of your presentation content (either making it from scratch or recording a live webinar). You upload it to your eWebinar account and add interactive elements for viewers. You set a schedule for when the presentation will be available for viewing as an interactive webinar. People register and attend their desired session, watching the recorded content with much of the same interactivity they would have in a live webinar (chat, polling, ratings, hyperlinks to web pages).

None of this is conceptually new. I have played with products that were designed around the same basic idea and have never seen one that I thought was worthy of serious consideration. When I spoke to Melissa Kwan, the CEO and cofounder of eWebinar, she told me the same thing… After trying to properly automate her webinars at a former company, she got so frustrated with the available offerings that she decided to build a solution that actually accomplished what she needed.

I was impressed by some of the design decisions that Melissa has incorporated into eWebinar. I’ll try to touch on some of the most interesting items here.

 

1) Scheduling

Basic scheduling for when webinars will be presented is straightforward and comprehensive:

eWebinar basic scheduling options

I like that extra feature of being able to list the webinar times in a fixed time zone or the attendee’s time zone. And including the ability to add blackout dates is useful as well. But things really get interesting when you dig into a secondary menu of advanced options:

eWebinar advanced scheduling options

The system gets a lot more intelligent on this page. By reducing the number of upcoming time slots that get displayed, it adds urgency to the registration process and lowers the perception that this is just one in a constant stream of automated session broadcasts.

Adding the “Just in time option” automatically adds a start time whenever someone visits the registration page that by the most amazing coincidence happens to be coming up soon… on the next quarter hour or half hour (or even 5-minute mark) following the time when the attendee hits the form. This can be combined with “Hours of operation” so that the system isn’t making it appear as though you hold events in the middle of the night. Someone coming to the registration form after hours is told that the next available session starts in the morning.

“Watch replay” adds a choice for immediate on-demand viewing to reinforce the idea that the other sessions are truly live events.

 

2) Interactions

This is the aspect that takes the most planning if you are going to change your audience members from passive listeners into active participants. Fortunately the interface makes it easy to add interaction points in your presentation.

Once your video is uploaded, you can navigate through it in a simple timeline editor, scrolling forward and backward to find spots where an interaction with the attendee is warranted. Click “Add interaction” and you get a menu of interactors that you can place into the console during playback:

timeline interactions

Some allow the viewer to type in a response, some let you display a message, some link to external pages. The best way to see these in action is just to watch Melissa’s 15-minute eWebinar walkthrough and demo. It is a prepared video with interaction elements running in the eWebinar system, so you get a good feel for how things look to attendees.

 

3) Chat

A key difference between live webinars and on-demand recordings is the ability for webinar attendees to ask questions of the presenter within the context of the presentation. eWebinar addresses this with a chat system that allows for a combination of real-time and offline interactions.

When scheduling an automated webinar, the administrator can designate one or more individuals to act as moderators. These people are tasked with responding to questions from attendees.

eWebinar moderator notifications

As seen in the picture, you can set options to remind moderators before a scheduled session starts so they are on the alert for potential questions. They don’t have to log in and wait around in the session however… The system can send them a notification when someone asks a question so they can log in and reply. If no moderators are available to answer questions during the session, the accumulated question log is emailed to them for later response.

Once a moderator logs in, there is a tremendously useful interface that lets them click on a question to jump to the point in the playback when the attendee asked it. So if someone types in “What does that abbreviation mean?” or “Is this currently available?” the moderator can figure out what they were referring to.

If the moderator types a response to an attendee who has left the active session, the response automatically gets sent to their email.

 

There are plenty of other features, such as integration with email campaign systems (when a person registers for a webinar, they can be added to your mailing list). eWebinar also has direct access to Zoom recordings for easy import of a recorded live meeting.

I thought of a few nice-to-haves that would make the system a little more powerful or flexible. Currently it has space to identify either one or two presenters associated with a webinar. It might be nice to allow more presenter names to be displayed in the landing page/description to accommodate panel discussions. And the registration form could really use some pre-populated drop-down selectors for country names and US/Canada states and provinces. This would make sorting and analysis easier for administrators.

But those are enhancement opportunities rather than deal breakers. As it stands, eWebinar seems to solve a real business need with a nice approach to making recorded content feel more engaging and interactive. Certainly worth looking at if you are searching for a way to reach audiences on their schedule rather than your own.

 

 

How Much Does GoToWebinar Cost?

Doesn’t that title sound like the world’s easiest question? After all, the GoTo collaboration products (GoToMeeting at first, followed later by GoToWebinar) upended the web conferencing industry by boldly placing standardized “rack rate pricing” right up front on their website. Before that, enterprise customers mostly had to go through pricing negotiations with sales reps from WebEx or Placeware in a process that felt uncomfortably like buying a car. “Do you want undercoat protection with that webinar plan? Let me talk to my sales manager and see what I can do for you.”

The GoTo products were priced low for mass-market appeal, with transparent prices corresponding to different participant capacity tiers. It became a common pricing model that many other vendors have emulated ever since.

Given that history, I was bemused yesterday when I tried to provision a new GoToWebinar account for a client of mine. I started by visiting the public page on the LogMeIn website for GoToWebinar Plans and Prices.

GoToWebinar public web page for plans and prices

Up at the top right you can see a slider switch that lets you view prices on a month-to-month, no contract basis or as a monthly equivalent based on an annual prepayment for a contracted 12-month license. LogMeIn gives you a discount for prepayment. That’s another incentive that has become standard in the industry. For this discussion, I’ll leave all prices shown at their default “Annual” setting.

We see that there are four plans listed, primarily distinguished by the participant capacity each allows. In my case, I told my client that the “Standard” plan at a 250-person capacity was optimal for their needs.

Now I could have simply clicked the “Buy” button on that plan and been done with it. But I can’t leave well enough alone. Instead, I came back later to the main GoToWebinar home page and tried to establish a new account from there.

If you go through the GoToWebinar home page, you see a blue button offering “Start for Free.” This lets you create a trial account that is good for 7 days. Fair enough. I created the trial account for my client.

Now I wanted to upgrade to the paid plan I had identified earlier. I clicked on the billing portion of my account page and chose “Subscribe Now” to purchase a plan. Here’s the option list I was presented with:

GoToWebinar trial purchase options

Huh? Three options instead of four, with different prices and different plan names! That’s certainly confusing.

Now my curiosity was piqued… I decided to check what happens if I try to change my plan type on an existing paid account. I logged in to my paid subscription plan, went to the billing section, and clicked to see plan options. I got the following list:

GoToWebinar account upgrade options

Whaddya know? Yet another plan name and price snuck into the list. Suddenly I see the option for the “Team” plan with 1000 participant capacity. And if I want to downgrade to the “Lite” plan listed on the main website (scroll back to the first picture), it doesn’t seem to be an option.

While we’re here, I might as well point out a fun sidetrack finding. I clicked on the button below the horizontal list to “COMPARE PLANS” and the screen changed to this helpful display:

GoToWebinar plan comparison is unavailable

Oops.

Now you know as much as I do. Depending on where you come into the online purchase process you may be able to license a Lite, Starter, Standard, Pro, Team, Plus, or Enterprise plan. Or you might not. Good luck with that.