Webinar Technology Is Ready For Prime-Time: GoToWebinar Corporate Review
If you are looking for an easy-to-use technology that allows you to schedule, promote and run live online web seminars, with attendees running in the tens or even hundreds, Citrix latest offering, GoToWebinar, has all you may be expecting and more to make this experience as smooth and successful as it can be.
GoToWebinar is the premier and first do-it-yourself service for anyone wanting to schedule, promote and deliver online web-based seminars, classes or events with the maximum ease and at the most cost-effective price out there.
The newly launched Citrix Corporate GoToWebinar integrates the best of the award-winning screen-sharing technology from GoToMeeting together with some very effective scheduling, promotion and marketing facilities that make GoToWebinar a little jewel, with no serious competitors in its class.
GoToWebinar integrates in fact full screen sharing abilities, recording, live annotation and mark-up, text chat, an attendees panel. But the great stuff doesn't stop there. The scheduling and invitation facilities are extremely well designed, rich in useful features and straightforward to use. GoToWebinar customers can also personalize and brand extensively the invitation and registration pages for seminar participants making the overall user experience truly top class.
Key features also include the capacity to manage registrations and send automated e-mail reminders to attendees before the "event", a very innovative GoToWebinar Dashboard through which organizers can monitor attendee attentiveness (the host can even see whether any attendee has temporarily switched her interest to another application during the webinar) as well as measure and record attendees' fedback and satisfaction.
With the release of GoToWebinar Corporate edition, Citrix shows that it is not only very serious about the tools for real-time communication and collaboration that it has created online, but that it has also listened, learned and done a great deal of effort to design and deliver what I would consider best of class technologies in the sectors that it has attacked.
First of all GoToWebinar can accommodate large audiences of up to 1,000 attendees. This is a premier offering in the industry and to my knowledge it is unmatched by any other vendor operating in this space (at least those operating in the same price and feature-set group).
Most other webinar offering from competing companies, are either orders of magnitude more expensive, or are not as tailored to this specific application as GoToWebinar is, offering webinar-specific features as part of larger group of web conferencing tools that can accommodate many different uses.
GoToWebinar screen-sharing performance is, in my personal opinion, extremely good and difficult to match. I am referring to speed, quality, resolution, color depth and reliability. Citrix has been refining and improving its core technology to a level where it is really so good that you start to "not see" the technology anymore. When that happens, when the technology helping you do something disappears in front of your eyes, becoming one with the use you are making of it, you know that you are pretty close to perfection.
GoToWebinar fully integrates the GoToMeeting core screen-sharing engine in its latest and newly announced release 3.0 (soon available to the public). Check out G2M 3.0 impressive feature-set.
Here a more in-depth look at some of G2W 1.0 key features and facilities:
The event creation and scheduling process is well designed, easy-to-use, detailed and comprehensive at the same time. You can set title and description for the event, date, time and duration, whether there will be password protection to access the event, as well as establishing your reference time zone to make the event compatible with international participants.
The organizer can set up a conference calling number for all attendees, or specify any dedicated or custom teleconferencing service she would want to integrate in the live event.
By default, it is possible to choose between a free voice conferencing service (attendees pay a toll)
and a toll-free conference call option.
The branding and visual customization of the event invitation email and registration page is another strong point for GoToWebinar. In a matter of seconds you can brand invitation emails and registration page for the live webinar by uploading your preferred logo, as well as a second, larger image, to give greater visual character to the event.
Photo credit: Ophelia Cherry
Color, layout and other visual details are easily manageable by the organizer without the need to have any technical knowledge.
The webinar organizer can also include the pictures of other panelists / presenters that will be part of the event as to provide a truly professionally-looking setup and invitation email.
With GoToWebinar, the event invitation and registration page can really look professional without the need to spend lots of money or time to set this up. I must truly acknowledge that this factor alone is worth gold for any presenter and nonetheless the engineering of it may have not required a cold-nuclear fusion team, it is only fair to award Citrix the glory of having done this well and first. Here a sample created in a couple of minutes:
Once launched, GoToWebinar can be accessed from your Windows system tray in the same way that GoToMeeting is. In fact the system tray icon showing up is the same, with the only difference that once you are a G2W account holder, an extended set of menu choices, including all those relative to GoToWebinar become fully active.
