eWebinar is a relatively new entrant in the remote presentation space. Its mission is to allow companies to find a sweet spot between just throwing a recorded video up on the web for passive viewing and running a fully live, interactive webinar with hosts, administrators, and attendees all in the same conference at the same time.
The idea is that you create a video of your presentation content (either making it from scratch or recording a live webinar). You upload it to your eWebinar account and add interactive elements for viewers. You set a schedule for when the presentation will be available for viewing as an interactive webinar. People register and attend their desired session, watching the recorded content with much of the same interactivity they would have in a live webinar (chat, polling, ratings, hyperlinks to web pages).
None of this is conceptually new. I have played with products that were designed around the same basic idea and have never seen one that I thought was worthy of serious consideration. When I spoke to Melissa Kwan, the CEO and cofounder of eWebinar, she told me the same thing… After trying to properly automate her webinars at a former company, she got so frustrated with the available offerings that she decided to build a solution that actually accomplished what she needed.
I was impressed by some of the design decisions that Melissa has incorporated into eWebinar. I’ll try to touch on some of the most interesting items here.
Basic scheduling for when webinars will be presented is straightforward and comprehensive:
I like that extra feature of being able to list the webinar times in a fixed time zone or the attendee’s time zone. And including the ability to add blackout dates is useful as well. But things really get interesting when you dig into a secondary menu of advanced options:
The system gets a lot more intelligent on this page. By reducing the number of upcoming time slots that get displayed, it adds urgency to the registration process and lowers the perception that this is just one in a constant stream of automated session broadcasts.
Adding the “Just in time option” automatically adds a start time whenever someone visits the registration page that by the most amazing coincidence happens to be coming up soon… on the next quarter hour or half hour (or even 5-minute mark) following the time when the attendee hits the form. This can be combined with “Hours of operation” so that the system isn’t making it appear as though you hold events in the middle of the night. Someone coming to the registration form after hours is told that the next available session starts in the morning.
“Watch replay” adds a choice for immediate on-demand viewing to reinforce the idea that the other sessions are truly live events.
This is the aspect that takes the most planning if you are going to change your audience members from passive listeners into active participants. Fortunately the interface makes it easy to add interaction points in your presentation.
Once your video is uploaded, you can navigate through it in a simple timeline editor, scrolling forward and backward to find spots where an interaction with the attendee is warranted. Click “Add interaction” and you get a menu of interactors that you can place into the console during playback:
Some allow the viewer to type in a response, some let you display a message, some link to external pages. The best way to see these in action is just to watch Melissa’s 15-minute eWebinar walkthrough and demo. It is a prepared video with interaction elements running in the eWebinar system, so you get a good feel for how things look to attendees.
A key difference between live webinars and on-demand recordings is the ability for webinar attendees to ask questions of the presenter within the context of the presentation. eWebinar addresses this with a chat system that allows for a combination of real-time and offline interactions.
When scheduling an automated webinar, the administrator can designate one or more individuals to act as moderators. These people are tasked with responding to questions from attendees.
As seen in the picture, you can set options to remind moderators before a scheduled session starts so they are on the alert for potential questions. They don’t have to log in and wait around in the session however… The system can send them a notification when someone asks a question so they can log in and reply. If no moderators are available to answer questions during the session, the accumulated question log is emailed to them for later response.
Once a moderator logs in, there is a tremendously useful interface that lets them click on a question to jump to the point in the playback when the attendee asked it. So if someone types in “What does that abbreviation mean?” or “Is this currently available?” the moderator can figure out what they were referring to.
If the moderator types a response to an attendee who has left the active session, the response automatically gets sent to their email.
There are plenty of other features, such as integration with email campaign systems (when a person registers for a webinar, they can be added to your mailing list). eWebinar also has direct access to Zoom recordings for easy import of a recorded live meeting.
I thought of a few nice-to-haves that would make the system a little more powerful or flexible. Currently it has space to identify either one or two presenters associated with a webinar. It might be nice to allow more presenter names to be displayed in the landing page/description to accommodate panel discussions. And the registration form could really use some pre-populated drop-down selectors for country names and US/Canada states and provinces. This would make sorting and analysis easier for administrators.
But those are enhancement opportunities rather than deal breakers. As it stands, eWebinar seems to solve a real business need with a nice approach to making recorded content feel more engaging and interactive. Certainly worth looking at if you are searching for a way to reach audiences on their schedule rather than your own.