Virtual Meetings and Webinars: What’s the Difference?

For the millions of new users joining the online virtual conferencing community, it can be a daunting task learning the new lingo: chat parties, waiting rooms, screen sharing, webcasts, remote access, and many more.

Virtual Meetings and Webinars: What’s the Difference?


Virtual meetings


One of the key points of confusion regards the difference between virtual meetings and webinars, with many mistakenly conflating the two or misusing the terms. Well, despite their similarities, there is a difference, and it can be crucial. Read on to discover more.

What’s the Difference?

A virtual meeting is an online video conference, in which multiple participants join a shared virtual space. They can interact with one another, conversing as if they were participants in a real-life meeting: albeit separated by hundreds if not thousands of miles.

During these meetings, participants can enjoy the full range of features available from the latest video conferencing software. These include screen sharing, virtual whiteboards, meeting recordings, to name but a few of the features.

In a webinar, unless you are the person hosting, you don’t have the same features as participants in a meeting. Instead, a webinar functions less like a meeting and more like a workshop or seminar (hence the name web-inar).

In a webinar, a few speakers give a presentation to a large number of people. The audience can ask questions and interact in other methods, but they cannot share their screen or talk over the lead speaker.

When to Use a Virtual Meeting?

As a general rule, virtual meetings are for a few, webinars for many. Virtual meetings work best when there are fewer than 25 people. Any larger and the session can devolve into a mess, as everyone talks over each other. Virtual meetings are a time for collaboration, discussion, and answering questions.

If you need to speak to a client or discuss a project with your team, then use a virtual meeting. It will give everyone a chance to speak.

In these meetings, each of the participants appears via their webcams, and are each given equal prominence. As such, many choose to employ a virtual background to hide their home and present a professional image.

Head over to Hello Backgrounds, for an explanation of how to choose Zoom virtual backgrounds. They have over a hundred different HD images and videos to employ as your new backdrop.

Additionally, the range of features open to attendees enables collaboration. With screen sharing, participants can explain a new product to a client or talk through their work with a colleague.

Whereas, with a virtual whiteboard, complex topics can be displayed, making it suitable for bosses explaining to their employees, or even teachers with their students.

As such, think of a virtual meeting as, well, a meeting. It is a chance to meet people. If the purpose is primarily to give a presentation, then consider a webinar.

When to Use a Webinar?

For many video conferencing packages, webinars can involve up to 500 people. They’re a fantastic way for guest speakers to give a presentation or for a company to explain their product to a range of new customers. They’re a chance to share expertise and learning, making them a perfect vehicle for a companywide update or training seminar.

A webinar gives the host a level of control not found in virtual meetings: they allow them to set the agenda. However, as a result, many worry their audience won’t be able to provide feedback, to interact. They shouldn’t worry. The latest video conferencing software often comes with a range of fantastic features to help boost interactivity.

Polls and surveys enable a host to dip their toe in the mood of the room, providing answers to questions or feedback on where the webinar should go next. Audiences are left feeling engaged without the host being subject to a barrage of questions.

Speaking of which, Q&A sessions are also possible, with a moderator selecting questions from the audience, to which answers can be provided in real-time. Plus, with the ability to share webinars on social media, more people than ever can connect with your ideas or brand.

There you have it. Virtual meetings are for tight-knit collaboration, allowing ideas to be brainstormed and objectives to be developed. Webinars are for the big picture, taking the place of conferences and seminars, by enabling a host speaker to present to a broad audience. The only question left is, which one are you planning next?

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