Web Conferencing 101 – The Basics

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Web conferercing continues to be hot, but it is not as easy as just selecting vendor x or y, rather to find the best solution, it is important to identify certain items and features before moving forward

Because of this, this topic will be covered over two weeks. This week: Sessions, Seats vs Licenses, Pricing and initial features will be covered.

Next week will cover advanced features that you will want, inc. event management, e-commerce (if available), audio conferencing and how it works with web conferencing vendors, who is in the tablet space, and my personal picks.


Rule of thumb. You want to have multiple sessions, i.e. unlimited sessions per month. Regardless of the number of rooms (if they use that terminology) or not.

How it Works

You purchase the solution, and instead of paying per session or for x number of sessions, you can have unlimited sessions – to use for meetings, webinars, demonstrations, whatever.

For the vendors who offer this option, they go about it in a couple of ways

  • Unlimited sessions per month, but they can not be concurrent. That is to say, if you want session A at 9 a.m. and another seminar at 9 a.m. in another room, you cannot. You can only schedule one session per hour
  • Concurrent. You can run multiple sessions at the same time, they are just in different rooms

So, what do I want?

Unlimited sessions per month. Whether they state you can only have one per hour or ideally, you want the concurrent option – if they offer it.

If they do not offer unlimited sessions per month, then they shouldn’t be in this business. There is no reason in today’s age, especially with SaaS, that this is not possible. More importantly, they shouldn’t charge you more than say X number per month. If they are, time to look to someone else, because their is a higher amount of vendors who do the unlimited per month, versus those who do not.

Seats vs. Licenses


It used to be that every WC vendor went this route, but then some vendors saw a greater benefit with licenses, either for simplicity sakes or additional revenue stream. Thus, a split was born.

How it Works

You purchase your seats,and can use all those seats in one session.

Let’s suppose you want multiple sessions, then you can have up to x number of people per session, as long as the total does not exceed the number of seats you overall purchased.

Example: At your 9 a.m. webinar, room #1 has 15 seats, room #2 has 25 seats.  You purchased 40 seats.  At 10 a.m. you have only one webinar, so you offer all 40 seats.


You purchase as many licenses as you need for your company.  Each administrator or person who runs the “show” gets the license.  Now, this can sound confusing, but it really isn’t.

How it Works

You do NOT buy licenses for every person in the webinar. Rather this is for your company.

As the Director of Training, you want to hold webinars or conferences. Thus, you purchase a license.

Most licenses (again depends on vendor) includes unlimited webinars for the month and either unlimited people or a limit of people per month (example 25 per session).

  • Typically with licenses – a lot of vendors do not enable you to have the multiple rooms at the same time – i.e. concurrent

Bob, VP of Sales, wants to hold (dare I say it?) meetings with his team scattered all over the country, plus have webinars handled by his team (and not training – I know – how dare he!).

Bob now must purchase a license, since he will be handling his own stuff, and will not be using your license.  After all, you have webinars on those days that Bob needs to have his meetings and his webinars. You can’t do both. Hence, another license.

Pricing Options

You would assume that pricing for web conferencing products is cut and dry. Sadly, that is not the case. In fact, it is very easy to get confused and zinged at the same time.

Base Pricing Models

Hold off for the moment on features, lets focus on the contract vs. month to month

  • Month to Month Players–  You pay per month. You can bolt at any time – 30 days notice.  No “contract” in theory. They are easier to pull out of – if you are unhappy with their service.

The downside is that many of them, really prefer you sign a year contract, rather than go month to month.

Some vendors go month to month, but want you to pay up front for the year, so in essence you are paying one year. Others will invoice you per month, or charge your credit card at the end of each month. For month to month, when it comes to web conferencing, they prefer the credit card or EFT option.

  • Contract – You pay for a one year or multi-year contract. Many vendors will give you a discount for doing this, or toss in an extra month. If you choose this route, sign for only one year, rather than multi-year.

Never go with the fear factor, if you don’t buy now for x number of years, the cost can go up or the infamous, every year we have increased prices, so lock in now. Unless you have them put in an opt out clause (which I always recommend), pulling out of a multi-year deal can become a headache you don’t want.

Compared to other e-learning industries, WC is not as stable. Sure, there are those who have been in the space for over a decade, but many have not. Acquisition occurs as well as the WC changing markets and options. Plus with the technology advancements, it is more beneficial for you to re-explore.

