Let's examine a tweet from @secwonk311. It's worth reading the thread with replies and comments.
It starts with a reasonable question from a webinar registrant:
Hey @GoToMeeting @gotowebinar
Trying to join an 11am session and i'm getting "The session is full"
and yet i have a unique ID that was not supposed to be shared with others. Organizer is... in the meeting that I can't get to.
What are the options here?
— 3.11 (@secwonk311) October 22, 2019
Those of us in the biz know that this is not really the vendor's problem to deal with… They can't manage the registration and attendance process for every webinar their customers host. But still, their name is all over the emails and the platform being used, so they might as well get used to the fact that confused participants are going to turn to them for help.
In this case, the vendor punts and says that the registrant is going to have to contact the event organizer later to see if a recording will be made available. That does nothing to help SecWonk's immediate frustration. This is followed in the Twitter thread by another party chiming in to say how much he hates the software.
So by my count, we have a frustrated webinar registrant who can't attend the meeting they signed up for, a frustrated support person who can't do anything about it, a frustrated random observer of the conversation, and later there's going to be a frustrated webinar host who lost the goodwill of a person they wanted to reach.
And I'm frustrated because I know there is a solution to the problem. I've seen one webinar vendor implement it. But most manufacturers allow the nonsense to continue unabated.
The underlying problem comes from the licensing model employed by the vast majority of hosted webinar platforms. When you license the use of a webinar technology, you pick a "tier" or a level of service. Higher tiers allow more simultaneous participants in any given webinar. Those capacity limits can be separated by very large numbers. Taking GoToWebinar as an example (since that was the vendor referenced in this tweet), we can look at their plans and pricing web page to see that customers can choose from 100, 500, or 1000 participant limits.
Of course a customer never really knows how many people they will get for a given webinar. The preferred, money-saving way to license the technology is to prepay for a year of service. The company hosting the webinar that SecWonk wanted to attend probably said, "We usually get less than a hundred attendees per webinar. There's no reason to pay more than twice as much for way more capacity than we're ever going to use." So if they happen to have one popular webinar and SecWonk is the 101st person to try to enter the conference, he gets shut out.
It's a great revenue generator for the webinar vendor. The customer complains and says, "How do we keep from getting a few people shut out of our webinars?" The sales rep says, "Simple! Just sign up for the higher tier." "Hmmm… That's a hefty jump in price and capacity… Do you have something in between?" "Nope. Cough up the dough."
I said there was a solution to this problem. I used to employ it all the time with Webinato conferencing. They had the same tiered licensing structure, with attendance capacity specified for each tier. But a customer also could add an option for "buffer seats" or "attendance overflow" on their account. In this case, attendance up to the tier limit is covered under the normal paid plan. If a webinar gets more attendees than the limit, those people are allowed to attend and the customer gets a charge on their credit card or monthly invoice at a per-person rate for each person over the tier capacity.
It's fairly simple for the vendor to calculate a per-person overflow rate that is reasonable for small numbers of excess attendees, but makes it economically advantageous to bump up to the next tier level once you start hitting repeated high overflow numbers. Now customers know that they never have interested parties locked out of their webinars, they aren't forced to overpay for ongoing capacity that is largely unnecessary, and the vendor benefits from goodwill on smaller accounts or new webinar programs that have a reason to stay with the software as the customer or their webinar programs grow.
It's a win-win… Why aren't more vendors doing this?