Thursday, January 29, 2009

Webinar Review: Microsoft Live Meeting

EDITOR RATING: 9 out of 10

Live Meeting is a top contender for larger-scale Webinar events and e-learning sessions. On its own, solid performance and a good feature set make it a strong competitor.

Nice audio and video performance. Good support for large-event features like attendee registration, polling, Q&A and lead tracking. Excellent price for hosting Webinars.

We did not need a lot of the features but its nice to know they are available.

OS Compatibility: Windows Vista, Windows XP, MAC

Microsoft has recently given Live Meeting a serious upgrade, adding advanced features like Microsoft Roundtable 360 degree video camera support, integrated full-duplex VoIP audio, and support for multiple rich-media formats—as well as a solid Web-only version for those who can't download the client.

Live Meeting provides a list of attendee, online chat capability, Q&A, a shared presentation window, and basic annotation tools. For any of the advanced features, including support for webcams and VoIP, however, you'll need the full client.

Other than the advanced features requiring client software, Live Meeting operates similarly to comparable packages such as Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional and WebEx. The product available as fully a hosted service at a low price per host license. An Outlook add-on allows you to schedule Live Meetings instantly within Outlook the same way you'd schedule regular face-to-face meetings, letting you include meeting attendees and send notifications. You can also manage invitations and contact lists from the Web via your Live Meeting account.

Once in a meeting, the layout is clean and intuitive—mostly. The product has almost as many features and controls as WebEx, and on the surface it looks easier to use, because all you see are one light menu bar and tool icons.

The recording feature has improved in this latest version of the product. Presenters can save the session to their local PCs or to the Microsoft server.

Live Meeting can compete with any major player. For the price it's the best Webinar software that I tested. The service supports up to 1,250 attendees for a single session, so you're covered for conduction e-learning sessions and events. Live Meeting 2007 includes event tools like registration, survey distribution, and meeting-role features that let you separate administrators from speakers and attendees.

Registration now supports automatic confirmations and reminders, and now, in addition to supporting ad hoc polling, Live Meeting can also send survey results to specific recipients via e-mail and export survey reports to Excel or CSV files. The ability to record entire sessions and store them on the Live Meeting service is also attractive from an events perspective. Used carefully, this can almost become an online video-presentation server. The Live Meeting meeting interface is easy to use. I really like the ability to undock its panels.

Compared with WebEx and gotowebinar, Live Meeting definitely has the edge in features and reliability.

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