Is Zipcast the Future of Online Meetings?

social media toolsIt sounds like a dating site when you read the tagline: “Zipcast is the way to meet online.”

But don’t be fooled—this new feature from SlideShare is more than just fake profiles and spambots (to be accurate, it’s zero parts fake profiles or spambots).

Zipcast wants to be the new way people hold meetings online, and it might have a shot.

zipcast

Zipcast is so simple that this is the only picture of it… seriously.

The Skinny (also read: the Lowdown)

Zipcast’s idea is pretty simple. People usually make presentations through PowerPoint. SlideShare hosts millions of PowerPoints, but wouldn’t it be cool if you could take someone through your presentation and make your point to them in real time?

Yes. That would definitely be cool.

In that sense, Zipcast has cut away all of the barriers to making a presentation to a number of people online; immediately positioning itself against entrenched rivals such as GoToMeeting and Webex. But does it hold up to further scrutiny? Let’s find out.

Why You Should Be Convinced

Zipcast has a few nice positives, including download-free meetings, easy-to-integrate video and social components to grab anybody in your network who may want to hear your presentation. Let’s analyze them all.

Download-Free Meetings

Both of Zipcast’s competitors are downloadable options. This means that you have to run a program that will give you the benefit of having an online meeting. Not the case here.

Zipcast boasts the ability to host a meeting in less than 30 seconds, and it doesn’t disappoint. I was in my test meeting so quickly that I didn’t realize what had happened. Compare this to GoToMeeting, where you definitely need a couple of minutes to set up, and you may fall in love instantly.

zipcast social broadcast

Start your Zipcast in less than 30 seconds.

Also, you don’t have to worry about any hovering windows, for those who have run meetings on other platforms. Because Zipcast is hosted completely within your browser, the screen will lay itself out perfectly so you can chat, invite friends and see any interaction that your users have with the platform in real time, and without missing a beat.

mari smith's zipcast

Here Mari Smith used Zipcast for a webinar.

Simple, Integrated Video

Video is the future of the web, right? Well, Zipcast didn’t skip out on adding video. With one (maybe two if you have to allow your camera to run) click of the mouse you can watch yourself give your presentation, which sounds narcissistic, until you realize that everyone gets the same view on Zipcast, so you actually see what your audience sees.

Very Social

Zipcast seems to be latching onto the “meeting on the fly” idea, so adding social components can be a great way to pull a few people together quickly from your network. Zipcast even has the option to post your chats on your Facebook page, giving you the opportunity to grow your meeting even faster through viral-ness (yes, I made that word up).

All that being said, let’s not give it the gold star award just yet—there are some issues with the platform too.

Why You Should Run (While You Still Can)

SlideShare doesn’t hide the fact that Zipcast is in beta, but so is Quora and that didn’t stop people from bashing it. Even in beta, there are some pretty interesting holes in the platform, so let’s dig deeper and check them out.

Can’t Record Your Meeting

If you’re like me, sometimes you’re just “on.” Everything you say is awesome, and every shot you take is a score. Zipcast gives no option to catch yourself in your moment of “meeting Zen” by making all Zipcasts live. In short, Zipcast is the coach you can never impress. The only response you’ll get is, “Do it again!”

For those of us who would like to automate our businesses, this kinda sucks. I’d love to create a training course for our new hires and send them to our SlideShare channel, but I’d have to host every meeting live, which is a huge time-waster. This omission hurts Zipcast big time.

Can’t Schedule Meetings

If you’re going to call it a “meeting,” you have to abide by the rules of a meeting. One of these rules is clearly that you need a start time. Not the case with Zipcast. All Zipcasts are impromptu, or scheduled through a system off of the SlideShare platform. While this can be cool for those who don’t want to schedule on multiple platforms, a widget that allowed you to put a few email addresses in and send a message with a unique time doesn’t seem like too much to ask for.

No Registration or E-Commerce Options

There are two different problems here—one is a Zipcast issue and the other is an industry-wide issue with meeting platforms.

First, as a marketer, if I’m looking to Zipcast as an alternative to a webinar or teleseminar, I’m already irritated that I can’t record or schedule my meeting. I can’t describe what emotion comes next, but you’ll feel it the moment you realize that no-one can register to attend your Zipcast.

