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What Is The Difference Between Webinar And Web Conferencing Software?

Harry Lees
February 19, 2021

What Is The Difference Between Webinar And Web Conferencing Software?

Web Conferencing and Webinar software are both extremely useful tools for distance communication and collaboration. Here, we will outline the difference between the two. This will help you understand when to use each, and how to get the best out of your software.

Web conferences are usually collaborative online meetings with colleagues and other key stakeholders in a shared project. This can often include people outside of the organization you are in. Multiple people on the video call are contributing. 

Webinars are typically experienced with you sitting at your desk, having a snack, watching someone more knowledgeable on a subject teach you something. You might ask them a question or two, and your main task is absorbing new information. Or, perhaps you are the educator, delivering your expertise to enraptured onlookers.

The Differences Between Webinar and Web Conferencing

There is a simple question to highlight the difference in the use cases for these two categories: are attendees participants or viewers? Web conferences have participants. Webinars have viewers (and presenters).

Participants are active, engaged meeting attendees. They share thoughts and opinions in real-time. This may mean sharing their screen, writing on e-whiteboards, or uploading content.

Viewers are more passive. They may take notes, but the viewers’ role is learning and observation. There may be an active Q&A session.

 Web ConferencingWebinar
Audience RoleParticipantsViewers with Questions
Interaction PotentialHighLow
Audience Size2-5050-1,000
UsesDigital meeting space, collaboration, teamworkEducational, training, interactive seminars
Notable VendorsZoom, UberConference, Cisco Webex, GoToMeetingZoom Webinar, BlueJeans Events, ON24, GoToWebinar

Web Conferencing Versus Webinar Features and Uses

Overview and Use Case

Web conferencing is made for you to have active meetings. In 2020, this became more relevant, as thousands of businesses needed remote collaboration. You can regularly host hands-on meetings, no matter the place in the world. Think of this as a conference room accessible from anywhere.

Web conferencing software is best if you want to be able to have everyone in your organization be active participants in an online meeting. It’s a great option for international businesses with employees all over the world who regularly host all-hands meetings. 

Enterprises will be in the business of hosting large online meetings on a regular basis as working from home becomes more popular amongst workforces. Small businesses will need more ad-hoc meetings of smaller sizes for remote employees, clients, and suppliers. Leading web and video conferencing software has you covered for meetings big and small.

For webinars, you can use them for online training initiatives, to improve the experience of those learning. This software is also great for sales and marketing departments to host information sessions on new and emerging product offerings to interested buyers. With the impact of COVID-19, these features are in new demand and extremely useful. Think of this as a university lecture hall.

User Numbers and Accessibility

One big difference between the two is accessibility. This comes to play in how many users web conferences and webinars allow, how they can join, and what they need to do.

For webinar software, viewers will often need only a link to join. They often have a distinction between interactive users and viewers. Often, they will allow 100 users interactivity, but allow thousands of view-only attendees. In the event you must register, it’s usually so the host can contact you later.

Web Conferencing does not usually have this distinction. Getting up to the thousands of participants will cost you more than for webinar software, as you pay for the interactivity with every user. Video conferencing also often require registration of some form. This is done for security, and so you can access your account later. This often includes a name and password, to be more restrictive of those who can join.

Another difference is in the user experience. For most web conferencing software, if you are using it regularly, there will be a client that a user must download. Webinar participants are usually sent links they can simply follow to join the webcast. These are usually in the form of email invitations. 

Both options also have audio-only and dial-in options for users on the go, or who do not have internet.

In-Session Features

During a virtual meeting, a web conferencing platform offers far more features than webinar. There are often screen-share capabilities, chat functionality, file sharing, and even digital whiteboards. These are great tools to workshop ideas with a remote team or perform other collaboration-based activities.

Webinar offers largely one-way communication, with limited audience interaction. Unlike a webcast, which is simply a stream, there is some interactivity. Often there is space for a Q&A session, and sometimes polls, to measure the response of your remote training. Organizers can also track the attendance of audience members if they are registered. 

Webinar and Web Conferencing in one

Many of the vendors who offer one of these capabilities offer the other in a similar form. In some cases, they combine the two in one platform. If you are looking for some features of each, check out these four online video solutions that cover both web conferencing and webinars.

About the Author

Harry Lees
I am a proud University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, with a Comprehensive Honors degree in Political Science and Journalism. Go Badgers! A dual-citizen with the U.S and U.K, in my free time I support Liverpool Football Club, obsessively follow politics and do extremely nerdy things with my friends.

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