Zoom Review: Best Budget Webinar Solution?

Zoom is a group calling and online meeting app which can also be used to host webinars. It has a free plan as well as an attractively low priced entry-level plan. This makes it an interesting alternative to the typically pricey webinar solutions like GoToWebinar, Webinar Ninja or Demio.

What's it really like to use Zoom for webinars? And how does it compare to the higher price webinar platforms? In this review, we'll find out!

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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:

After publishing all of these, I also created one massive roundup review, pitching them all against each other! Check it out here.

What Zoom Is Not...

To talk about Zoom in comparison to other webinar tools, we need to first define what it is and what it is not.

Zoom is primarily a tool for online calls and meetings. In fact, it's more similar to Skype than it is to a dedicated webinar solution like GoToWebinar or Webinar Ninja.

You can use zoom for one-on-one online calls or group calls/meetings. In these calls, you can share audio, webcam and your screen, just like you can in Skype, Google Hangouts and, indeed, a typical webinar solution.

Zoom is commonly used by coaches to work with their clients and by companies for internal meetings. It can also be used to host webinars, but as you'll see, Zoom is rather limited as a webinar solution.

Using Zoom

With that said, let's have a look at what the user experience is like. My main interest here is, of course, using Zoom as a webinar tool.

The welcome screen in the Zoom dashboard

Welcome to the Zoom dashboard. It's... not very pretty.

Right away, you can see the corporaty flair of this tool. The dashboard is definitely more functional than aesthetic. But that, by itself, doesn't have to be a bad thing.

From here, you can schedule meetings and, if you purchase the Webinar add-on, also webinars.

When you schedule a webinar event, the options available are limited, compared to other webinar solutions:

Zoom webinar scheduling options

Notably weird is that by default, no reminder emails are sent to your registrants. You have to activate those manually - something I highly recommend you do, as it will increase your attendance rate.

Live Meetings & the UI Mess

An event is started via the desktop app, which you need to download and install to use Zoom. Zoom reminds me of GoToWebinar in this regard. Not only do you need a desktop app for both, they also have an outdated and messy looking user interface in common.

The Zoom app looks simple enough to start with. The basis of the UI is this ribbon of options:

Options ribbon during a live call

The ribbon appears at the bottom of the Zoom application window, initially. It docks to the top of your screen once you start screen sharing.

Once you start sharing your webcam, your screen and perhaps interacting with polls and questions, the UI turns into chaotic jumble of windows:

What the UI actually looks like during an event

For your attendees, it's a similar situation. They will see the main video feed in the main Zoom window and additional things like Polls or Q&A appear in additional windows.

What I dislike most about the Zoom experience is that as the webinar host, I have no representation of what my audience sees.

Conspicuously Absent

I don't consider Zoom a "real" webinar solution. This is in large part because many features that are standard for webinar tools are absent in Zoom.

For example...

No (Usable) Funnel Pages

Here's what the registration page for a Zoom event looks like:

A very simple (and unattractive) registration page

If you entered this in a competition for the least conversion optimized page of all times, I think it would stand a good chance of winning.

The image at the top and the logo on the side are optional. You can change the webinar title and you can add a text description. Beyond this, there are no customization options for this page.

Needless to say, if you want to convert as many visitors into registrants as possible, use a custom landing page solution.

No Timed Polls or Offers

In Zoom, you can't create an offer or call to action that you display when you pitch a product.

There is a polling feature, but you can't time the polls to make them appear for your audience at a specific point in time. In fact, you can't make polls appear for your audience at all. Audience members have to know to click on the "polls" icon in their interface and select a poll to answer themselves.

The same is true for the Q&A feature. It exists in Zoom but in my test webinar, it became clear that these features weren't obvious or easy to discover for my audience members.

No Useful Webinar Replays

You can record your Zoom calls and use the video as a webinar replay video. However, there isn't a useful or marketing focused webinar replay feature built into the tool. You can't have a nice looking landing page with your replay, there's no "like live" replay feature with timed polls and offers etc.

No Automation/Evergreen Features

Zoom doesn't include any kind of webinar automation or evergreen webinar features. If you want to create an evergreen webinar as part of your marketing funnel, Zoom is not the solution for you.

The Crux of the Matter: Zoom Pricing

As mentioned above, Zoom isn't primarily a webinar tool. If we simply compare it to other webinar solutions, it looks awfully lacking in many ways. But there are 2 things we need to know about Zoom, to put it into context:

  1. It is a calling/meeting tool first, as mentioned above.
  2. There's a free plan and a very affordably priced entry-level plan, which makes it a far cheaper option than any webinar solution.

Zoom enjoys popularity with coaches and entrepreneurs because it's so affordable. However, when looking at Zoom as a webinar tool, this affordability comes with a caveat.

