As a UCC analyst, I am exposed to numerous types of collaboration tools from which I host and join remote, multiparty meetings. Recently, I had the opportunity for a deep dive and demo of the host experience on PGi iMeetLive webinar/webcast platform and to participate as an attendee in a live session event. Given my experience with many such solutions I agreed to provide an overview and analysis of my experiences.
iMeetLive is a full feature webinar service designed for one to many or few to many presentation-style interactions. Highlights of host and participant features include: presentation and live screen share modes; Q&A; polling; calendar integration; registration pages; custom reporting and templates; analytics; event recording and archiving; on-demand, simulated live and live events; live and streaming video feeds; social media and marketing automation integration; and much more. In addition, iMeetLive events are viewable on any device. The service is designed for ease of use that facilitates self-service use cases (managed service support is also available).
Upon login hosts are immediately presented with their entire event archive, which can be edited and reused. A list of library folders can be organized according to individual host preference by date, topic, department, and other categories. The interface supports drag and drop event filing and folder organization. At all times when logged in, hosts have persistent, single-click access to their account settings, calendar, help menu and logout, event library and reports.
PGi positions iMeetLive for intuitive event creation.
1) Event scheduling options are straight forward: event name; date and time; event type (live with archive, on-demand, simulated live); live acquisition source (i.e., webcam, VCU) and source location; audience size; and length of time to be archived. These entries are selected from intuitive pre-set drop down menus.
2) Registration fields are templated. Webinar hosts can prioritize the sequence in which standard contact fields (i.e., name, company, etc.) are presented to potential audience participants. This step also offers landing pages that are customizable via a simple editing tool. Copy/paste functions are supported for efficiency and accuracy.
3) Branding and player settings are where hosts choose media display options (widescreen, etc.), content type and Q&A format (during webinar, at the end, etc.).
4) Steps involved with adding content are self-explanatory. Here hosts upload PowerPoint, videos, surveys and other content files.
5) Email and security settings allow hosts to adjust setting for password requirements, email verification, as well as utilize default or create custom confirmation and reminder messages. Further, hosts can limit email forwarding and restrict registration to certain IP addresses or email domains.
6) The review step includes review of event details and editing, and also enables hosts to start their events on the fly and set up reporting options.
Host Set Up Experience Analysis
- Pro: The event creation process is highly intuitive and well organized—critical characteristics for adoption of self-service webinar platforms. A number of aids also exist to coach hosts through set up. For example, each webinar set up page features pop-up bubbles that users can mouse-over for descriptions/explanations of fields. Alerts also pop up to notify hosts when steps are complete, not just when fields are incomplete.
- Pro: Distinct from many other webinar platforms, iMeetLive content can be uploaded at any time, without preset deadlines (i.e., 1 hour, etc.), before the start of or during an event, which helps to relieve some of the stress associated with the last minute file version issues that often accompany presentation sessions.
- Pro: Dynamic live desktop share, similar to web or desktop video conferencing, is not consistently supported by alternative webinar platforms. iMeetLive gives hosts this option for presentation formats and content that require it.
- Pro: The ability to run reports across several events simultaneously and analyze data as a consolidated set is useful to identify trends with respect to user activity, participant sentiment, host performance, and other attributes.
- Con: Integration with Outlook and Google calendar is supported. However, lack of integration with IBM Notes reduces some of the efficiency and friendliness that large enterprises using the IBM email platform may expect.
- Con: iMeetLive registration pages support social sharing (Facebook, Google , LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) but the services does not provide single sign-on for audience members that want seamless access from social channels. While alternative platforms support the capability, PGi reports limited or no demand for it.
To participate in a scheduled live iMeetLive event I received an invite via email. Registration was quick and easy. The confirmation email did not allow me to directly save a calendar item to IBM Notes. A less than preferable ICS file is the work around.
The event I joined had three speakers and one moderator. I joined via a Chrome browser using my USB stereo headset on a laptop PC. The event format was centered on active interaction among the presenters and moderator. A number of audience interaction features were also used. Three of the four people on the presenter/moderator side shared live video via web cams. Several polls and results were presented. Q&A was actively used for the entire session. Minimal content was shared. However, the slides that were used validated presenter statements.
Participant Experience Analysis
The first thing I noticed after logging in was the cleanness of the audience interface. The layout was uncluttered, with user options clearly visible and intuitively positioned within the interface.
There were a couple of issues due to local connectivity for one speaker, who did not consistently display high quality video, which resulted in freezing and lip sync. A different speaker was difficult to hear. In the course of my research, and in my many online meeting experiences, I’ve determined these issues are commonplace. More often than not these are due to the network limitations at participant sites. They were relatively minor in this instance as they did not overly interfere with the collaboration taking place.
- Pro: Volume control on the audience interface is easy to access and control via a slider.
- Pro: The “expand questions” tab separates the Q&A panel into a separate window. This allowed me to pull it onto my second monitor and follow everything in full screen.
- Con: When presenters aren’t on their toes the interaction flow for participants can be thrown off. It’s a minor quip but it happened to me. If participants complete poll questions before the presenter is ready to move on, then poll questions and results persist on the interface until the user clicks on “Return to Presentation” (see screen capture below). What should have happened is an automatic return to the presentation. The manual option is designed for participant flexibility but having to use it to view the resumed representation threw off my flow. It’s a good thing there are options to pause/review/replay.
Pro: Audience members can play or stop audio and video at any time, allowing them to stay longer on slides and replay segments as needed, or pause and pick up where they left off when listening to the event later.
- Con: When using the Questions feature, participants need to click the “enter” button on the iMeetLive interface rather than the “enter” key on their keyboard. Intuitively, users should have the latter or both options.
- Pro: iMeetLive supports video feeds from USB cameras as well as video conferencing units. VCU support is a differentiator for iMeetLive, which adds value to existing video conferencing investments and, if implemented properly, can extend superior video quality to webinars/webcasts.
My feedback here is not exhaustive. Overall, I find iMeetLive to be extremely competitive with alternative webinar/webcast platforms in terms of functionality and ease of use for both hosts and participants. Frost & Sullivan research shows a strong uptick in self-service webinars and webcasts. Ease of use is key to drive adoption and utilization. When evaluating online event platforms it’s important to prioritize usability to be as important as cost and functionality. If a webinar platform is not simple and intuitive, users are unlikely to utilize their platform’s full capabilities for higher quality, more engaging events and with the frequency needed to achieve the desired ROI.
This post was originally published on Frost & Sullivan’s Digital Transformation.