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Webinars and Web Conferences: Your Fool-Proof Guide to the New Online Meeting Room

Recently, we’ve all been thrown into a new way of working. With the Coronavirus sending us all into lockdown, businesses are now having to rethink how people can work productively whilst at home. Luckily, we’re living in a time where connectivity is second nature, however with this comes a whole new digital playground for us to try to navigate, and we’re all getting dragged into the age of virtual workspaces, whether we like it or not.

As with any large shift in societal norms, there are inevitably some (in this case, rather humorous) teething problems. By now we’ve all seen the videos circulating the internet of the poor souls in virtual meetings who aren’t aware they’re on camera. We make a point of laughing along to hide the fact that we’re wondering if the same has happened to us – are you sure the camera was off when you were eating your breakfast during your Monday morning meeting?

We’ve become hyper-aware of when we’re on camera. It could be argued that you should always be prepared to be seen for a virtual meeting, but lockdown has created some curious working environments, especially for those working amongst the chaos of a housebound family, or the two professionals simultaneously working out of their one bed flat. There are times when a virtual conference call from the bedroom is inevitable (though it has to be said, working from the bed in last night’s pyjamas is not entirely advised).

Therefore, it is important to know what to expect with all the different virtual events so you can prepare and dress appropriately (at least from the waist up). But with this being a relatively new area for a number of us, the terminology and the concepts can be a little confusing. We’ve written a helpful guide for those of us who are maybe feeling a little out of our depth.


What is a webinar?

So, first things first: a webinar. The word ‘webinar’ simply comes from the words ‘web-based seminar’. The dynamic is usually similar to that of a tutor teaching a class full of students, however a webinar is to an online audience through live streaming.

Generally, a webinar can be summed up as an interactive virtual event; a speaker or group of speakers delivers a live presentation to an online audience who participate using interactive elements such as polling, asking/answering questions via a chat window, and presenting their own material. The purpose of a webinar is to educate and/or demonstrate to an online audience.

Usually webinars do not require attendees to be on camera, though the speaker can offer this if required or relevant on some platforms.

Done correctly, a webinar should be engaging and the creators should have taken into consideration that listening to a presentation in a room full of people varies greatly to listening to a presentation in their living room… next to a TV… metres away from the fridge. Unfortunately, hosting a webinar is more complex than simply taking your event or teaching programme online, there are ways in which you can captivate an audience and keep them engaged for the duration of your webinar which UKSV can help with here.

What is a webcast?

Webcasts aren’t dissimilar to webinars, however webcasts aren’t always live and don’t often use as many interactive elements within the event itself. The event can be on-demand which allows creators to pre-record content and audience members to go along at a pace and time that suits them. With webcasts, a camera isn’t a necessary part of the process.

The intention of a webcast is the same as a webinar; webcasts are designed to educate an online audience and a speaker or small group of speakers is relied upon to deliver these messages via their online platform.


What is a web conference?

Web conferencing is the closest thing to an online or virtual meeting. Depending on where you host your web conference depends on how many people you can have in your meeting, but platforms now are able to host very large numbers. Typically, web conferences involve all attendees being on camera, but dependent on the platform this is very easy to turn off – though a word of warning on this front, your colleagues may begin to question why you’re unwilling to show yourself (have you given yourself a terrible lockdown haircut? Are you still in bed?).

Web conferences can include a lot of diverse content, and for events that are longer with more ground to cover, a web conference could be your best bet. As we move past the distancing restrictions, a mixture of live in-person and live virtual events will be a great option for many event planners. It enables more of an audience to participate since speakers and other audience members might not be able to travel, or where numbers are still limited in venues.

Which platform is right for me?

For day-to-day business, web conferences are now becoming commonplace because the platforms are easy to use, and the outcome is most like the office meetings we’re all used to. They tend to be more discussion based and equal in terms of contribution to the content of the meeting.

Webcasts and webinars are more for a dedicated speaker to provide an audience with information, with or without audience interaction.  These platforms are also now being used in place of face to face company events due to their adaptability and capabilities.

It’s worth noting that some of these platforms aren’t going to go away. Hybrid events will become the new normal with the possibility of reducing spend, attracting wider audiences and streamlining 4-day conferences into a 1-day hybrid event utilising the best of both live and virtual events.

It is important to take into consideration your content and your initial intention when thinking about taking your messages to online events. If you need assistance with any form of virtual event or conference online, we can help you create engaging content to keep your audience interacting with you and your company.

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