Live webinars are a not-so-secret weapon in online marketing. Used right, webinars will help you build & engage an audience and they can be an incredibly powerful sales tool, as well.
I have hosted well over 100 webinars over the years and one of my ventures was built up entirely on the back of live webinars.
In all this time, I've used GoToWebinar as my platform of choice. It's a reliable and competent piece of webinar software... but is it still the best choice for marketers?
That's what we're here to find out.
Note: Reviews + Final Roundup
You're reading one of my may reviews of webinar tools. Here's a list of all the other tools I've published reviews on:
- GoToWebinar Review
- Webinar Ninja review
- Crowdcast review
- Demio review
- ClickMeeting review
- EasyWebinar review
- Zoom Review
- WebinarJam Review
- BigMarker Review
After publishing all of these, I also created one massive roundup review, pitching them all against each other! Check it out here.
GoToWebinar vs. Everything Else
Over the next few weeks, I will be reviewing every GoToWebinar competitor I can get my hands on. I will review each one and then do a big comparison - all with the goal of helping you (and me) choose the best tool for webinars in 2019 and beyond.
But why look for an alternative in the first place? If I've done 100+ webinars on the platform and it has worked well for me, why not just stick with it?
In short, it's because GoToWebinar is good, but it's not great.
Let's take a closer look at strengths and weaknesses in this platform.
Key Features Overview
Screen + Webcam (PiP)
Multi User / Assistant
Clickable Button / CTA
Time Limited Offer
Polls, Questions Visible in Replay
Simulated Live Replay
On-demand, recorded webinars, but no "simulated live" webinars.
What GoToWebinar Does Well: Reliability
A few years ago, I was looking for a better webinar solution and tested a few of the alternatives that were available at the time. This experiment had me quickly running back to GoToWebinar for one simple reason: all the competitors I tested severely lacked stability & reliability.
On other platforms, I commonly experienced things like:
- The webinar stream freezing or crashing in the middle of a presentiation.
- The webinar chat being full of "I can't hear you anymore", "I can't see anything" and "is this still working?" messages.
- Video and audio being out of sync by 30+ seconds, making the webinar difficult to watch.
Needless to say, this kind of thing is completely unacceptable. It turns what was supposed to be an informative and engaging event for your audience into a frustration fest - and people are unlikely to return for a second event after experiencing that.
Features vs. Reliability
One of the reasons I was looking for a GoToWebinar alternative at the time was because I was looking for more and better features. And many competing platforms promised just that.
But features take a distant second priority to reliability. Especially if you're using webinars to sell.
Imagine doing a sales webinar for a $1,000+ product, to a packed room. If you do a good job, you could be looking at a 5 or even 6-figure payday from a single event. And if your webinar platform crashes and kicks everyone in the audience out, halfway through, that can literally cost you tens of thousands of dollars!
This is why I will always prefer a boring but reliable webinar solution over one with fancy features, but lacking stability.
GoToWebinar shines in this regard. In all the events I've done with it, I've had very few issues. Even in webinars with 500+ people, it's rare to encounter serious issues and I estimate that around 1% or fewer of attendees will experience technical issues like audio or video dropping during an event.
It's not that it never happens, but it happens rarely enough not to be a serious problem.
Polls Done Right
One thing I love about GoToWebinar is the polling feature. You can create one or several polls for your webinar event and there are several things about this feature that are just excellent:
- You can time your polls. You can choose exactly when to show which poll.
- When you share a poll it "takes over". Your attendees will see a clear, full screen view of the poll and it's easy to interact with for them.
- You can choose to share the poll results (optional). If you share the results, everyone on the webinar will see a clear view of them as well.
- The polling shows up in the recording. When someone watches the webinar replay, the poll questions and results show up for them as well. They aren't interactive, but they can see what your attendees saw during the live event.
This means you can use polls as a great engagement feature and teaching tool. You can choose to show a poll at a specific point in your webinar, then share the results and make a point based on the results. You can use polls as a rhetoric device and even as a sales tool, thanks to the way this feature works in GTW.
GoToWebinar Quirks: What it Doesn't Do So Well
GoToWebinar is not without weaknesses. In many ways, you can tell that it's an old piece of software, although it has been occasionally updated and polished up over the years.
The main dashboard is clean and well designed and when you schedule a new event, most of the options are straight-forward enough:
However, there's one option here that we need to examine a bit more closely. You can choose to create a "Standard" or a "Webcast" event (which is a relatively new addition in GoToWebinar).
Standard vs. Webcast
Here's how the difference between the two is summarized:
The max attendee numbers will differ depending on what plan you are on. Webcast events are not available on the lowest-price plan of GoToWebinar. On higher price tiers, webcast events always allow for a larger audience than standard events.
