What is the difference between Virtual Meetings and Webinars?

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start up business people group attending videoconference call with senior investitior at modern office

Following the global pandemic, the uptake of video conferencing software has surged in recent months. Many companies are coming to rely upon such software as a means to manage teams and connect with clients. However, due to the speed of change, those new to the service are unfamiliar with the surrounding jargon. Of particular note, is the difference between virtual meetings and webinars, with the terms either being used incorrectly or interchangeably. 

In this article, we seek to clarify the difference and explain when best to use either one.

Virtual meetings and Webinars: What’s the difference?

A virtual meeting is simply put, a meeting in the virtual realm. Instead of sitting in conference room B, attendees join a virtual space hosted by a video conferencing platform. In terms of functionality, the meetings are run similarly, with each participant being able to speak and share their ideas.

In contrast, a webinar is the virtual equivalent of a workshop, training session or seminar – hence the name—either a single speaker or several present to a broad audience ranging from tens to hundreds. Attendees cannot speak over their hosts. Instead, the webinar is more of a one-way system, similar to a public speaking event

When to use a virtual meeting?

Virtual meetings are ideal for small-scale collaboration. As with all conferences, the larger they become, the more unruly there are to manage. Virtual meetings work best when a group, up to around 25 people, uses the meeting to discuss ideas, report progress, and plan ahead. 

As such, virtual meetings often have access to a range of services to facilitate the meeting. Screen sharing allows participants to demonstrate their work. Virtual whiteboards enable the teaching of complex ideas. Participants can even hide their home backdrop, replacing it with a professional office or conference room. To discover how to choose a virtual background for video conferencing, head over to Hello Backgrounds. They have a range of different HD photos and videos from which to choose. For meetings with a client, teams can even select the same backdrop to create a professional and unifying theme. 

Additionally, for participants who find themselves unable to attend – or for future reference – virtual meetings can be recorded, ensuring greater transparency. 

When to use a webinar?

If virtual meetings are for small-scale collaboration, then the webinar is the service for speaking to the crowd. Most software packages allow hosts to talk to 500 people or even more, a perfect format for presenting a new product to customers or for giving a company-wide update on business performance. Hosts will be able to share their expertise and knowledge without any geographical limitations: their message goes out to the world.

However, despite concerns that such a format dissuades attendees from interacting with the speakers, there are numerous features to boost interactivity, in ways not possible even in the real-world.

Polls and surveys can be conducted rapidly, enabling speakers to gather information and feedback in real-time. Under careful moderation, questions can be selected from the audience and answered by the speakers to clear up any confusion or misunderstandings. Additionally, where once attendance was restricted by geographical factors, today, any interested parties can join a webinar. Social media provides a key advertising platform to allow as many people as possible to participate in the conversation. Whereas with a virtual meeting, the number of attendees presents an issue, with a webinar: the more, the merrier. 

Whatever the event you are planning, with video conferencing software, the possibilities are endless.