ReadyTalk announced Conference Center 4 today. This is the latest release of their hosted web conferencing/webinar service. There are a few features in the upgrade that are definitely worth discussing. I have to warn you that I’m working from their announcement and website rather than giving you a first-hand review of my own experiences playing with the new features. So we’ll take everything they say at face value for the moment! :)
To get a minor issue out of the way first, they finally took care of a feature implementation that used to make me roll my eyes in exasperation. Attendee registration for an event used to capture the registrant’s full name as a single field. They have now properly split it into two separate fields for first and last name. Congratulations… at last you can synchronize with your CRM systems or sort based on last name.
There are some single-click convenience features in the new conferencing console that let users get access to online assistance or reference documentation. I’m all for that. Easy access to help is one of the differentiators between conferencing vendors.
You can also download the audio portion of a recorded event, which can make it easier to do post-production editing, create audio podcasts, or fix slide problems. Always a good thing.
Attendee management got some upgrades, which makes me happy as an event producer. You can now review and change registration status for individuals associated with a webinar, moving them between pending, confirmed, and declined. But for me, the best new feature in attendee management is the ability to re-send a confirmation message to a single registrant. That seems trivial until you’ve worked on a big event and had to deal with people complaining that they never got their login information. I love being able to click a button and tell them that the message has just been re-sent. It makes it much easier to look for emails caught in spam filters or lost in overloaded inboxes. I wish every vendor had this capability!
Another great feature addition that doesn’t necessarily sound like a big deal is the ability to upload event registrants from a file. This lets you use your company’s own registration/payment system (“shopping cart”) or use a third party system such as EventBrite to collect registrations and payments. You could even accept registrations via fax or telephone. You export your registrants into a spreadsheet and upload it into ReadyTalk, and now you can use the automatic features of Conference Center to make sure they get their confirmation messages, reminders, etc. If you are a vendor and don’t have this capability, you need to add it. Trust me… many of your potential customers want to bypass your registration system for their webinars.
ReadyTalk has also added some automatic features for simulcasting event audio over computer speakers and a telephone conference line. My preference is to always allow attendees to select their preferred method of listening, and this interface makes it easy for them to choose. Unfortunately, it looks like this capability is only implemented when using ReadyTalk’s own teleconferencing service on an operator-assisted “Event package." It would be nifty if they could expand this so that you could use any desired teleconference provider. Oh well… One step at a time.
I saved the best for last though. You should go back to the first sentence in this post and click the link to Conference Center 4. You will see that they embedded a web player for archived event recordings on the web page. You can do the same thing with your own recordings. The player is quite snappy, and includes a feature I have never seen before: A visual “Table of Contents” built right in to the playback time scrollbar. As you move your mouse along the horizontal length of the scrollbar, it displays a small popup window of the slide image at that point. You also see little hash marks indicating each slide change. This helps you quickly scroll to the slide you were trying to find. There is also a full pop-up window with all the slides displayed in thumbnail images, so you can use direct access to jump to a slide of interest. I love that navigation aid, and I think your audience members are going to love it as well.
Nice job, ReadyTalk!