When deciding to do a webinar, or large web conference, one of the first things that needs to be considered is which tool to use. Usually, price is a huge consideration, as webinar tools come in all price ranges - including free as is the case with AnyMeeting, formerly known as Freebinar. By being ad-supported, AnyMeeting can offer its services at no cost to users, making this an ideal product for small businesses that could benefit from hosting webinars, but may not have the budget for a paid-for tool.
AnyMeeting at a Glance
Bottom-Line: As previously stated, AnyMeeting is ad-supported, so users who do not want to see ads would be better off considering other web conferencing software. Users can host an unlimited number of webinars, with up to 200 users per session. It is easy to use, so even first-time webinar hosts will be able to easily find their way around the software.
Pros: Compared to other free web conferencing tools, AnyMeeting has a much wider variety of tools available for use. The tool also comes with free support, so users who are struggling in any way can always get help. Sign-up is very quick, and takes only a couple of minutes. It is completely web-based, so the software does not have to be downloaded onto the host’s or attendees’ computers.
Cons: To start screen sharing, hosts must download a small application - while this is the only download necessary to run AnyMeeting, it could still be a problem if your firewall blocks all downloads.
Price: As it is completely ad-supported, AnyMeeting is free.
Signing-Up and Starting a Meeting
To sign up for AnyMeeting, all you need to do is access its website, then provide your e-mail address, a password, your name and a timezone. Once that information is given, you will receive an e-mail from AnyMeeting confirming your e-mail address. When your address is confirmed, you are ready to begin your first online meeting. This is one of the easiest sign-up processes I have encountered, and takes less than five minutes to complete.
As with other live conferencing tools, you will have the option to start a meeting immediately, or schedule it for some time in the future. At the time of the meeting, you can choose to use your USB microphone or the telephone in order to conference. When choosing your computer microphone, you start a process of one-way broadcasting so only one speaker is allowed at a time. If your webinar has multiple speakers, all of them will be able to broadcast by pressing the button that shows that it’s their turn to speak.
Once you are ready to start your webinar, you can click on the ‘start presentation’ button, and then you will be prompted to choose which application you would like to share, whether you would like to limit the bandwidth of your presentation (useful when you are connecting with attendees with lower Internet speeds) and the quality of your presentation.
When you choose to share your screen, you can choose to either share the full screen, or to share a single application that is running on your computer. The only downside to sharing a single application, is that when you are done with it and need to move onto another program (going from your web-browser to Power Point, for example), you need to completely stop screen sharing and start it all over again. While the process takes only a few seconds, it does not look very smooth to the participants.
Engaging with Web Meeting Attendees
AnyMeeting offers several options for presenters to engage with their audience. They include status updates, chats, polls and the ability to send links which will pop up on each individual screen.
The status update tool lets users state whether they are fine, have a question, wish for the presenters to speed up or slow down, or state whether they agree or disagree with what is being presented. These status updates are available only to presenters, so they don’t disrupt the flow of the presentation. They can then see how many attendees have a question, or would like the presentation to go slower, for example. The only downside to that is that it does not list which users have what status, so it’s up to the host to stop the presentation and take questions if too many users have selected the 'have a question' status.
Chats can be private, public or only between presenters and it is easy to see which option has been chosen, avoiding any potential problems with sharing information that is not public. Polls can be created on the spot, or in advance and saved for future use. They are very easy to create and it’s easy to flip between poll questions - all you have to do is close voting on the first poll question, and open the next poll.