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Online seminars show 'em what you've got.
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This story appears in the October 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Is it easier to sell your product or service when people see in person how it works? Well, don't pack your bags for another sales meeting just yet. Have you considered hosting interactive conferences without even leaving your office?

As many entrepreneurs have found, Web seminars--aka "webinars"--can be used to explain your business and close sales. And according to David Alexander, an industry manager with San Antonio consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, the trend is taking off: "The world Web conferencing market is expected to grow approximately 33 percent annually through 2009."

Imagine leading a Web-based presentation while talking to prospects on the phone. You could walk them through a software demonstration. Or you might work on an application with people anywhere in the world.

As long as basic computer system requirements are met, you and your audience can download a plug-in that lets attendees view shared computers. As the host, you can give a presentation or let participants interact with the applications on your machine. Attendees can enjoy the show-but they see only the information you select.

Lead generation is one application that's fueling webinar usage by businesses both big and small. "Small businesses are faster in adopting technology," says Jeffrey Koll, sales manager for San Jose, California-based WebEx Communications Inc., which provides real-time communications infrastructure for business meetings. "Web conferencing makes them appear larger and allows them to effectively compete with larger companies and efficiently sell to more people."

Online ad spending is projected to increase

in 2003.
SOURCE: eMarketer

With more than 64 percent of the Web conferencing market share, according to a 2002 Frost & Sullivan study, WebEx Communications offers three services that help growing companies: Presentation Studio, WebEx Event Center and WebEx Meeting Center. The first lets users create presentations, the second supports auditorium-style presentations for 25 to 2,500 attendees, and the third specializes in highly interactive meetings. Subscriptions cost about $100 per month per port. (A port is an open channel of communication. So if you host a session with two people on their own computers, then three ports are open because you're also using a port.)

Genesys, PlaceWare and Raindance also offer Web conferencing services. So do AT&T and Verizon. Ask about a free trial or a pay-per-use option so you can test-drive the technology.

Wondering how to structure your first webinar? According to Koll, the majority of their 7,500 clients deliver 60-minute presentations, which include a demo and Q-and-A time.

Although most companies use webinars to make sales presentations, you could also market a fee-based webinar. Why not offer training (for a fee) and then pitch your business? If your tools improve participants' results, they'll buy from you. And if you're lucky enough to run a homebased business, you can deliver a sales presentation or training in your slippers.

Speaker and freelance writer Catherine Seda owns an Internet marketing agency and is author of Search Engine Advertising.

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