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What’s the difference between a webinar and a virtual event?

Webinars, virtual events? What’s the difference?

If you read our previous blog on ‘What is a virtual event?‘, you might remember we promised to explain the difference between a webinar and a virtual event.

A common misconception is that the two are just the same thing only a virtual event makes it sound bigger and better. So let’s break it down.

What is a webinar?

Webinars started life in the late 90s as simple web-based seminars or lectures. Often designed for smaller groups for internal meetings, training sessions or as they are used for these days, client collaboration. They usually include options such as Q&A, polls, whiteboard and markup abilities.

The reason webinars were ‘unique’ initially is that they were live rather than recorded and allowed two-way communication with functionality such as sharing of computer desktops applications, PowerPoint slides, chat and polling to create interactivity and get audience feedback.

Webinars have become a superior part of the 21st Century marketing mix with the ability to deliver content to a dispersed audience efficiently.

We also hear about webcasts –  are they different to webinars?

A webcast basically is one-way communication typically for much larger audience numbers with little or no audience participation.  These are usually broadcast utilising a professional AV team streaming live from a venue with multiple cameras to broadcast an event to a virtual audience whether it be a conference, product launch or other large events.

So how is a webinar different to a virtual event?

Now, a virtual event may well include a webinar or multiple webinars, but they are so much more than a single standalone session.

A virtual event is so powerful as it usually combines elements of other online event tools that are included to recreate many of the recognisable features of a physical event.

No two events are the same but, in a standard Ivent virtual event, users will have multiple different options in terms of what they want to participate in, how they want to engage and where they want to go.

They can attend live seminars, participate in a discussion in a networking area, live chat one to one with other event visitors, visit an event booth and meet with its representatives, join in on a webinar or even be invited to a first stage job interview in a video room.

Typically our virtual events will have a programme of webinars, which makes up just a part of the overall event experience.

Webinars are excellent as a marketing or information delivery tool but they aren’t events in the classic sense of what we know as an event. Trade Shows, Exhibitions, Careers Fairs, product launches and multi-dimensional conferences (networking areas, breakouts and multiple presentations) that are delivered online are not webinars.

Any good virtual event platform will also contain a host of features designed to help manage delegates such as interactive agendas, event news feeds, meeting slot capabilities for booth reps and delegates to meet, information stands, ticker tape announcements and a real-time attendance list.

Webinars are here to stay, they are an important part of the mix but organisations are wanting more than just a presentation – they want engagement, they want delegates to be able to host meetings with each other and they want all of the best parts of a physical event represented online.

More about creating engaging virtual events coming shortly in a new blog.

With over 25 years working in the events industry, Gavin spotted a gap in the market for virtual events and created ivent in 2010. Highly motivated and spurred on by virtual event successes – including launching a client’s product to 60 countries simultaneously – Gavin is an inspiring, down to earth leader with great ideas. If you call him, he’ll happily share his favourite digital events’ highlights…

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