To stream or not to stream

To stream or not to stream

While traveling to QuickBooks® Connect in 2017, I remember seeing Zoom advertised all over the airport and local transportation, and wondered what it was. Fast forward less than three years later, and that same application has more than 300 million daily meeting participants.

While Zoom is not the only online meeting platform, it quickly replaced GoToWebinar, Skype and other companies in popularity by offering advanced features like live streaming to Facebook and YouTube. With a little bit of knowledge, small businesses can leverage these video platforms to increase their brand awareness through social media. Of course, knowing where to start is often the most significant obstacle to overcome.

Online meetings vs. webinars

Thanks to the advancements in video streaming technology, companies around the world were able to transition from in-person meetings to online conversations during the COVID pandemic. In most cases, these popup meetings worked well for a limited number of attendees, and offered an easy way to collaborate on projects and various tasks based on the features offered by that platform.

Most online meeting platforms limit the number of video attendees to around 10 people. For many small businesses, this user limit may never present a challenge; however, for larger corporations, something more robust would be necessary.

As the number of attendees increases, the need to control how people interact during the meeting becomes more important. Instead of hosting an open meeting where anyone can interject, it may be necessary to direct all audience interactions through a chat box or Q&A portal. This is the fundamental difference between an online meeting and a webinar platform.

The features and functions of most webinar platforms are centered on providing a virtual presentation to a larger audience. The events can be privately scheduled and require registration to attend, or they can be live streamed across platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Before selecting a video platform, it’s essential to determine the type of interaction you are hoping to accomplish. Below is a list of questions to consider before selecting what level you will need.

Questions to consider:

  • Who is your intended audience?
  • How tech savvy is your audience?
  • Will they need assistance to join?
  • How many people do you expect to attend?
  • How often will you host these events?
  • Do people need to register before joining?
  • Will you need to share your screen?
  • Will handouts be provided to attendees?
  • How do you want people to ask questions?
  • Should they ask during the presentation or after?

As you think about how you want your event to look, you should also consider how you plan to communicate with people about the event and how they should register. While most of the platforms have calendar integrations and the ability to send out reminders, only webinar products help you set up an event landing page for registration or email drip campaigns.

The way you answer these questions will help you select which platform will be best for you.

If you only need to meet with clients remotely, applications such as Skype, UberConference, or Zoom will allow users to seamlessly conduct a video meeting with multiple people. If you want to schedule an event that requires attendee registration, applications such as BigMarker, ClickMeeting, or WebinarNinja provide better solutions that also offer payment gateways.

To help you understand the difference between various platforms, we created a feature comparison chart you can download.

Zoom meetings

Even before COVID-19 sent everyone scrambling to learn how to work from home successfully, Zoom had already become my go-to application for most of my client communication, including custom tutorial videos. Before too long, I started using Zoom to record everything, especially after introducing their green screen removal feature.

Recording videos

I love using Zoom to record all my YouTube videos. Using their green screen removal feature, Zoom allows me to upload and display a custom background that draws attention to my company logo, whenever I am on camera. By taking advantage of Zoom’s cloud recording features, I have been able to reduce the amount of time I spend editing each of my videos. If selected, Zoom will record up to four different versions of each video file, which can later be added as an independent layer of a video editing software. Using different video layers, I can split up two different presenters, and move them around the screen to avoid hiding important information.

Live streaming services

Ever since COVID-19 started to force employees to shelter in place and work from home, the number of Facebook live streams has exponentially increased. While it’s possible to go live directly from Facebook, such a setup does not allow other people to join you on the live broadcast. Fortunately, if you wanted to live stream a conversation with a couple of friends, Zoom provides the meeting space for all members to join and share their wisdom with anyone willing to watch.

For a successful live stream event, it is crucial to keep people’s attention throughout the show. To accomplish this, nearly all video platforms offer the following features:

  • Whiteboarding
  • Q&A sessions
  • Poll questions
  • Public and private chat
  • File transfer
  • Cloud recording

App marketplace

Over the past two years, Zoom’s app marketplace has expanded to nearly 700 integrations. These integrations include apps such as Acuity and Calendly for scheduling, 17hats and Pipedrive for CRMs, and Rev or Otter.ai (my favorite) for transcription services.

For additional details on how to use Zoom to live stream to Facebook, check out this guide on our website.

GoToWebinar

For years, GoToWebinar has been used by the accounting industry to host large meetings and private webinars, such as the QB Power Hour. Their platform was designed to simplify the interaction between the presenter and the audience. Attendees with a hearing impairment will appreciate the live transcriptions that are built right into the platform.

Webinar settings

Once you are ready to schedule your event, GoToWebinar makes it very easy for you to customize your registration page by adding your branding. Additionally, GoToWebinar makes it easy to generate unique tracking links to evaluate where people heard about the event.