Think about that. You made a great PowerPoint presentation and would like to present it. Unfortunately your only option is to corral whoever happens to be on the Internet at that particular time. Sure, you can handle your own scheduling, but it’s a huge blow to those who are using other options currently on the market.

There is zero reason to leave Webex or GoToMeeting in favor of Zipcast, and that’s sad, because its simple interface and quick-start meetings felt like a promise of something better.

zipcast meetings

I just realized that neither organized nor professional appears on this advertisement.

The second issue is that NONE of the giants allow you to charge for your meetings. Allowing a pay wall to be built around excellent content would be a boon for not only the marketers who use it, but an eBay-esque (still making words up as I go) win for the platform with the moxie to pull it off. A simple 3-5% fee on all registrations would be a huge untapped opportunity for anyone whose platform took the chance. Unfortunately, no-one in the industry wants to make that leap.

Don’t Just Take My Word for It

I’m not the only social industry person playing around with Zipcast. (If I were, that would be depressing.) Here’s a quick review from Mari Smith on her experience:

“SlideShare.net has done an awesome job with their super-easy-to-use webcasting system. I recently led a very large webinar and considered many platforms that could hold the volume before selecting Zipcast shortly after it launched. The webcam stream was crisp and the clean interface is very attractive. I love how you can see who is logged in via SlideShare or Facebook. I got 2,000 participants on my first Zipcast and the only downside was the audio capacity started to waver. Several folks could see me but not hear me.

However, SlideShare was very accommodating and said they can increase the audio capacity in the future. I would highly recommend Zipcast for a really easy way to do on-demand webinars—the added personal touch of the live webcam stream rocks!

ALSO, I should mention that my 2,000-person Zipcast really caught the attention of all the executives at SlideShare—they were tweeting about it and the director of marketing (@Ross on Twitter) came into the webinar and contacted me by email after. They ended up featuring me in the next SlideShare eZine!”

Final Judgment

At the end of the day, Zipcast is less of a competitor to “planned” meeting giants Webex and GoToMeeting and more of the online version of standing on a street corner to give a sermon at the top of your lungs. As you attract passers-by, they can alert their friends to come and see this awesome (or awful) display of talent.

How in the world can I use this for my business?

Actually, there are a few really cool things you can do with this tool. The first thing that comes to my mind is to use this in conjunction with a Twitter Chat. After an hour of giving great info on something like #BlogChat, you can invite the gang over to a Zipcast that goes into detail about some of the topics you went over in the chat. And with the ability to share links in the chat, you can even close deals directly on Zipcast.

I have hope for Zipcast in a way that I never could for Quora. There are issues with it, but there are also huge flaws in its competitors that it has already improved upon. By adding some of the standard features that the “big boys” use, Zipcast can go from beta to big brother in a relatively short time.

Have you ever run an online meeting? If so, which provider do you use? Would you ever consider using Zipcast for your meetings? Leave your comments in the box below.

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About the Author, Elijah Young

Elijah R. Young is the lead strategist and owner of Social Talk Live. He's also a business strategist who helps existing and new companies promote and grow their business. Other posts by »




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  • http://ideagirlmedia.com/ Keri at Idea Girl Media

    Elijah,

    I actually attended the session that Mari mentions, and I really liked how Zipcast worked.

    I like that you can make information available while accepting questions and stream video with very little effort. I’ve fiddled around with it a little, and plan to use it for a training coming up.

    Sure, there will be holes with anything fresh and new. But I see more positive than negative, and lots of potential!

    Thanks for the Twitter Chat integration idea!! :)

    ~Keri

  • http://ideagirlmedia.com/ Keri at Idea Girl Media

    Elijah,

    I actually attended the session that Mari mentions, and I really liked how Zipcast worked.

    I like that you can make information available while accepting questions and stream video with very little effort. I’ve fiddled around with it a little, and plan to use it for a training coming up.

    Sure, there will be holes with anything fresh and new. But I see more positive than negative, and lots of potential!

    Thanks for the Twitter Chat integration idea!! :)

    ~Keri

  • http://frankjkenny.com/ Frank J. Kenny

    Good write up Elijah. I am looking for exactly the things you mention in your post.

