Authored by Malcolm Tatum in Communications
Published on 11-07-2009
Organizations of all types and sizes have discovered the power of web conferencing. This simple tool makes it possible to combine the functionality of visual displays with the convenience of audio conferencing, and accomplish a great deal, even if the attendees are located miles from one another. While there are web conferencing providers that offer services with a relatively high rate per minute, it is also possible for small businesses and non-profit organizations to identify and use web conference options that are relatively inexpensive, and in some cases free.
In order to begin your search for affordable web conference options, take the time to decide what features will benefit your gathering. Will you need to share documents during the presentation? Will there be a need to pass control of the meeting to other individuals at some point? Perhaps you want the ability to initiate and control a question and answer session via the web portion of the meeting.
For users who want to simply upload a presentation for viewing during an accompanying audio conference, a good place to look for affordable web conference options is with your current audio conference provider. Today, many providers offer a basic web conference tool that is free, as long as you use their services for the audio portion of your meeting. While the product is not likely to include a lot of bells and whistles, it is often robust enough for basic needs, and will not cost you one additional cent.
Another advantage of these simplistic but highly affordable web conference options is that attendees normally do not have to download any file for caching on their hard drives. Most of these products are designed to allow conference attendees to simply go to a specific URL, enter their login credentials, and watch the proceedings via their browser. There is no special media software to download, and no files to cache on the hard drive. As long as the computer has enough resources and a compatible browser, all is well.
If you do not use an audio conference service, it is still possible to obtain affordable web conference services as a stand-alone service. There are several products online that are free for downloading, with some even providing the ability to use VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) for the audio portion of the meeting. Keep in mind this option requires that attendees download the product before the meeting in order to attend. Products of this type may be free, or require a one-time fee for the download.
Pricing strategies on fee-based services vary. Some web conference providers use a model that is based on rate for every minute that each connection is present in the meeting. For example, a web conference with ten attendees for an hour would be charged the agreed upon rate per minute for a total of six hundred conference minutes. Other services use a model where customers pay for “seats” that are rented for a month, in exchange for a flat rate. With this model, a customer may rent twenty seats for use any time he or she likes over the course of a month, paying only a flat rate per seat, no matter how many conference minutes are actually used during the period.
Deciding which is the most affordable web conference option for your needs depends a great deal on how you need to structure your meetings to achieve the most benefit. Relatively simple meeting formats often can be conducted using free web conferencing tools, while more elaborate meetings will require the use of some fee-based product. Assess your needs, then decide which type of plan and pricing would be in your best interests.