In these tough economic times, conferencing services are able to maintain a strong position in the marketplace, mainly due to the fact that they allow businesses to do more with less. Today's audio, video, and web conferencing services offer a way for businesses to connect with participants located anywhere in the world at any time - all from the comfort and convenience of their desk, tablet and/or smartphone and for a fraction of the price.

According to the Cisco® Visual Networking Index: Forecast and Methodology, 2011-2016, web-based videoconferencing was more than 56% of total business video conferencing traffic in 2011, and is expected to grow faster than overall business videoconferencing, at a CAGR of 45%. Consequently, a sea of web conferencing providers has flooded the market in an effort to capitalize on the growing customer base. While this helps to drive costs down, it also makes choosing the right provider for your needs a daunting task. Just typing in the phrase, "web conference provider" in Google pulls up over 74.5 million results!

With such a large number of web conferencing providers inundating the market, finding the right provider for your unique needs is tricky, but not impossible. Here are a few questions you should be asking ask your prospective providers:

  • Who is their target customer
  • Do they provide more than just the technology
  • How reliable is their solution
  • What kind of support do they offer

Like many telecommunications services, some providers choose to cater their solutions to specific sizes or types of businesses. This can mean great pricing, but only if your company fits the bill. On the other hand, providers like InterCall® and PGi - two of the world's largest conferencing providers - offer comprehensive collections of solutions that can be customized to suit your unique needs and budget, whatever they may be.

It's also important to look for a provider that offers more than just the technology, as it can only take you so far. In order to get the best return on your web conferencing investment you need to know the ins and outs of your solution. This includes setting agendas, mastering available features, as well as numerous other ways to make your virtual meetings as productive and effective as possible.

Reliability is essential, as the service you choose to employ is a direct reflection on you and your company. That being said, bulky interfaces, poor sound quality and/or a lack of compatibility (i.e. necessary plug-ins, browser limitations, etc.) can kill a meeting. See if the provider you're considering can provide customer reviews or if they offer free service trials to test for yourself.

Lastly, make sure they offer 24/7 support. Every conference presenter has encountered a meeting issue, even the most experienced ones. Finding a resolution as soon as possible is key to keeping your meeting under control and on track. Thankfully, providers such as the above mentioned InterCall and PGi offer 24 hour support 7 days a week – and in multiple forms. For example, PGi offers assistance via phone, email, and live chat.

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