    I will test it out for time to time use but it doesn’t sound like I will be dropping my GoToWebinar account soon.

    Frank

  • http://frankjkenny.com/ Frank J. Kenny

    Good write up Elijah. I am looking for exactly the things you mention in your post.

    I will test it out for time to time use but it doesn’t sound like I will be dropping my GoToWebinar account soon.

    Frank

  • Rbruce

    Does it offer any screen share capability? We typically start with a slide presentation and then go into a live software demonstration.

  • Rbruce

    Does it offer any screen share capability? We typically start with a slide presentation and then go into a live software demonstration.

  • http://BeckyCortino.me/ Becky Cortino

    Great informational, post Elijah. It’s great there are so many options for all the types of ‘meetings,’ sessions and presentations offered 24-7, isn’t it? Depending upon my event, recording is important. I look forward to the e-commerce options, with the ability to easily schedule it ahead, and promote my session.

  • http://BeckyCortino.me/ Becky Cortino

    Great informational, post Elijah. It’s great there are so many options for all the types of ‘meetings,’ sessions and presentations offered 24-7, isn’t it? Depending upon my event, recording is important. I look forward to the e-commerce options, with the ability to easily schedule it ahead, and promote my session.

  • Rbruce

    BTW: Keep making up words! I may or may not ever use Zipcast, but eBay-esque is now in my permanent lexicon!

  • http://www.stephaniesammons.com/ Stephanie Sammons

    Elijah I’ve had high hopes for Zipcast as well and keep hearing buzz about them integrating these requested features. It is unclear as to why none of the major online meeting solutions do not have pay wall solutions. I know so many folks who are looking for this functionality. Thanks for the review. Excellent.

  • http://efanpage.com Sebastian

    Great review of “the future of online meetings”. For me the ease and accessibility of the new social media platform certainly outweighs the drawbacks. Understanding upfront the functionality of Zipcast is important. I understand this may not be ideal for important meetings but for brief, last minute conferences it may be a better option that other meeting platforms. What are your thoughts?

    Sebastian

  • https://sites.google.com/site/antoineloup/ antoineloup

    Anyone ever hear of Persony – we have used it for probably 4 years and have loved it, it has the features that a small business needs and at a price point that is unbelievable. I really wish I had time to write more, because it is a great product..

  • Andy M.

    A work around to record a meeting might be to use screen recording software, such as screenflow.

  • Tom Ehrich

    Thanks for a helpful review. Your comment about no scheduler: not sure I understand that. Based on what you’ve written, you could decide to hold a Zipcast event at 2:00pm on Friday and invite people to join you. It wouldn’t have the check-in capability of GoToWebinar, I gather. Good, therefore, for groups not expected to pay or for clients paying in another way. Not good, however, as a product behind an online pay wall.

  • http://twitter.com/mtnjim James Edward Fisher

    my thoughts exactly Andy! or Camtasia…

    Fuze Meeting is another new alternative to GoToWebinar that looks promising.

    Mtn Jim

  • http://www.bradleyericsmith.com Brad Smith

    Great review Elijah – thanks for fleshing everything out. The concerns you brought up are definitely an issue for more a more traditional “webinar” format – but I really love the social + impromptu aspects of Zipcast. Also, Jing would probably work well for the screen/audio recording and help get around that constraint.

  • http://blog.businessownerstoolbox.com/ Mike Van Horn

    Comments and questions, Elijah
    1. Can I run it from a Mac? If so, this gives it a huge benefit over GoToMeeting and Live Meeting.
    2. I see easy workarounds for some of the downsides you mention:
    — Pay wall and scheduling. I’ve led for-pay webinars on GTM. We did the scheduling, registration, payments, and after-sales using our website and webstore. This works for me because we’re talking about just 10 or 20 participants.
    3. Can you share your desktop, so that you can, say, demo a website or app?
    4. Recording the session. Are there not other services you can use to record a session A/V like this? Can they be used in conjunction?

    A group of us consultants have been having monthly virtual meetings (sometimes using WebEx). Maybe we’ll try this app.

    Thanks for the review!

