In January of 2017, PGi announced that they were acquiring ReadyTalk. This September, the company put out a press release announcing “GlobalMeet Webinar and GlobalMeet Webcast.” I decided to check in on the integration of ReadyTalk’s product set under the new branding.
PGi was kind enough to give me a few briefings and to let me play with GlobalMeet Webinar a bit. I am not going to do a full product review, as I have not exercised the platform in a live public use scenario yet.
I first spoke with Rolf Schwieger, Senior Director of Product Marketing for PGi. He confirmed that GlobalMeet is now the universal brand family identifier for online collaboration products at PGi. The old iMeet name has been put to rest. I then spoke with Samantha Morgan, Senior Product Manager (and part of the team that came from ReadyTalk).
GlobalMeet Webcast is aimed at large-scale broadcast events typically serving many thousands of listeners, most commonly employed by enterprise-level corporate entities. GlobalMeet Webinar represents the integration of features and functionality taken from the ReadyTalk acquisition and is targeted at mid-range web events that might have 100-2000 participants. And perhaps confusingly, GlobalMeet without any modifier is also used as a product name for participatory web meetings and ad-hoc sessions (although it can support as many as 125 participants). There is also a GlobalMeet Operator Assisted audio conferencing product, but that’s not my area of concentration.
I decided to focus on GlobalMeet Webinar, as that hits the sweet spot for the largest number of clients and applications, and is most directly tied to the ReadyTalk integration. ReadyTalk still exists as a company name and as a product for legacy customers who need support and a continuity plan, but new customers should expect to start out on GlobalMeet Webinar as the newer product with the more robust development future.
As is true of most web-based “conferencing as a service” platforms, the new product has dispensed with any reliance on soon-to-be-obsolete Adobe Flash and is now completely based on HTML5 and WebRTC. This introduces the same unavoidable broadcast delay shared by all such products… In order to synchronize audio and visual data for all users, HTML5 buffers the data stream by anywhere from 15-30 seconds. So two-way communications between presenters and listeners are not instantaneous. That is not something that PGi has control over.
Pricing is listed on PGi’s website, so I am not giving away any sales secrets. Customers can start small with a $99/month “Starter Plan” that allows up to 100 participants in a session, but this does not include several features (such as the ability to show live video of presenters or prerecorded video clips, the ability for attendees to listen by phone, or the ability to use promotional features such as social media links and campaign tracking for registrants). For full functionality, you would move up to the “Advanced Plan” that starts at $249/month for a capacity of 500 participants per meeting and has higher priced tiers at capacities of 1000 and 2000 participants.
When I looked at product features, I saw a number of differences from the old ReadyTalk product I was previously familiar with. PowerPoint slides still get uploaded and go through an automatic internal conversion step to prepare them for display in a web session. But PGi has removed the old ReadyTalk limitation that discarded slide transitions and animations. Webinars now show those dynamic actions built into the PowerPoint slides. You can also preload several different PowerPoint files for quick and easy switching between them during a webinar. Full-screen desktop sharing is also available if a presenter wants to show applications running on her computer.
PGi has done a great job of allowing robust and flexible customization of registration/landing pages and event emails. They incorporated a visual “What You See Is What You Get” editor that lets you specify fonts, colors, and so on. I particularly want to praise them for including several things I have spent years calling for in the industry… If you include “Country” as a registration field, it gives you a pre-populated drop-down list of global country choices. You can then add a State/Province field that dynamically adjusts to reflect the selected country. If someone selects USA, the State box shows US states. If they select Canada, it offers the Canadian provinces as selection choices. If another country is selected, the box turns into a text entry field. Hallelujah! You can also add single checkbox fields (for things like opt-in or opt-out binary selectors) and text lines in the middle of your registration fields if you feel something needs more explanation or a disclaimer.
I also like the fact that emails show only what you specify, without adding any PGi branding, copyright notices, or disclaimers. And I noticed a unique option in follow-up emails that lets you specify an email that viewers should get after watching a recorded on-demand version of the webinar. That’s a nice added bonus.
Another particularly nice feature gives administrators the ability to set up custom authority levels for helpers or co-hosts or stakeholders. You can limit what they have access to, so for instance you could restrict some people to just being able to run reports (such as pre-event registration) without being able to accidentally change any of your event settings. You can set up authority levels for guest presenters in a similar manner.
All in all, it looks like the integration of ReadyTalk and high-level coordination of branding and product definition is proceding nicely at PGi. I look forward to working with their products more thoroughly and seeing how they continue to develop.