Comparison: Webinar and Conference Platforms

A client of ours gave me a call last night and asked for suggestions on what platform to use for her upcoming webinar. The first platform off my mind was Zoom – it is ubiquitous now and specifically made for such purposes except for one problem, the free account on Zoom have a time limit of 40 minutes which is a problem for her, the webinar she’s planning is over 3 hours in duration.

She needed a platform that is reliable, secure and easy to use. Sounds like what you’re looking for too? Read ahead because I’ve done the research work for you and compiled them into this post, you can thank me later.

First, let’s do a quick comparison of the platforms that I’ve shortlisted.

Based on the chart above, if you require a platform that supports more than 50 people, you will have to go with either Google Meet or Zoom, but of course, hosting a video conference/webinar is more than just duration and participant limit. That’s where the different features come into play.

Share Screen

Share Screen is a feature where participants or host can share what’s on their screen with other participants in the same session. For most use cases, it is used for slides but the possibilities are endless such as showing websites on your browser or teaching an application.

All platforms listed above support Screen Sharing.

Participation & Interactivity

Most webinars and conferences are two-way in terms of communication flow so having additional features to promote participation and interactivity can be essential for you. I will breakdown the features offered by the various platforms here for your reference.

Text Chat: All platforms except Facebook Messenger Rooms support chat via text.

Reactions: This is a way to get feedback from your participants without requiring them to talk using their voice such as a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘Raise hand’ for a less disruptive session.

Zoom supports Q&A, Polling, Attendee raise hand and Attendees to Panelists feature. Do note that these features are only available if you purchase the Webinar License which is an extra US$40/host/month for 100 participants with options for more.

Skype supports reactions using Emojis.

Recording of Session:

This feature records the session as a video that you can access after the conference ends. This can be useful if you want to share the session with someone else later.

Zoom: Local recording (recording it to your computer locally) is free for all users. Cloud recording (Video file is saved to Zoom’s Cloud Storage) is possible with paid versions and price varies with different storage capacities.

Google Meet: Supports recording to Google Drive.

Skype: Skype will record the call and store it for up to 30 days for free.

Facebook Messenger Room: Nope.

Ease of Joining:

Your participants should not have to jump through hoops to attend your event. Downloading apps, registering for accounts are so troublesome… right? 

Zoom: A zoom account is not required if you are strictly joining the meeting as a participant. Users can also join the meeting on the web (with limited features), mobile app or desktop client. Zoom recommends that you download their desktop client or mobile app for a more complete experience.

Google Meet: A google account is required and users can join the meeting on the web or mobile app.

Skype: Participants do not need to sign up for an account. Users can join the meeting on the web, desktop client or mobile app as a visitor – no account is needed.

Facebook Messenger Room: Participants do not need to sign up for an account. Users can join the meeting from their browser (even on mobile devices) or mobile app.


Conclusion

Zoom has the most comprehensive set of features and if you need them, you are pretty much stuck with it and it is pricey for that reason. However, if you do not need all the bells and whistles that Zoom offers, both Skype and Google Meet do present themselves as capable alternatives especially since they are free (for now).

As for Facebook Messenger Room, they do have an edge over the other platforms which allows users to join without downloading any apps even on their mobile devices but it is lacking in many features that others are offering for uses beyond mere video chatting.

Here are some useful links should you want to learn more about the products mentioned above:

Zoom: https://zoom.us/pricing

Zoom Webinar License: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/200917029-Getting-Started-With-Webinar

Google Meet: https://meet.google.com/

Skype: https://www.skype.com/en/free-conference-call/

Facebook Messenger Room: https://www.messenger.com/rooms