Another major advantage of the webcast is that it works directly in a browser. To join a standard event, your attendees need to download and run an installer on their computer, first. That's an extra hurdle for people to clear, before they can join your event.
As you can see from the comparison, there are pros and cons on both sides. If you want to be able to unmute attendees and do live questions and answers, the webcast is not suitable. Neither if you want to password protect your event (e.g. for a members-only event). Apart from that the webcast is definitely the better option.
Old-School User Interface
No matter which event type you choose, as the webinar host, you have to install the GoToWebinar desktop app and use it to run your event.
After years of using GoToWebinar, I'm used to the user interface, but even I can see that it's clunky as hell. The UI consists of a panel with many segments, all of which can be undocked and resized, if you wish. The GTW panels will always show on top of whatever else is on your screen, so that you can share your screen or a presentation without losing sight of the webinar controls.
The "Flying Blind" Problem
One of the things I dislike the most about the GTW interface is that it leaves you "flying blind", at least if you do more than just a screenshare. If you are sharing your screen and your webcam at the same time, you have no clear representation of what your audience is seeing. Are they seeing the screen and the camera feed? Is one covering the other? You don't know, unless you've tested the attendee view and remember what it looks like.
The same applies for the replay: it's unclear what will be shown in the recording of the event and what it will look like. As it turns out, the answer is: the webcam feed doesn't show up in the replay at all, if you're also screen sharing at the same time.
It's difficult to describe, so here's a visual breakdown:
This kind of disconnect is not good, because if you don't see a representation of what your viewers see, mistakes are more likely to go unnoticed by you.
What's Missing in GoToWebinar
So far, we've seen that GoToWebinar has great stability and a clunky, outdated user interface. A further issue lies not in things it does poorly, but in features that are conspicuously missing, altogether.
Marketing Focused Features
GoToWebinar has no marketing features to speak of. The webinar registration page looks like this and can barely be customized at all:
If you want to have a high-converting registration page and make it part of a marketing funnel, you'll need to build your own landing page, using your own tools (like Thrive Architect).
Also, you can't show a clickable button or call-to-action during a webinar event. There's just no features made specifically for selling. So, if you're doing a sales webinar and you get to your pitch, the best you can do is to show the URL on screen and share a chat message with the link.
Questions & Answers
Also missing is a good way to manage questions and answers during a webinar. Attendees can submit questions, but the interface for managing those questions on the host side is not great.
If you are presenting to an engaged crowd of 50 or more people, questions and messages usually come in at a faster rate than you can keep up with. There's no way to display a question on screen, to show everyone what you're replying to and there's also no good way to sort or navigate the questions.
The best way I've found to work with questions in GoToWebinar is to have an assistant during the live event, who's main job is to mark important questions for later and answer most questions in writing, as they come in. For a solo operator, it's just not good.
Paid Webinars, Anyone?
Another absent feature worth mentioning is payment integration. If you want to create premium webinars or webinar series, there's no convenient way to do so, in GoToWebinar. There are ways to do it, of course, but as with landing pages, you have to use your own tools and find your own solutions.
GoToWebinar Pricing: The Final Nail?
Despite its many shortcomings, I've been a GoToWebinar user for a long time. But there's one final problem with it which means I can't wholeheartedly recommend it to people who ask me for the best solution for webinars: the pricing.
I've got some complaints about this:
- The lowest price plan is already pretty expensive and it doesn't include all of the features. For example, no webcast!
- The price jumps up precariously between the 100 seat and 500 seat plans. In my experience, it's pretty easy to fill up a 100 seat room, but 500 is a stretch. I can imagine that many people would need between 150 and 300 seats, but they'd have to pay through the nose to get them, because there's no in-between option available.
- The prices shown above only apply if you pay a year in advance. That means paying at least $1,068 to get started. This is not feasible for small business entrepreneurs. On the monthly plan, prices start at over $100/month for the smallest room.
Basically, these pricing options suck for small businesses.
I mean... they suck for larger businesses as well, but I guess they're more likely to be able to afford this kind of expense.
GoToWebinar Review Summary
Long story short, what's the word on this webinar solution?
The main reason to use GoToWebinar is for reliability and stability at scale. Apart from this, the cons clearly outweigh the pros and the platform can't really justify the price tag. Not recommended.
Last time I looked for a better alternative to GoToWebinar, I was disappointed by what I found. But many years have passed since then, so it's time to give it another try.
I'm going to be testing every webinar platform I can get my hands on - all so we can find out if there finally is a GoToWebinar killer out there.
Update: I have now completed my quest of reviewing (far too many) webinar platforms and published a roundup post here.