Difference Between Webinars and Online Meetings

difference between webinars and online meetings
With the sudden shift to using video conferencing tools for all sorts of communications from work meetings to stand up comedy events, it can be easy to get lost in the lingo. Millions of people across the globe have been using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Skype to keep in touch with colleagues, family, and friends during the socially fractured months since the spread of the coronavirus forced countries into states of lockdown and social distancing.

Two key formats stand out and could easily be confused without prior experience. The ‘webinar’ and ‘online meeting’ may share several common features, but there are few key distinctions to make. In its simplest form, a webinar is an online seminar. This might be an event with a single speaker, or a panel discussion with a moderator. Online meetings are just what they sound like and the difference between a webinar and an online meeting really comes down to the interaction between attendees.

Webinar interactions

In a webinar, the majority of attendees will be there as audience members. Video conferencing enables certain levels of interactivity that aren’t possible during live in-person events. These include utilising ‘chat’ features to encourage attendees to ask questions and share resources whilst the main presentation is going on. If using this feature, a moderator should be allocated to the chat to follow the conversation and pass on any recurring themes or interesting questions on to the host.

Webinars via video conferencing software such as Zoom enables hosts to bring in attendees to contribute to the conversation. Attendees could be encouraged, for example, to use the ‘raise hand’ feature to let the host(s) know that they have something to say. This person can then be given the virtual ‘floor’ to share their thoughts or ask their question.

Online meeting interactions

difference between online meetings and webinars
If you’re hosting an online meeting, the chances are you will want all attendees to contribute to the discussion. Again, features such as the ‘raise hand’ can be used for attendees to show they have something to say rather than people speaking at once. Screen sharing and virtual whiteboards are two useful features to shake up your online meetings and increase engagement and interactions. Make sure your screen sharing settings are set up to prevent you from inadvertently sharing private or personal information or communications. Using ‘do not disturb’ features or apps such as Muzzle can help with this.

Tips for both formats

Using the mute feature is recommended across webinars and online meetings to avoid people speaking over each other. For a webinar, the host should mute all attendees by default from the start of the call, and depending on the size of the meeting this may well be appropriate for online meetings too.

Using zoom virtual background images is another great way to engage attendees. Whether you want to protect your personal privacy or deliver your presentation from a tropical beach, try exploring the range of features to change the visual experience for webinar or meeting attendees.

Photos credit: gettyimages

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