Chat room? Web Conferencing or Audio Conferencing?

 I am still amazed at people who purchase a web conferencing solution, but do not want video (i.e. web cam) capability. Why buy one? Basically, without it, you are buying a chat room, and there are plenty out there for free. Worse, all you are doing is going back 12 or more years for outdated technology.

Even, if you personally, do not use a web cam and there are those who prefer just sticking an image where their face is, in reality, people like to see the presenter or instructor or whatever.  Otherwise, save your money and just do audio conferencing.

Features from Video to Record – And Questions to Ask

Video (Essential, if you want a true web conferencing solution)

Some terms they use for this includes: video, web cam. 

I eliminate the terminology by just saying: “I want to have blah blah visible on the screen when people are attending my webinar. Can you do this. Yes or No?” – Whalla, easy!   Now, you also want to see how many other people can be seen on the screen at the same time too.

1, 2,4,6, 8

  • How many instructor web cam/video visual windows does your vendor allow on the screen at the same time?

 Can you only have your instructor visible or also some learners/instructors who have web cams as well? BTW, what are your  instructor “window” options?

Is it stationary?

Does the instructor window always stays in one place? Can an end user move it around the screen using their mouse?  Can the end user expand the size of the window, so your instructor’s face or image is bigger?

What does it look like when this happens? I mean if it looks grainy, maybe the expansion option for that vendor is not your best choice.

Number of frames, Quality

 I love the new option some vendors are pitching “HD”. Great. Problem with that, is speed on the other end – i.e. what the end user sees – which effects quality;  how much better does the image appear when it comes to “HD”; and really can your end user tell the difference? 

Personally, at this point in the tech world, ignore the “HD” option, unless it is free.  I had it with one vendor and rarely used it.

My end users couldn’t tell the difference and honestly, the image quality often was poor when you expanded out the window, plus the infamous increase of frames per second was irrelevant to someone who is watching on a slow cable line or even any slow line or modem.   Bleech!

What they all offer – so trust me, it isn’t Exclusive

  • Highlighter
  • Underliner or underlines
  • Draw pictures, graphics, tables, write words etc. 
  • Whiteboard
  • Desktop Sharing – You take control of your end users screen or they of yours. In essence, you could share or work on a document together. However, it is not you and the person at the same time doing it, rather they get access to work on it, then flip back access for you to work on it and so on


  • Web Touring – You can surf the net and your end users follow you and see what you see. I have seen only a couple of vendors who require you ahead of time to enter in your web sites to visit, prior to going live on webinar, but that is an extreme rarity

PowerPoint – Real Time or Not?

Vendors who offer the ability to upload your PowerPoint, word docs, slides, etc. sadly do not follow one universal approach

  • Upload in real time, on the fly. So you can have your PPT or whatever docs and upload them into the presentation while you are taking. You can upload ahead of time, prior to the session, but that is an option, not a requirement
  • Upload your PPT or docs or whatever ahead of time. You do not have the ability to upload on the fly, in real time


You record everything that is seen on the screen – including the presenter’s voice – which is achieved via VOIP (i.e. the person is talking through the computer via a headset, not through a phone)

With Record, you will want the following clarification

  • Does the recording stay on the vendor’s server and attendees access it?
  • Can you receive the recording, i.e. it is sent to you, and you can send it to others or do whatever? Ideally, this is a better option for you. Because you can resell the recording to others who did not attend
  • If it is on their server, what data do you get? i.e. How times it was accessed? How many times it was downloaded (if that is an option)?
  • Does the record, record everything on the screen, inc. web touring – if you so choose?  What about the presenter’s voice – i.e. via VOIP?
  • Is record included or is their an extra cost? What about if I want the file for myself – some vendors will charge for this, but have it on their server for free
  • What is the file output? MP4? .Avi? .WMV?
  • How does the presenter record? It is a simple click button or do they have to do something else?

Next Week: Part 2 – Web Conferencing 201

E-Learning 24/7


One comment

  1. Craig, this is a nice service to those of us who are interested in selecting a webinar service and of use too for people who have already made their selection to know their options. I’ve saved it into a Word doc as it’s something I’ll want to reference soon. I look forward to the second installment!

    Thanks for sharing with us.

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