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The Difference Between Webinars and Online Meetings

Virtual gatherings have become an integral part of modern life. Lockdowns and quarantines have put an end to most large gatherings.

As such, working from home is increasingly prominent, and looks to remain so into the future.

However, considering the rapid nature of the pandemic, many of the people now using virtual meetings are still unfamiliar with their ins and outs.

One common confusion is the difference between webinars and online meetings. Often people use these words to mean either thing.

However, there are significant differences. These are important to bear in mind when planning your next virtual meeting.

Webinars and virtual meetings: What’s the difference?

At first, the two may seem indistinguishable. After all, aren’t they just meetings online? Yet, like their real-world counterparts, the virtual meeting comes in a range of shapes and sizes.

Where beforehand you had seminars, conferences, meetings, and more, so too does the virtual world reflect this variety.

The key difference to bear in mind is size. In short: webinars are for large audiences, and online meetings are for smaller audiences.

Following from this fundamental difference, the set-up of both differ significantly.

In online meetings, the discussion is promoted. The aim is to gather a group of people together for collaboration.

As such, everyone in the meeting can talk freely, even if there is a host. In contrast, webinars are – as their name suggests – more akin to seminars.

Here large audiences gather to hear a single speaker or small group of speakers talk. Not everyone can contribute, with the aim being to disseminate information.

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Is interpretation for webinars different from interpretation for virtual meetings?

Do the differences we’ve discussed extend to webinars and virtual meetings where participants speak different languages? 

This depends somewhat on the particular platform you’re using, but most leading providers have done their best to make accessing interpretation services for webinars mirror the process of doing so for virtual meetings.

If you consider Zoom interpretation services, for example, there’s only a difference of two clicks between adding interpreters to meetings and adding them to webinars.

If you’re likely to be delivering multilingual virtual meetings and webinars on a regular basis, it’s important to explore how the interpretation side of things works with each of the platforms that you’re considering using.

When to set-up an online meeting?

As a general rule, online meetings should not consist of more than thirty people. Imagine a real-life meeting room, in which there were forty people huddled around. Each of them trying to talk.

The meeting would be an utter mess. Nothing would get done, and no one could keep control.

Although in a virtual meeting you’re not in the same room, the same rules apply. More doesn’t necessarily equal better.

Stemming from this smaller focus, the tools of the online meeting are designed to promote collaboration and discussion.

Virtual whiteboards allow you to display your ideas graphically. Sketch out a concept or use a flow diagram to explain a process.

You can have a quick brainstorm, or make notes throughout the discussion.

Meanwhile, screen sharing can create an interactive experience, depending on how it is used.

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You can simply show a PowerPoint presentation, or you can talk through a new piece of software. Whatever you can display, can be included in the meeting.

There are also new pieces of software to enhance an online meeting.

If you’re meeting a client and you don’t want to deal with lots of different backdrops between team members: use a virtual background.

They use green screen technology to replace your home backdrop with one of your choices digitally.

Visit Hello Backgrounds virtual background for zoom to discover the incredible range of backgrounds available.

So, hide your messy home and present a professional image.

When to set-up a webinar?

As mentioned, webinars are when you go big. They’re a bold statement, a grand conference, in which you can showcase a product or run a lecture series.

If you are wondering whether a webinar is suitable for you, ask yourself this question: where would I host the event in real-life.

If the answer is an auditorium or conference hall, then use a webinar.

These virtual conferences can handle up to 500 people. However, some apps do cater to more.

You might wonder, with so many people, how do you promote engagement? Well, like their smaller twin, webinars come with a range of tools to help.

Digital polls and surveys can be conducted to gauge the feel of the room.

You can propose questions for everyone to answer, or ask where people want the webinar to go next.

They enable hosts to be interactive and reactive, catering to the desires of the crowd.

Furthermore, moderate Q&A sessions can occur. Hosts can select questions sent in by the attendees, and then answer them one by one.

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So, if there are any pressing concerns or queries about a product or the webinar topic, hosts can provide detailed answers.

How you use either an online meeting or webinar is up to you. But knowing the difference is critical.

Decide what you want to set up, then use the incredible variety of tools to bring the meeting to life. 

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