For many organizations, live virtual events are the lifeblood communication. They support internal operations, marketing, sales, brand awareness, and community building. Over 70 million workers are able to completely do their job remotely and that number is climbing, so it’s important to master communications from afar.
One important distinction to keep in mind when planning a virtual event is whether to host a webinar or webcast.
A webinar is a collaborative meeting where participants can come together to share and discuss ideas, lead training sessions, or conduct Q&A sessions. Webinars are often interactive and allow for real-time engagement between the presenter and attendees.
A webcast works somewhat similarly, but this technology is better suited for large-scale presentations or public broadcasts. Webcasts are typically used to share important information as quickly and efficiently as possible to a large audience.
Webinar vs. Webcast: Do You Want Audience Interaction?
Choosing the right type of video conferencing software depends on your event goals.
You may want to host a webinar if:
- You want active audience participation, like a Q&A session or interactive polls
- The event is designed to educate or train attendees on a specific topic
- You want to foster a digital community and encourage dialogue between your attendees
- Your event isn’t too structured and would benefit from a more open format for audience contributions
- You’re hosting a peer-led event such as a community forum or company meeting
- The virtual event is on the smaller side, ranging from a handful to 20 people in attendance
Educational platforms, marketing agencies, consultation agencies, and small-to-medium businesses will get a lot of value out of using the best webinar software options.
Webinars are best for activities like teaching classes, hosting training sessions, and conducting product demos.
You may want to host a webcast if:
- Your event is designed for a large number of people, ranging in the 100s to the 1,000s
- It’s a one-way presentation that doesn’t require attendee permission
- Audience distractions need to be limited for clear and concise communication
- Your presentation is highly curated, timed, and structured in a specific way
- The event is meant to deliver important announcements or updates
Investment companies, large corporations, and government agencies that need to disseminate information quickly and efficiently would benefit more from using webcasting services.
Typical uses of webcasts include quarterly earnings reports, press conferences, new product launches, company announcements, and town hall meetings.
Webinars allow for a select group of people to join a video call on a specific date and time. They tend to provide a more personal and interactive online experience, which leads to more conversions and engagement than traditional marketing tools. Not only do you get the word out about your product or service, but you get to learn from and listen to your audience as well.
Basic features of webinar software include:
- Live video streaming for all participants in the session
- Screen-sharing options which can be helpful for presenting slides, documents, and applications
- Chat options for attendees to ask questions or share relevant information
- A small control panel allowing attendees to raise their hands, react to the presentation, and participate in polls
- The ability to record the session for later viewing or review
- Abilities for the webinar host to control which attendee is speaking and who joins the meeting
- An option for removing an attendee if necessary
Premium features of webinar software include:
- The ability to pre-record, schedule, and automatically play your webinar for various audiences
- Breakout rooms that allow attendees to interact in smaller teams (random or assigned)
- A whiteboard feature that allows meeting hosts to clearly visualize information
- Detailed analytics tracking attendee participation and engagement
- The ability to collect post-webinar feedback
- CRM integration for secure and easy user management or data transferring
Although a webinar platform may seem just like run-of-the-mill video conference software, there are key differences that make it a more productive tool for hosting events. Webinars can handle a high volume of participants smoothly, whereas other conferencing software may have bandwidth limitations.
The webinar is also more collaborative in nature, providing options for participants to express themselves. A meeting host can even re-assign executive controls to another attendee during the session, which isn’t always possible with traditional conferencing systems.
Marketing and analytic tools are readily available on most leading webinar platforms, allowing presenters to gather more data than they could from video conferencing calls.
Webinars go beyond allowing you to host your video calls. They also provide helpful tools for streamlining communications.
You can keep track of time by integrating your webinar software directly into popular calendar apps. You can also provide regular reminders and even notify your participants when the event is about to start. This increases attendance rates, which ultimately expands your reach and engagement.
Additionally, webinar programs often include the ability to automatically follow up with your audience. You can send thank you emails to audience members, provide replays, offer products, and ask for feedback about your presentation.