The Zoom Webinar Plan

Of the available pricing plans for Zoom, the "Pro" plan is the relevant one for anyone not using it at an enterprise-level scale. 

The free and $14.90/month pricing tiers

With the free plan, you can already run meetings with up to 100 participants, but it's limited to sessions of no longer than 40 minutes. The $14.99 plan adds a few features, but most importantly, it removes that 40 minute time limit.

This plan is the one that's situated very competitively, compared to other webinar tools... BUT, it doesn't come with webinar features. Those are unlocked by purchasing a separate add-on which starts at $40/month for 100 seats:

Pricing for the webinar package, which starts at $40/month

Since this is an add-on to the base plan, this brings the total price to $54.99/month.

Here are the main things the webinar plan adds to Zoom:

  • Webinar events, for which the registration process is a bit different than for group meetings and in which all attendees are muted by default (in group meetings, everyone's mic is shared by default and everyone is an equal participant in the call).
  • A Q&A feature, separate from the live chat.
  • A feature for adding interactive polls to your calls.
  • Analytics to show you audience engagement and other metrics for your webinars.

Is it Worth Getting?

As you saw in the review above, none of these webinar features are particularly well implemented or useful. In my opinion, they are not worth the extra $40/month that they cost.

Using just the Pro plan for $14.99/month, you can create meetings for up to 100 people and you can set your meeting up to automatically mute all participants . This changes the dynamic from an "everyone is talking" group call to a "presenter with an audience" setup, like you have in a webinar.

To be clear: this doesn't give you a particularly good webinar solution, but at least it's very affordable.

Zoom Review Summary

Is this the right tool for you?

Pros

  • Cheaper than any other webinar solution at the $14.99/month price point.
  • Reliable, with good stream quality.

Cons

  • The webinar features aren't very well implemented.
  • Complete lack of marketing or sales features.
  • Complete lack of automation or evergreen features.
  • Messy user interface, both for host and attendees.
  • Webinar features aren't worth the added price.
  • Starts cheap, but gets very expensive at scale.

Conclusion:

Zoom is not a good webinar solution. It may be a great solution for group calls and online coaching, but that's not what this review is about. There's exactly one scenario in which Zoom is a recommended solution: if your main priority is to keep costs as low as possible and you either don't do sales webinars or you do sales webinars to very small groups only, use the Zoom Pro plan. As soon as you start doing sales webinars on a regular basis, you're better off paying more for a more marketing focused solution and recouping those costs via the extra sales you generate.

That concludes my (perhaps unusual) take on Zoom. Since originally publishing this review, I've completed my epic roundup/comparison of 9 different webinar platforms. Check it out here.

About the Author Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • desafiandobrasil says:

    Hi Shane,

    Zoom does offer an actual webinar solution:
    https://zoom.us/webinar

    I thought that was the solution you would review here. I’ve used Zoom Meetings as a webinar platform in the past, but it only works well for small groups.

    Also, after their latest update, the interface has been crashing on me everytime I try to use it.

    • That is the solution I reviewed here. You can pay for a plan called “webinar”, but compared to the competition, that’s still not much of a webinar solution. It lacks what I’d consider basic features in a webinar tool, which is why I don’t recommend paying for the webinar add-on in Zoom.

      And if Zoom basic is crashing, Zoom Webinar will crash too. It uses the exact same tech.

  • Ian Brodie says:

    Shane – one thing you don’t seem to cover in the reviews is the ability to overlay comments/Q&A from the webinar tool over the top of your presentation screen.

    This might be a Mac thing, but when you’re presenting with Keynote it takes over the whole screen and pushes any other windows to the back. If you want to do a really professional, well-prepared webinar it’s a good idea to use two screens with one being the full-screen display of the slides that the viewer sees and the other being your presenter notes so you can see upcoming slides and any notes or script you’ve got on this slide.

    That works well with GoToWebinar and Zoom because they’re separate apps so the controls can appear on top of your notes screen and you can see alerts when questions and chat come in and then display any questions over the top of your slide notes if needed (but not getting in the way).

    With the web-based solutions like Webinarjam etc, it’s not possible. Since they’re web-based if you’re in full-screen mode on your presentation tool you can’t see any questions coming in and you have to switch screens to see them. The only alternative is to present not in full-screen mode which means you don’t get your slide notes.

    That might sound like an obscure thing, but for anyone who’s presented with 2 screens and slide notes you’d never want to go back.

    • Thanks for your comment!

      At least on Windows, this isn’t a problem at all. You can have one browser window presenting in full screen mode and have another window on your other screen, showing the webinar controls. It’s no different from using Zoom or GoToWebinar to do the same thing.

      • Ian Brodie says:

        Looks like it’s a keynote “feature” – which is a shame as it’s much better than Powerpoint in pretty much all other respects.

        Point still stands though as there are very many people who do webinars from keynote.

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