One of the coolest, most innovative and useful features integrated into the new GoToWebinar is the Presenter Dashboard which allows any organizer to easily monitor in real-time attendees focus on the live presentation, as well as live feedback and reaction graphs which can provide an extremely useful "pulse" of the audience status at-a-glance.
The Presenter Dashboard "summarizes" a set of four status indicators that provide a good overall panorama of the attendees user experience.
These include a "feedback" indicator showing the response selected by participants upon a host request, a timer showing the time remaining, the total number of attendees and an "attentiveness monitor" showing whether any attendee has chosen to switch her attention to another application on her screen. Yes, you have read it right. In G2W the host can tell if you have decided to go and check your email during the webinar, though that information will not be used against you but just to monitor how effective the event is and how attentive attendees are. This attention-monitoring feature, originally premiered by Polycom WebOffice over three years ago, is a cool new addition, which thanks to Citrix, you will soon start seeing in more and more real-time collaboration tools.
Also worth of note is a "Practice" mode, in which the host / presenter can test and verify that everything is running smoothly before the actual live event while being ptoected from actually showing anything to possible early attendees.
Other key features include:
GoToWebinar provides everything you need to have to host, promote and manage your online event even if you don't have a web site where to announce it. G2W allows you to create your event registration page including content and the look and feel, and will then host it for you on its servers.
You can also customize the registration form to your very needs, selecting and personalizing the number and type of information fields that each registrants is required to fill-in.
G2W takes care also of sending to the event host weekly registration reports containing all names of people that have signed up for your event. You can also decide whether those who sign-up are automatically registered or whether you need to manually approve each one of them.
See anytime how many people have registered, who they are and their profiles. Approve or deny registrations in one click. Export all data in either CSV, Excel, or HTML.
G2W gives you everything you need to set-up ahead of time as many surveys and polls as you need. These can be setup and saved for use in your next event. Operation is simple and delivery to live audience is straightforward. Good job.
To make things easier Citrix has introduced a "clone" event feature in the event creation module allowing you to create a new webinar completely based on one you have already set-up in the past. By doing this, the newly created event is pre-populated with data, including polls and surveys that you need only to review, edit or confirm, making the job of creating similar events or "re-runs" very easy to do.
A new Q&A module greatly facilitates the management of question and answers during a live event allowing the host to coordinate the public display of key questions and relative answers in real time.
Another cool new feature makes it now possible for the host and the other organizers and panelists to be able to chat and communicate privately without needing to run an instant messenger in the background to do so.
Inherited from GoToMeeting cool and usable mark-up feature set, G2W sports itself the same set of live annotation tools which include a "highlighter", a "laser pointer" and a "pointing arrow placeholder" and a much less handy "pen" (freehand drawing with a mouse is bound to make you look not as professional as you may be). Once again kudos to Citrix and G2M/G2W development teams for having understood what it takes to do effective real-time annotation and having converted it into usable annotation facilities, that serve their purpose without making the host look like an elementary grade student.
Get a ranked list of qualified attendees that you can import into your CRM system for follow-up.
Webinars can be fully recorded - including the audio - and can be distributed later as standard Windows Media files. Available since version 2.0 of G2M recording and availability of a standard file format for online distribution is central to any successful online event, as on average, only about 50% of the original event registrants ever make it to the live event.
All information about an event including registrants, effective attendees, date and time are all recorded and easily exported to popular tabular data formats. There are in fact as many as four different types of reports that can be generated anytime after an event. The Registration Report which provides detail of registrants, including the registration date/time and registrant data, the Attendee Report which provides detail info of attendees, including registration, Q&A responses and in-session time, the Performance Report that integrates detail of the entire Webinar from start to finish, which includes high level statistics on the success of a Webinar and the Recorded Webinar Report which gives you a detail of registrants or viewers to the "recorded" version of the event and also includes date and time of the recording download.
This is another great feature that Citrix has selected to add to G2W and which allows you to maintain direct contact with your webinar attendees also after the event by having GoToWebinar send automatic follow-up emails (which you can customize to your specific needs) to all those who had registered .
It is to be noted that G2W allows truly easy and immediate access from attendees who need only to click the link in the confirmation email they receive to be able to join the online event. One click.
G2W makes it truly easy to review all of details of any online event you have organized. All the settings are viewable at a glance in one web page, and straightforward to edit or modify. Excellent, highly usable execution.
