Choosing the Right Webcast Vendor

Avoid Surprises
Make sure you are well aware of any potential extra charges in advance of your webcast. Such fees often are applied for additional attendees, extended hosting periods, project management hours and editing services. Find out what those charges are, and make sure participants are aware of any limits.

Selecting the right vendor to manage a webcast isn't easy. Aside from a handful of larger providers, literally hundreds of companies are offering webcasting services, most of which are small startup firms. Each year a wave of new entrants pitches their wares, while the mature providers are launching new features and capabilities at a rapid clip. Throw evolving technology standards and trendy buzzwords into the mix, and it's no surprise there are so many confused and frustrated buyers.

The best approach is to cut through all of the noise. Far too often, vendors try to dazzle prospects with shiny new features and industry jargon. Buyers should take control of the conversation and ask the questions that will have the greatest impact on ensuring a successful event.

Cut to the chase
Here are a few "must ask" questions you should incorporate into your due diligence when researching webcasting options.

• What is the supplier's track record? There are plenty of issues that can occur during a webcast, including problems with encoding, software or the network. Vendors should have built-in systems and procedures, which they can calmly execute, to mitigate risks. When you work with one of these vendors, you will know it. Quality-obsessed suppliers typically maintain performance records and are willing to share them. Be sure to ask.

• What is the supplier's resiliency plan? There are many possible points of technical failure in a webcast delivery, such as the encoding, software or network problems mentioned previously. Ask your vendor to explain their backup and resiliency plan, and to do so in layman's terms. Be sure to ask if their failover system, which kicks in if a problem occurs, is automatic or manual. Keep in mind that manual systems take longer to kick in, and every second counts on a live webcast.

• What is the supplier's support model? Understand how you will be supported before, during and after the webcast is complete. Will you be supported by phone or by email, and what are the hours during which assistance is available? How many support staff are on call at the time of your webcast, and what are their response times? When you are delivering a live event, it is essential that you have immediate access to the webcast support team.

• What is the experience for mobile audiences? Mobile functionality is white-hot. We have seen mobile views of webcasts grow by 150 percent over the past 18 months, and we expect this trend to continue in 2014. Confirm which devices are supported. Ask the vendor for a link to a webcast, and view it on both a tablet and smartphone. Look for the interface to optimize based on your device type and screen size. And ensure that all desktop features are available.

Shaun McIver is vice president/global head of multimedia solutions for NASDAQ OMX (, responsible for product development, commercial strategy, business development and the financial performance of the division.