By The Connect Guru, Dave Walker
In the world of online meetings WebEx has been the 900 lb gorilla for a long time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say “I was just in a WebEx and…” even when they were not using WebEx. I think this is beginning to change with more awareness of alternatives to WebEx like Adobe Connect, Google Hangouts and others. My own preference for online meetings is Adobe Connect and here’s why I think it’s better than WebEx.
1) A persistent environment
When a WebEx meeting is done it’s gone. You can’t go back to your meeting room if you forgot to copy the Chat text and retrieve that data.
With Connect the meeting room and everything in it persists, even between sessions. Yes, that means you can reuse a Connect meeting room… as many times as you like. If you did something in your Connect meeting room this morning, like chat, whiteboarding, taking notes or polling your participants, you can open that same meeting room tomorrow and all that data will still be there.
In WebEx, content, like slide presentations, has to be located and uploaded for each meeting.
With Connect, since I can have multiple sessions in my meeting room I can upload my content and it stays right where I put it, even if I close the meeting room and start a new session later in that same room. That means I can prepare my meeting room ahead of time, get the content uploaded, layouts created and pods arranged and when it’s time for my meeting it’s all there just like I left it. Then I can use that same room next time I want to have the same type of meeting, all of my content is already there, ready for me to use.
2) More flexibility
WebEx lets me share a Slide Presentation OR an Image OR a document OR a whiteboard OR my screen.
Connect lets me share a slide presentation AND an image AND a document AND a whiteboard AND even my screen all at the same time.
I can also move and resize any pod in the Connect meeting room to customize the environment just the way I want it.
When I tried WebEx I didn’t see any customization options. In fact, a typical way to join a WebEx meeting is to go to the WebEx site to log in. Where is my organization in all of this?
With Adobe Connect you can customize the login page. It still says Adobe Connect in relatively small print but it can also put your organization’s identity front and center with a large presence on that screen. Just look at this example.
Adobe Connect Login
You can customize your Connect account url. Typically it’s something like yourcompany.adobeconnect.com, and you can customize the url for each meeting room you create, an example would be yourcompany.adobeconnect.com/dave. So you get your company name in the url and you can make the final portion of the url (the part that identifies your meeting room) something really easy to remember and type in.
Forget about the url for a WebEx room, it’s just too long and convoluted to contemplate asking attendees to type in. Don’t believe me? Here’s an example: https://meetings.webex.com/collabs/meetings/join?uuid=M7QLK9SZ25M8PYKT4QKF1RGT7J-1E9H
In Connect you can also use a custom background image in your meeting room to give it a unique appearance that reflects your organization’s identity. You won’t get this kind of custom branding for your WebEx meeting environment.
4) More attendees and more Presenters and Hosts
WebEx allows you to have 25 attendees in your meeting. You can have 1 Host and 1 Presenter.
A Connect Enterprise account will allow 100 attendees and all of them can be Hosts or Presenters if you want them to be. This means that you can have other people help you with your Hosting and Presenting duties. There are a lot of ways for other Hosts and Presenters to help you too. A second Host can be secretly preparing content for the presentation, assigning students to Breakout Rooms, and prepping poll questions, even while the meeting is going on. Additional Presenters can help you answer Q&A questions.
In WebEx there is no mechanism for displaying simple instructions or other information to your attendees. The best you can do is to type instructions into the Chat panel and, as other posts are made your instructions scroll off the page and are no longer visible.
In Connect you can use Note pods for instructions, information, reminders, meeting minutes and whatever else you can think of. It may seem like a very simple thing but Note pods are a very useful tool for getting the right information to your attendees.
WebEx has a Chat panel but nothing dedicated to attendee questions. When legitimate questions and other comments share the same space it’s hard to find those questions you really need to address among the chaff of OMGs and LOLs.
In Connect the Q&A pod lets you have more control of participant comments. This is separate and distinct from the Chat pod. It allows Participants to ask questions but their questions are not visible to the rest of the audience unless a Host or Presenter responds to them. This avoids things like negative comments, tom-foolery and so forth from detracting from your presentation.
7) Breakout rooms
Breakout Rooms do not exist in the WebEx offering.
In Adobe Connect Breakout Rooms can be used for training sessions. Have your students break out into smaller groups to do exercises, brainstorming and so forth and bring their work right back into the main meeting room to show it to everyone.
Adobe Connect has Layouts. Layouts let you preconfigure combinations of pods and show them with a click of a button. That even includes the content that was added to those pods. And you can add as many custom Layouts as you like.
WebEx has nothing like Layouts.
9) The Presenter Only Area
The Presenter Only Area is where Presenters and Hosts can collaborate privately, stage content for bringing it into the meeting, store resource information like links, email addresses, phone numbers, etc., all available to show to the participants at a moment’s notice.
Nothing like this exists in WebEx.
10) More control
Webex lets all participants share webcam video (as long as you are one of the first 6 to start your webcam), the Host has no say about who can share their video. Also when the presenter is sharing content any participant can start marking up that content with whiteboard tools.
Connect lets the Host decide who can share their webcam, who can use whiteboard tools, who can broadcast audio with their computer microphone. I think this type of control is absolutely necessary in any meeting larger than a handful of friends having fun on the internet.
So those are my reasons for why Adobe Connect is better. I’ll even throw in a bonus reason. The Adobe Connect Mobile app for iOS and Android tablets and smartphones event lets you Present from your mobile device. Share slide presentations, videos, pdf documents, your webcam and audio from wherever you are.WebEx doesn’t even come close to the functionality offered by Adobe Connect.