A webcast is an online video and audio broadcast where the presenter shares their content without any audience participation. Participants can listen and watch the live event, but they won’t be interacting with the host like they would with a webinar. (However, if you want to include participant questions or comments in your webcast, you still have options. The easiest way is to field them with the support of a dedicated moderator.)
The Rolling Stones was one of the first major bands to host a webcast that allowed fans to watch a live performance from their Chicago concert. Although viewers weren’t able to attend the concert in person, it was a great way for the band to reach more fans and generate additional revenue.
Webcasts have evolved since then, and now they’re known as one of the best ways to quickly reach a very large audience.
Webcasts expand beyond the entertainment industry into other sectors such as academic platforms, corporate conferencing, and government agencies. They’re built to handle 1,000s of viewers, which makes them one of the best ways to reach a large audience quickly.
Basic features of webcast services include:
- The ability to broadcast high-quality video and audio to a large audience
- Options for participants to watch and listen to the webcast through various devices, such as desktops, tablets, or smartphones
- The ability to record the webcast for later viewing or review
- Custom branding options for a professional look and feel
- Built-in security features to ensure privacy and control over who has access to the webcast
Premium features of webcast services include:
- The capability to share your live stream to various platforms such as YouTube and Facebook Live, alongside a proprietary link
- Quick and easy setup for global webcasting, even across multiple time zones
- Multi-camera views that provide a variety of feeds during the same event
- The ability to allow one or more hosts to control all aspects of the event, even if all hosts aren’t in the same location
Unlike a traditional video conference call, webcasts are designed for one-way communication. A webcast can reach many more people, with a capacity for up to 10,000 viewers at once.
The backend experience of operating a webcast is much more advanced than other technologies, like video conferencing calls and webinars. Webcast software makes it easy to arrange your presentation, test video and audio, and preview your content before the event starts.
Because of this, webcasts are less prone to technical issues and offer a more professional look and feel compared to other forms of online communication.
Webcast software typically operates on an event-driven architecture. This means the software responds to user actions or system events in real time.
When To Use a Webinar vs. Webcast
To sum things up, here’s a quick list of the distinctions between the webinar and webcast.
Webinars are best for:
- Interactive meetings where collaborative features are helpful
- Smaller gatherings such as workshops or team meetings
- Gathering data and feedback from participants
ClickMeeting is a powerful software that’s great for smaller or internal teams who need access to breakout rooms, screen sharing, and customized organization branding.
Livestorm is another option we love that offers live Q&A, CTA add-ons, file sharing, and polls. You can sign up for a trial that offers unlimited free webinars for groups under 10 attendees.
Webcasts are best for:
- Large-scale events looking to reach 1,000s of global participants
- Corporate product launches, company trainings, government announcements
- Presentations that require a more professional feel
So which option is best for you? If you’re looking to participate with your clients and your audience won’t be more than 500 people, a webinar is a good bet. If you want to be the only one presenting and are going to broadcast to over 1,000 people, a webcast will get the job done.
It’s worth noting that pre-recorded webinars aren’t necessarily interactive, but viewers still expect someone to follow along. Pre-recorded webinars may also include the original audience interaction in it, in the form of video, audio, or chat media. Either way, this is still very different from webcasting, where the presenter’s role is to present independently of their audience.
You can also enjoy both technologies through the same company, such as with the company Zoom. In our article Zoom Webinars vs. Zoom Meetings, we explain how you have the choice to host an interactive Zoom or a non-interactive Zoom within the same program.
Bluejeans is our favorite webcast software choice for anyone who wants to host a high-volume event. It supports up to 150,000 participants while running smoothly with enterprise-grade security.
Another great option is Zoom, which has the ability to host up to 50,000 attendees at once.
We have plenty more of the best webcasting services for you to review if you’re ready to get started.
Final Thoughts: The Webinar vs. Webcast
Now that you know which technology is best for your event, you’ll have more time to focus on what’s truly important for your online event, which is making sure your audience receives the value they’re looking for.
Knowing which technology fits best for your audience’s goals makes it easier for you to utilize your communication skills effectively. So choose wisely and experiment to find out what works best for your team’s goals and objectives.