Consider the humble webinar report. Not a very sexy feature, it doesn't get a lot of hype in demos and marketing materials from conferencing technology vendors. But reporting is a critical factor in analysis, refinement, and value return for most webinars. In marketing/lead-generation, reports are the lifeblood of the marketing department. In training and education, they may be required for certification and accreditation.
One thing I have found in working with webinar/webcast technologies over the years is that far too many vendors view reporting as a low-priority feature for enhancement and development. I can always tell when software engineers have been given the task of creating a reports module without any experience or explanation of how clients use the generated reports and what they need to do with the data.
To make my point less abstract, let's look at a few examples of reporting problems that have been hanging around for years. I'm going to cherry-pick a few unlucky vendors that I have more experience with. Sorry, guys! Please don't extrapolate this discussion to mean I hate their software or that they are worse than others. If I used examples from every vendor on the market, this post would turn into a Tolstoy novel.
Cisco WebEx is one of the oldest and most widely used webinar technologies in the business. I wrote a post on one of their reporting quirks last year. Their in-event activity report only logs activity while the archive recorder is running. Crazy. I have also had to get used to finding duplicate entries in the basic WebEx attendance report, where an individual may show up with multiple records indicating identical or overlapping entry and exit times. I have to manually sort through the records to select the ones that seem indicative of actual behavior and match up with actions such as survey responses. And to top things off, WebEx reports for the same event don't agree with each other on who attended. Whew. Talk about a system ripe for an overhaul!
Citrix GoToWebinar is another big mass-market technology. Their reports certainly take less manual cleanup than WebEx, but I always have a problem with the way they report questions and comments typed by attendees. Each attendee gets a single record with a field containing all their entries from the session. Messages are not given a time code and there is no way to put together a master list showing the entire chronological chat log. That can make it very hard to put comments and questions in context.
omNovia is less well known, but I use it a lot with my clients. They have reporting quirks as well. While you can get a complete chronological chat log showing names and time codes for each message, the report is not presented in a spreadsheet for sorting and analysis, and it does not contain email addresses for easy response action afterwards. omNovia is another system with multiple reports that have to be generated manually from separate screens and include separate data elements that need to be merged. For instance, one report shows registration date while the other report shows both date and time. Why? And their polling detail spreadsheets are an exercise in frustration, with header information inserted into the middle of columnar data. You can't sort the entire spreadsheet, but need to cut and paste data into separate sheets manually in order to do any analysis. It's form over function and gets in the way of serious webinar review and data organization.
I could go on, but you get the idea. On a more positive note, a few vendors are working to raise the bar on reporting quality and utility, with an eye towards satisfying task-related functions for the webinar host. I will use ON24 and Adobe Connect as examples here, since they are big names and well known. Both companies have built webinar analysis dashboards that attempt to consolidate webinar data and present it in graphical fashion to highlight important information.
Both vendors have added report elements highlighting marketing performance and conversion vs abandonment at multiple steps along the webinar attendance funnel.
Here are some examples from Adobe (click on images to expand):
ON24 adds the ability to compare an event against webcasts within a similar industry, application, or region or across all ON24 events:
Summary and detail information is available in both graphical and sortable spreadsheet formats, with individual records carrying full information for analysis and response. Here is an example from ON24:
So there is definitely hope for us as webinar hosts and analysts! If your webinar reporting isn't giving you what you need in order to do your job effectively, tell your vendor. The only way things get prioritized for change is if enough paying users demand it.