  • http://www.extremejohn.com/ Extreme John

    Looks like we need to stick with our combo of Skype and CampFire for getting that job done until this keeps notes and adds a few more features. Once that’s a done deal it will without a doubt be one of the hotter online meeting spaces.

  • http://blog.fandura.com Elijah R. Young

    No problem, Twitter chats are fantastic!

  • http://blog.fandura.com Elijah R. Young

    I think that they may get there in time, but not today. I see promise though, I’m going to stay hopeful.

  • http://blog.fandura.com Elijah R. Young

    I didn’t see any screenshare options, just presentation + live video.

  • http://blog.fandura.com Elijah R. Young

    Glad to be a part of your vocabulary solution!

  • http://blog.fandura.com Elijah R. Young

    Well to be honest, I can see the huge liability for GoToMeeting to take payments for it’s members…but even a PayPal integration would be an improvement.

  • http://blog.fandura.com Elijah R. Young

    I think so too, I don’t have much need for “on the spot” meetings, but if you do, this is a great tool. Personally, I’d much rather record a perfect webinar and put it on replay, but to each his own…

  • http://blog.fandura.com Elijah R. Young

    yeah, there are tons of workarounds, but I try to judge a platform on what it gives you to work with natively. You can string together tons solutions and “make things work”, but I’m not a fan of that, and most users wont do it.

  • http://blog.fandura.com Elijah R. Young

    I meant that more for the purposes of registration. It’s nice to know who will be at your online event, even if it is impromptu.

  • http://blog.fandura.com Elijah R. Young

    Never heard of Jing, I’ll have to look that one up! Thanks Brad!

  • http://blog.fandura.com Elijah R. Young

    Mike,

    1. It runs form your browser, so it doesn’t matter what kind of computer you’re on
    2. Workarounds are cool, but native features would be better ;-)
    3. No sharing of the desktop as far as I could see.
    4. See #2. You can record with Camtasia, but it would be nice to just hit a button and go!

    Thanks for reading!

  • http://blog.fandura.com Elijah R. Young

    I think so too! Give it a year and check back in…

  • http://dinodogan.com/ Dino Dogan

    Ive been looking for something like this. Great find Elijah. Is it possible to obviate the presentation all together and just use video?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jonathan.boutelle Jonathan Boutelle

    Hi folks!

    Great thread. Here’s some info on our side.
    1) Recording meetings is on our roadmap and we’ve even built a working prototype during a hackday. So look for this in the next few months.

    2) We’re looking at registrations and realize that this is a pain point. Designing this to not be annoying is not easy. Workarounds exist, but we agree that registering on the site is pretty important. I could use help in understanding the requirements. Would a form on your zipcast page that let let you announce when your next webinar was, and let viewers enter an email address and register for your next webinar be enough? How to handle time zones? Etc. ‘d open to follow-up conversations if there’s more specific feedback: you can reach me at jon AT slideshare DOT com.

    3) Zipcasts without slides are something we’re considering.

    Thanks so much for all the comments, both positive and negative. It really helps us make the product better, and we really appreciate it. I

    Best,
    -Jon Boutelle
    CTO, SlideShare

  • sabinem

    Great write-up and analysis of pros and cons. I was just pitched by a company that had me go to a website called http://www.join.me and gave me an access code to enable access to see their screen. Then they walked me through the features of their service by navigating through their website.

    Although I had no interest in their service, I appreciated the insight into join.me! There is a free version as well as a pro version starting at $29/mo.

    Much cooler and interactive than the tired webinar platforms I’ve been attending!

    Regards,
    Sabine

  • http://blog.fandura.com Elijah R. Young

    This response just made me like the platform even more. Thanks for reading Jon.

    I think any registration option would put you in a fantastic position to be looked at as a viable option, even if you held off on recording. Simply letting broadcasters choose a meting time (and time zone) while linking to a zone converter is plenty.

    Then you can use Zipcasts as an email list building tool and an educational resource, double win.

    Elijah

  • http://www.bradleyericsmith.com Brad Smith

    There’s a free version – http://www.techsmith.com/jing/ – or you can upgrade for only like $15. I use it a lot for screenshots and screen video capture.