Once the webinar is over, the recording can be saved to a specialized environment called GoToStage. This new feature allows the subscriber to transform old webinars into an on-demand library, open to the public or protected by a paywall.

Like most of the platforms on the market, GoToWebinar offers the common in-session features, including Q&A sessions and poll questions, but my favorite feature is their attentiveness scoring. This easily overlooked function displays the level of viewer engagement that you have throughout the presentation. Properly used, the presenter can tell if they are losing the audience’s attention, and can adjust accordingly to re-engage them again.

The good and bad

While I love the ease of setup for webinars in this platform, GoToWebinar did not meet my video needs for these reasons:

  1. No live streaming options to social media
  2. No green screen functionality
  3. Very small list of app integrations

For most people, these missing features may not be a deal breaker, but for us, they are perks that we use daily with Zoom. GoToWebinar is worth keeping your eyes on, especially with the speed with which they have been adding new features. Within the last couple of months, they added note taking during the presentation and Smart Assistant, which automatically detects action items and highlights in a meeting. I am excited to see what the new features will be in another six months.

For additional details, check out our video review of GoToWebinar.

BigMarker

BigMarker is one of the lesser-known options on the market, but also one of the most powerful platforms, designed to be an integral part of any company’s sales funnel. Subscribers can take advantage of meeting space for no-download web conference rooms. During a meeting, the presenter can easily play videos, share their screen, provide handouts, and even launch pop-up offers for future webinars.

Webinars and on-demand

The hidden strength behind this platform is its focus on marketing your events and the community you can build around it. Every little aspect of the landing page, the email drip campaigns, and even the SEO social media tags can be customized. Even the method in which you share your video can be customized, with seven different methods availiable to setup your webinar. Here are the numerous types of recordings that can scheduled:

  • Live webinar: Choose between interactive webinars, where the audience participates with mics and webcams, or a webcast with larger audiences that interact via chat, Q&A, and polls.
  • Summit or Series: A group of live, on-demand, or automated sessions with a single registration flow.
  • On-demand: Customizable, embedded videos with interactive functionality.
  • Livestream: Stream a live webinar to Facebook, YouTube, or other broadcast platforms.
  • Automated: Simulate a live webinar with automated videos, chats, polls, and offers.
  • Evergreen: Run an automated webinar around the clock.
  • 24-7: Launch an always-on online conference room or classroom with a single link.

During the webinar, one of my favorite features is the upvote functionality within the Q&A tab. This allows attendees to express their interest in a question asked by another attendee, without having to ask the same question multiple times. As a frequent webinar presenter, this feature helps me know which questions are the most important to answer, and the knowledge level of the audience.

After conducting a webinar, that video can easily be stored in your own on-demand library and shared a number of different ways. Any polls and questions asked during the initial webinar can still be accessed during the replay session.

For additional details, check out our video review of BigMarker.

StreamYard

StreamYard has been designed to function primarily as a live stream platform, and is not really used for individual meetings. While it may be lacking some features when compared to BigMarker and Zoom, their interactive live stream features have raised the bar dramatically on live viewer engagement. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Multistream: Share your video on up to eight destinations, including YouTube, Facebook, and Twitch.
  • Overlays: Customize the feel of your broadcast with your own GIF’s, images, or text.
  • Backgrounds: Remove your background, without the need of a green screen.
  • Lower-thirds: Display the names of your guests.
  • Live questions: Post live questions on the screen, while streaming, to engage your audience.
  • Social media interaction: Select comments directly from your Facebook livestream, and add them to your presentation.

When watching from Facebook or YouTube, StreamYard takes advantage of every inch of the available screen to display up to 10 people at the same time. The difference is extremely noticeable when there are only two presenters, but the video still fills the entire screen.

Personally, this is by far the most professional looking layout across all the platforms that I have reviewed. StreamYard’s ability to grab live comments from the audience and share them during the stream is extremely impressive, and a great way to keep users engaged!

Moving forward with streaming

After testing out numerous different platforms, I still find it difficult to name one platform as the best one to use. Depending on your intended use, my answer would change. If you’re just getting started, but want to dive into the world of live streaming on social media, my suggestions would be Zoom due to its flexibility. If you’re looking for a platform specifically for live streaming to Facebook, I would select StreamYard. Finally, if you plan to host a series of webinars that you want to charge for, my suggestion would be BigMarker.

Hopefully, the comparison between apps in this article helped get you started in the right direction. In our next article, we will discuss the different types of equipment that you will need to be able to stream and record like a pro. If you are interested in learning more about these programs, feel free to reach out and connect with me in my Facebook group, QB Community Live. Every Thursday (2:30 pm PST | 5:30 pm EST), you can join Lynda Artesani and I for weekly sessions, a Facebook live stream where we answer questions live from our group members. This is a great opportunity to see what you can do while live streaming through social media.