Web conferences are a great way to hold sales meetings or new product launches.

Photographer: Ron Chapple Studios | Agency: Dreamstime

Whether you need to launch a new product, run a meeting with participants in multiple locations, or provide training to off-site employees, hosting a Web conference may be the best solution.

As companies have grown and spread around across the country and around the world, they've seen an increasing need to connect staff in various locations for interactive meetings or training sessions -- and to comm­unicate outside the company with far-flung stakeholders, customers and vendors.

Web conferencing can bring people together in the same efficient way that a conference call does. However, hosting Web conferences makes a broad range of communication options available beyond just speech. These can include multimedia, such as slides, video and interactive features, such as immediate response to online polls, screen sharing and live question-and-answer sessions. Knowing how to host a Web conference can help a company operate more efficiently and save money.

A Web conference is a virtual meeting at which people in different places exchange information in real time over the Internet or a company intranet. This may take form of a boardroom meeting transported online.

It also may be an interactive seminar or presentation distributed online and called a Webinar, or Web seminar. The material presented in either of these two ways can be recorded and provided later to a wider audience in the form of a Webcast.

While a company can buy the equipment and software and train staff to run Web conferences in-house, a less expensive option may be to use the services of a Web conference hosting company. These companies can provide everything from off-site servers to meeting planning.

In this article, we'll take a closer look at how you can host a Web conference -- from the technology needed to the steps in putting an actual conference together. We'll also consider the hosted conference solutions that can make this easier. And you'll also learn more about security standards, options for solo entrepreneurs and some of the newest technology available. Let's look first at why you should consider hosting a Web conference.