What’s the Difference Between a Webinar and a Virtual Event?5 min read

two images side by side webinars versus virtual events
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Webinars aren’t new. And while you may not have heard about them much prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve been a part of business for nearly 30 years. Webinars had a very specific role in marketing, but lately, that role is getting a blurred by the rise of virtual events.

All webinars are virtual events, but not all virtual events are webinars. As technology progresses, virtual events are growing into much more than just a presentation-style digital conference we’re so used to with webinars.

Now we’re starting to see full in-person events redone completely online, with breakout rooms and different sessions.

That doesn’t mean webinars are going away, though. You will still see a ton of webinars used during virtual events, which blurs the line between the two.

That being said, here are the biggest differences between the two.

Webinar Definition and Virtual Event Definition

man sitting near window during sunset doing a webinar on his computer

Webinar

The word Webinar came from “Web-Based Seminar.” They are usually focused on learning and tend to be collaborative and interactive. Usually you have a host, who is joined by one or more presenters, to discuss a specific topic.

Webinars are usually very visual, using Powerpoint presentations, whiteboards, survey, and other tools to help educate the audience, and they are usually an hour long.

Most webinars also have a question and answer session at the end of the presentation. The questions are asked via live chat or through Twitter.

Virtual events

Virtual events go far beyond one component. They are all-encompassing and typically last for an entire day, or multiple days.

Conferences, product launches, large networking events, and any other in-person event can be a virtual event. They still focus around one main idea, but they branch out in multiple ways.

Now that we know what a webinar and a virtual event are, let’s take a look into the ways they differ.

Webinars are different than events

I know, I know…I just said webinars are virtual events. And they are, but they’re not a traditional event that we’re all used to. They are very narrow in scope, which is why people like using them for very specific purposes – think product training.

You’re bound to see plenty of webinars during a more traditional event, but the webinar itself isn’t the event.

Webinars are very specific

laptop and journal with pen to take notes from virtual event

Like we mentioned above, webinars are usually very narrow in scope. A webinar audience can be in the 100s, but because virtual events are more broad, they tend to have a much larger audience.

Most webinar attendees are there for one reason, and one reason only – to learn something specific. Virtual events are appealing to a larger crowd because their offerings are diverse and can include networking options, and niche training.

Telling your story is difficult with a webinar

While webinars are great for teaching, they aren’t so great for telling a story. Most webinars are just a speaker/presenter and slides or a whiteboard.

Virtual events allow you to go much further, and give you the chance to really showcase your brand.

Because there are so many components to a virtual event, it allows for more freedom and you can really tell your narrative the way you want to. This will give your attendees the full brand experience and show them everything you have to offer.

Webinars are more restrictive for your attendees

Think back to your days in school. When you were in middle school, you were stuck with whatever classes you were given. You didn’t have a choice. But with high school and college, you were able to choose classes based on your interests.

It works the same way with webinars and virtual events.

Webinars are one topic, and it’s a topic the presenter decides on.

Virtual events are more like college, where your attendees can look at a listing of all the different sessions, and choose the ones that interest them.

The engagement levels are different

laptop and iphone x with headphones ready for webinar

Attendee engagement is one of the most important factors to determine the success of your event.

Webinars don’t give attendees many options when it comes to engagement other than a Q&A session or polling.

Virtual events offer live questions, break-out sessions, and very unique concepts making it much easier for your attendees to immerse themselves in the event.

Final Thoughts

Webinars and virtual events have their place for a company. If you just need to provide training to a team, webinars are perfect. If you are looking for flexibility and a way to give your attendees an immersive experience, a virtual event is the way to go.

Deciding which option to go with really comes down to the needs and objectives of your company.

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