Areas for improvement:
Among the areas where GoToWebinar can still improve, there aren't many too mention.
Embracing of a Web 2.0 model allowing for full cross-platform use (presently hosts must be on Windows PCs to run G2W events).
Free conference calling is great, but making it a US-only benefit for North American customers is certain to bring bad press. While I can perfectly understand the cost issues that Citrix may have to face to make the free conference calling offer compelling for everyone, there is no doubt that today's online collaboration, presentation and conferencing tools are expected to overcome and not to increase any and all communication barriers be they geographic, technological or social.
I have noted also that within the Event scheduling facility GoToWebinar signals the user that "Toll-free conferencing options available from BT Conferencing", but so far, I have not been able to find any further details about this.
Annotation tools. While these is likely the best annotation toolset I would elect out of all those available out there, Citrix still falls short on usability with the freehand pen (even with the Shift-support for drawing straight lines) effectiveness and with the usability of accessing the annotation tools commands. Activating, switching off and re-activating the mark-up tools is still not as smooth an operation as it should be limiting somehow your ability to full leverage the full potential of it.
Keep me in. For security reasons now GoToWebinar/GoToMeeting logs you out after a few minutes of inactivity. Unfortunately this doesn't excite me very much, as from a usability standpoint it makes my life so much harder. This morning as I was writing this review I got kicked out of G2M/G2W three times already and consequently lost also the information that I had just input on the screen. That should never be the case, unless, I, the user, request it to be so. So, you want to show me how secure you are? Well give me a cool extra option configuration switch in which, I, the user, can setup whether this feature should be on and how how long should be the time interval before a user/administrator is automatically logged out.
The complementarity of GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar is great, but clicking on a Try-out link on a GoToWebinar page to land right after on a sign-up form for GoToMeeting is confusing at minimum, disorientating at best.
Too many times the presence of both the GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar logos on the same page create a feeling of having accessed the wrong page as, my eye tends to see first the GoToMeeting one, but since it was looking for GoToWebinar-related info, it reacts by thinking I am on a wrong page.
When I click on Live Demo, I want to see a live demo of G2W not of G2M Corporate.
Documentation and help are yet not there. If you want to learn more about GoToWebinar, even if you hold a corporate account, you will need to be a little patient. Help and documentation is on its way and will be probably become available very soon, in synch with the release of the GoToWebinar "Personal" version. For now, what you can certainly find is all the help and documentation relative to the GoToMeeting part of GoToWebinar, as GoToMeeting makes up for the core feature and live delivery facilities integrated in G2W. What seem to be missing are the support pages for the new, unique features offered in the G2W product (presenter dashboard, customization of look and feel of invitation email and registration pages, event reporting, and more).
Update ( Aug. 4th) - here some fresh new pointer to GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar help and support documentation:
Requiring potential customers to have to share their credit cards information to "see" and feel how this tool works is not always an OK policy. Many potential customers are definitely going to resent the company for this approach and will be alienated to direct competitors with similar prices. I mostly agree with these sentiments as there are a million ways to protect a company from excessive and unfair free-wheeling from smart asses wanting to use free try outs for their own benefit. Imposing credit card credentials submission is certainly a long-standing issue for Citrix marketing which I have openly reported before. Especially in light of a growing number of capable, innovative and price-cutting competitors in the same space, I would be wary of continuing this hard line.
As a matter of fact, I know for a fact that Citrix has run in the past a serious test to verify what kind of revenue losses it would have incurred if it allowed a more open sign-up approach. Unfortunately I have never seen any of the results of this research but they surely would be very interesting to look at, if not else to better understand and eventually justify Citrix continued hard stance on free try-outs.
For now, GoToWebinar is offered an additional service to GoToMeeting Corporate Customers.
Pricing is not public and you must dial 1-800-372-6207, a US-based toll free number to get further information on this. Officially, GoToWebinar Corporate pricing is based on number of licenses, has volume discounts and different plans depending on specific customer's needs.
Keep in mind that there is also a "personal" version of GoToWebinar which will be released shortly. The personal version should only be missing some of the more advanced management capabilities including the ability to manage multiple G2W accounts and the hosts who can use them.
To sign-up for a free evaluation of GoToWebinar (Corporate version try-out) go to:
To see a live demo online, sign-up here:
In the coming days a single-user, non-corporate version will also become available for individual users.
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