  • RLMacklin

    Interesting and good news to see that there are options opening up in steadily in this arena. With the demise of Dimdim I have been looking into using Fuze Meeting. Does anyone know of a good comparison between Fuze and Zipcast or Fuze and GoToMeeting.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephenwchenoweth Steve Chenoweth

    http://SocialQuotient.biz I’ve been keeping my eye’s peeled for alternatives to GoToWebinar. My experience with AnyMeeting.com has been good so far. Like DimDim, AnyMeeting requires no software load, and is a simple link-click for an attendee to join the webinar.

  • David Warren

    I’m very surprised that no mention was made of the TalkFusion Video System! Alexa has it ranked consistently over the past few months as the fastest growing Direct Sales system on the web, and for good reason. The ease of use, HD quality video, desk top share, and unlimited attendees make it the #1 video conference system out there now. TalkFusion gives you many reasons to leave Webex and Go To in the dust!

  • Rob

    useful article thanks, I reckon if we’re inventing new words, “Virality” rather than “viral-ness”, …don’t mix it with virility though :-)

  • http://www.best-web-hosting-companies.com/ Kavya Hari

    Looking forward :) Thank you so much for given up here :)

  • http://twitter.com/queensvoice Jennifer Darden

    Very interesting hearing what people have tried and the pros and cons! Thanks! The emarket engine I use offers scheduling, inviting, timezones, recording, screen desktop, video, and utube sharing.

    customized profiles, graphics, logo etc, chat, co-hosting with multiple presenters and unlimited attendees. you can insert live video feed into web template and other websites, power point and sharing of pictures and videos on the fly, adjusting connection speed during broadcast, annotations during presentation. The whole system is compatible with mac and pc.

    From what I understand paywall and registration is in the works also (can verify this on Monday) You can see for yourself here http://thequeensempire.info More on how I’m using it at http://thequeensbrandingtour.info Always enjoy the productivity of feedback from those who have test driven the different solutions in the webinar and online video platform space. Thanks!

    Jennifer

  • http://marismith.com/ Mari Smith

    Thanks for the mention, Elijah! You rock.

    I really loved my experience with Zipcast though I definitely inadvertently “stress-tested” their system. LOL! For the most part, the majority of the 2,000 simultaneous participants had a good quality experience. But after we maxed the audio, many peeps could see me but not hear me. I was also using a back-up conference line though (Instant Teleseminar) which includes a webcast so participants could open another browser for audio and not incur phone charges.

    I would use Zipcast again for sure, but for a smaller group. Maybe up to 1,000. The chat room goes insane with a large group tho!

    I’d love to have desktop sharing, but doubt they’ll add that as the system is designed to narrate slides on SlideShare! :)

    A feature to record and display archives of video recordings would be fabulous! Meantime, I used ScreenFlow for Mac to make my own recording and loaded to YouTube (my account can hold up to 2Gb and over one hour). Camtasia Studio by TechSmith is a good tool for PCs.

    I’d also like to see an iFrame embed so Zipcast could be broadcast right from within a Facebook fan page just like Vpype does. I’ve asked SlideShare for this feature.

    Meantime, stay tuned for Linqto – an awesome Facebook webinar app originally created for StanfordU. Though it’ll be a paid service (about $8/mo), they’ll be a fierce competitor for many of the big webinar companies!

  • http://www.socialbizlocalbiz.com Kate L Williams

    Elijah, Thanks for the detailed review. I think you brought up every reason I have to stick with GoToWebinar for now. I will experiment with Zipcast and hope that changes to the Beta will deliver the best meeting/webinar solution we hope for every time we schedule a new webinar series and look to see if there’s a “better way”. For me, the deal breaker is lack of screen sharing functionality. Our Q & A sessions at the end of webinars depend on it.

  • Rrosado

    Great post. I really like the tone and mood you gave for the information about Zipcast. Everyone loves a good chuckle and cheekiness when learning about social media tools :-)

  • drago kajtuzovic

    drago kajtuzovic – zipcast works fantastically !

  • http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/ Shilpi Roy – Virtual Assistant

    Great tips thanks for sharing. Thanks for the review.

  • http://socialmediadiyworkshop.com/ Charlene (@SocialMediaDIY)

    I’m actively looking for a webinar solution, so I’m thrilled to find your review of Zipcast. Thanks for the information. I’m going to give Zipcast a try.









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