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Large-scale "webinars" made easy with GoToWebinar

Large-scale "webinars" made easy with GoToWebinar

"Webinar." Is that not the ugliest word ever invented? Sadly, it's a good descriptive coinage: A webinar is a seminar conducted over the Web. And here's a new way to walk to talk: Citrix's GoToWebinar, a bulked-up version of the company's GoToMeeting screen-sharing product.

GoToWebinar has a more robust server architecture that is a supposed to be able to handle 1,000 attendees, making it suitable for large online meetings, such as press conferences. The screen-sharing tools in the product will be familiar to GoToMeeting users, but there are important additions to handle the coordination of large online meetings. GoToWebinar has an invitation and registration system, for instance. It will help you send bulk invitations over e-mail, manage the replies, and collect whatever information you want during the process (you can add fields to the registration form). When you are trying to coordinate the attendance of a large number of people, having a tool such as this is a big plus.

During the Web seminar itself, you can see how much of your audience is paying attention. If the GoToWebinar application is not the top window, the audience is probably not paying attention. GoToWebinar shows the organizer a real-time display of the percentage of people who are with you. If the attentiveness of your audience wanes, this may be a reminder to spice things up a bit or kick off a poll or a quiz (just remember to create your poll before the meeting starts; you can't write them on the fly).

After the event, the organizer can get reports listing all of the questions asked (via the messaging system) during the session or even a list of who was paying attention and when.

GoToWebinar is a screen-sharing application, great for PowerPoints and demos. It doesn't handle the voice component or a presentation, though. For that, you'll need to use a telephone conference bridge. GoToWebinar provides a dial-in number when you set up your meeting, which makes it easy for people to listen in to your presentation. Still, I would have preferred at least the option to host or participate in meetings via Skype or other VoIP products.

One other snag: GoToWebinar viewers need to download an application to watch a show. That's archaic--there should be an option for a pure Web-based viewer (see, for example, Vyew).

See also: Webex and Microsoft LiveMeeting.

GoToWebinar is a capable and serious presentation tool, and it's priced accordingly. The service is $99 per month to host all the seminars you can handle.

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