The new world of video conferencing online can be a daunting one for those used to comfortable offices where your friendly, local IT team takes care of all your tech needs. However, with a little research, anyone can easily become well versed in this new way of working and one of the most common questions we have seen recently is what the difference between a webinar and a virtual meeting is. To help get you on your way to better understanding the online world, this article aims to clear up any confusion surrounding the two similar but distinctly different services.
The difference itself
The difference is actually rather simple and can be found simply in the names. An online virtual meeting is a video conference call where multiple people can participate in a discussion that takes place in an online chatroom. They can all interact with each other and are free to talk whenever just like in a regular face to face meeting. There are also several useful tools available for online meetings that we will cover below.
On the other hand, unless you are the host or an authorized speaker in a webinar, you will have little to no input on what is being presented or discussed. It functions just like, you guessed it, a seminar and while there are some tools available to allow audience participation, for the most part, it will be a set number of speakers talking either by themselves or between them. The main difference is that during a webinar regardless of any audience participation tools being used unless you are an approved speaker you will be unable to share your video or voice on the broadcast.
When to use a webinar
A webinar, just like regular seminars, is a great way to present something to a large group of people. The only difference between the two being that webinars are not restricted by a geographical location or a set number of seats in a building. Most webinar services allow at least 500 viewers with the higher-end options going well above than into the tens of thousands. This gives them advantages over their offline counterparts as it allows speakers to reach a far larger audience.
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Webinars also give the hosts control over the audience, we have already mentioned how audience members cannot share their audio or video, but there are plenty of other ways that speakers can interact with their viewers. Things like polls, surveys, and a live text chat allow for easy and efficient ways to get the audience’s opinion on a topic, or even ask questions to the speaker themselves without the risk of being interrupted or heckled. In short, these tools allow hosts and speakers to maintain a level of audience interaction that helps the viewers feel engaged, without the risk of being flooded with interruptions or questions.
When to use a virtual meeting
Virtual meetings are different from webinars as they are designed to host groups of only around 20 people, any more, and just like in a face to face meeting, it is likely to devolve into chaos with people constantly talking over one another.
Virtual meetings are the perfect online format for teams to collaborate and discuss different topics without having to physically be in the same room. One of the biggest differences between these virtual meetings and webinars is that every attending person can share their camera and voice. Because of this, many people have started to use virtual backgrounds to find the best home background for the meeting to either hide distractions happening behind them or to simply keep an untidy workplace away from prying eyes.
As we mentioned before, there are plenty of tools available to help members in virtual meetings share information, for example, screen sharing can be used to quickly and efficiently share either your entire screen or a single program on your computer with anyone you choose. Virtual whiteboards are another great tool that functions just like real whiteboards, allowing authorized members of the meeting to write on them making them ideal for brainstorming and discussing different ideas.
While both virtual meetings and webinars do similar things, they actually provide very different services that can be used to your advantage. Virtual meetings are a great way to meet with clients or co-workers, while webinars can be used to give company-wide announcements or present new products to audiences around the world.