Many people often confuse “webinars” and “online meetings” with “virtual events.” While each of these other online conferencing tools have their benefits, they are not the same as virtual events. Learn more about the differences between these different types of online meeting spaces – and how to tell which one is right for your organization’s needs.

Differences between Webinars, Online Meetings and Virtual Events

When you’re trying to convince decision makers at your organization to authorize spending for a virtual event, do you often find that there is confusion about what a “virtual event” really is? Many people think that virtual events are “webinars” or “online meetings.” While it’s true that virtual events contain some similar elements to webinars and online meetings, the full spectrum of what you can do with a virtual event goes beyond a simple webinar or online conference.

Webinars: Webinars are “web seminars” which usually allow mainly “one way” communication – like a lecture or seminar, which makes them ideal for training or educational purposes. Webinars tend to have limited visual/interactive features. A typical webinar is mostly a conference call plus a slideshow. Webinars might also include features such as live or streaming video, text chat, whiteboards, screen sharing or desktop sharing and polls or surveys with multiple choice questions to allow the facilitator to check the understanding of the audience and create engagement.

How is a webinar different from a virtual event?

Webinars do not offer the same level of rich content as a virtual event. It’s harder to track attendee participation or measure engagement on as many levels as a virtual event can. Webinars are often not able to sync or integrate with social media, so the content is often highly self-contained within the webinar, unable to have a “life of its own” after the meeting is over.

Online meetings: Offered by such services as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Cisco WebEx and GoToMeeting, these “online meeting” options offer many of the same features as webinars, but they have more of an emphasis on voice and video chat, enabling people to communicate and collaborate from remote locations. The difference between online meetings and webinars is that online meetings tend to be more interactive with more “two-way communication” and video conferencing. In an online meeting, all participants are more likely to be expected to participate via audio and video than in a webinar where often the only person speaking is the host/facilitator of the seminar. If a webinar is more like a college lecture hall, then an online meeting is more like a typical corporate meeting or brainstorming session, but the attendees do not have to be present in the same room at the same location.

How is an online meeting different from a virtual event?

Virtual events tend to offer a higher degree of interactive features and visually rich content compared to an online meeting. Another big difference is the scale and size of the audience that can be accommodated. The primary purpose of most online meeting software solutions is to bring together smaller groups of people for interpersonal communication and collaboration. With virtual events platforms, you can host much larger gatherings of people, numbering into the thousands.

What makes virtual events different from webinars and online meetings?

Virtual events are the next level of evolution in online interaction, building on some of the same types of features and tools that became popular with webinars and online meetings. The main difference is that virtual events are seeking to re-create many of the real-life effects and atmosphere of a large conference or trade show. Attendees can create their own detailed profiles and avatars, socialize and network online at virtual “exhibit halls” or online communities and integrate their activities at the virtual event with their existing online networks via social media like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Virtual events also give the hosts/organizers a much more detailed and insightful array of metrics and instant polling to track attendees’ interests, responses and emotional reactions to the virtual event content at every stage.

Another difference is that while webinars and online meetings tend to be created out of “one size fits all” software packages with certain set offerings of features, virtual events can be customized using virtual event platforms like Social27 Virtual Events Platform, where we utilize Microsoft Teams Live Events for live-streaming large events for up to 10,000 attendees. You can choose as few or as many “bells and whistles” as you need for your event and your virtual event platform provider can help you along the way to design, plan and market your virtual event for maximum impact

Host your own virtual event:
Interested in hosting your own virtual event? Social27 has been enabling organizations across all industries and sizes to host their own engaging virtual events since 2010.

The Social27 Virtual Events Platform brings the best of content streaming, networking with rich profiles, virtual sponsor pavilions, lead generation, gamification with points and badges, AI chatbot support and deep analytics powered by machine learning.