It is Sunday evening and you are preparing again to go on a business trip. Monday morning the alarm goes off at 4:00 am, you drag your body and your briefcase to your car, drive to the airport, wait in a long line, get on a plane, get off a plane, and find your way to your client’s office. When you finally get home Monday night, you have spent more time traveling than meeting and you have dozens of emails and several important phone calls to return.
According to leading web conferencing service providers, the typical sales cycle can be cut two to three weeks with web conferencing. Providing a virtual conference room environment, web conferencing eliminates the need to travel, linking geographically disperse workgroups and telecommuters. The return on investment for web conferencing can be measured not only in dollars and cents, but also in personnel efficiency, knowledge distribution and increased sales opportunities.
The ability to virtually link workgroups and project teams enables real-time collaboration, a task that once required lengthy email threads or face-to-face meetings.
Web conferencing enables businesses to:
Reduce operating costs
Minimize unnecessary travel
Close sales and negotiate contracts faster
Enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of communication
Deliver clear, concise and consistent training
Encourage real-time collaboration between distant and local co-workers
Engage in greater levels of communication with clients and business partners
Since its inception, web conferencing usage has expanded to a number of business applications such as daily sales and marketing efforts, interaction with co-workers and customers, corporate presentations and training initiatives. Financial corporations use web conferencing for internal meetings, customer briefings, employee training, client consultations and investment workshops. Healthcare and pharmaceutical companies use Web conferencing for product promotion and marketing, sales presentations and demonstrations, and product training and development. Educational institutions use web conferencing for project teams and student workshops. And, government agencies rely on web conferencing for training and inter-agency communication.
Most organizations use outsourced web conferencing. Why? Because of the quickly changing technology, businesses opt not to invest in what could soon be obsolete. In addition, on a day-to-day basis, it is more cost effective to have web conferencing outsourced. Additional reasons include:
Leading edge functionality provides greater levels of security, moderator control, and participant options.
Your people can now focus on your core business, not support systems.
The external company makes the investment in new features so that your fixed costs are reduced and your overall expenditures are lowered.
With no capital expense, new technology can be implemented with minimal impact to the bottom line.
When beginning the search for a web conferencing solution, start with setting your objectives and determining the features you require. Here are a few basic questions that should be answered:
How many participants do you anticipate attending your online meetings or events?
Will the number of participants remain consistent from meeting to meeting or will the number change?
How many meetings will be conducted each week, month, quarter? Will usage fluctuate depending on the time of the year?
What type of content will be presented (Power Point slides, software applications, web-based applications, documents, or spreadsheets)?
What degree of interactivity do you require (Q&A, polling/voting, application sharing, text chatting, live video, file sharing, etc.)?
Do you want your own software or a hosted solution?
How much technical support or event management support do you require?
What is your monthly budget?
Are there any special security requirements?
Once you have determined your requirements, screen a number of vendors. Visit their web site, review live demos, and seek client testimonials. Here are few suggestions for choosing a vendor:
Select a pricing model. Determine whether you want to pay-per-use (you pay only for the time you and your attendees spend in web conferences) or pay-per-seat (you pay a flat monthly fee for a certain number of “seats”). Pay-per-use pricing is the better conservative choice for most companies learning to how to use web conferencing for their business. You avoid set up charges and you don’t have to monitor the number of concurrent users in order to avoid overage charges. You can always start with a pay-per-use plan and switch to a pay-per-seat plan once there is a clear, long-term financial advantage.
Get the features you need. Some web conferencing solutions only support online presentations while others offer full-featured packages that include polling, chatting, application-sharing, white boarding and group web surfing. Make sure that the product meets your needs.
Check into customer support levels. Is training and ongoing support available? What hours? Is there an extra fee? Is there a telephone number available so that you can contact a support person or is only email support offered? What are their support hours? Call each vendor’s customer service number and see if you get a live person vs. a menu or voice mail. You don’t want to be in a situation where an attendee has technical problems joining a critical meeting and not be able to contact a live person immediately.
Consider security requirements. Depending on the audience and the information being sharing, security may be a concern. Most solutions are secure enough and do not store meeting data any place except on the presenter’s PC. Participants only see a graphical representation of the data through a standard web browser. Some services provide pass code authorization, basic encryption, and the ability to lock and unlock the meeting.
So, the next time Sunday night comes around and you are faced with another week of travel, email trails, difficulty in scheduling training and long lead times in closing sales and negotiating contracts, do yourself a favor and look into web conferencing for your business.