Our organization (Team Expansion) has been trying out the webinar concept on a trial basis to see if it can help our full-timers build more camaraderie with one another across continents. Early [anecdotal] indications are that it can indeed help, but I can’t help but think we’re still trying to get it right. I imagine by now, everybody’s participated in a webinar. You’ve probably listened to some persuasive sales person push a new upgrade to a major software package you use at the office. Or maybe someone discussed missionary attrition. Typically, one or two people — 3 or 4 at the most — take turns talking about a product, service, fix, or problem. They usually let you look at some Powerpoint slides or a working computer monitor while you listen to the audio portion of the program. Were it not for the Powerpoint, it would kind of resemble a phone conference, except the heavy-lifting of the phone conference portion is usually covered by the webinar service. (They at least provide the “bridge”, even if participants have to call in on Skype or a cell phone.) We’ve tried splashing a webcam view of the speaker on the screen. It does seem to slow down the visual element of the webinar, so lately, we’ve gone to “snapshots” of the speaker, just so we don’t have to constantly rebroadcast the video over the webinar. (Broadband participants do ok, but dial-up folks have a hard time with the webcam video.) Sometimes there are question-and-answer times (maybe with participants emailing in their questions… or typing them into a chat window). We’ve been using a pretty *basic* service, but in a couple of weeks, we hope to try out a stepped-up service that accommodates on-line polling, chatting with each participant, panels, and, in general, many improved features.

Of course, there’s a cost to all this, but probably not nearly so much as you think. The dumbed-down service we were using was about $45/month… but I can already tell you that it looks like the upgrade to “Go-To-Webinar” will be worth it, at something like $80/month:

http://www.gotowebinar.com

These prices are for unlimited conferences with as many as 1000 people at a time. We’re now in the process of comparing prices with

http://www.webex.com

Where have you found the best deal? What format worked best for your ministry? How might you use webinars to draw your international audience together? Report back from the field to your board? Show a Powerpoint online? Use the webinar-service’s voice-over-IP telephony service to save money on international calls during the webinar? If you have solutions… providers, vendors, great service-sites, please refer us. Just click “Comment” on the web version below and be sure to tell us URLs and addresses. Thanks for being “one beggar, telling another where to find bread!”

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