Key Differences Between Virtual Events and Webinars

Understand the Key Differences Between Virtual Events and Webinars

Akshay Birje
• April 8, 2024

(8 min read)

Did you know according to IMARC Group, the global online event market reached US$ 171.4 billion in 2023 and is expected to grow to US$ 889.0 billion by 2032.

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Online events occur in a variety of formats, and it is possibly likely that we have all attended a few in the past. While there are numerous ways to organize an event online two of the most common are webinars and virtual events. Both types are popular for connecting people digitally. However, their goals and objectives are different, as do their outcomes.

Why host a Virtual Event?

Why host a Virtual Event

A virtual event’s goal is to bring people together in a digital space where they can meet and network with other individuals, remotely. Virtual events, also known as online events or virtual conferences, are where people with a common goal come together digitally and engage in interactive discussions without needing physical presence. 

Virtual events have grown since the  COVID-19 pandemic, becoming a popular alternative to in-person events. Even after the return of physical events, many companies still host virtual events because of their ability to reach a global audience with minimal resources and maximized outcomes. 

Virtual events and webinars both come in various formats. Virtual events are held in virtual trade shows, town halls, online video conferences, virtual job fairs, product launches, networking sessions, and more. 

Webinars are conducted in presentation Style where a single presenter delivers a structured presentation, in panel discussion which involves multiple experts or panelists discussing a specific topic, and in Interview style where subject matter expert share their thoughts, knowledge, and experience with the audience.

Both format needs a steady internet connection but they are less expensive than physical events. 

Why host a Webinar?

Why host a Webinar

The purpose of a webinar is to educate and inform audiences with in-depth information about a specific topic or subject, typically in a structured and interactive format. 

A webinar is also called an online seminar where people gather in a virtual classroom. It allows real-time conversations, question-and-answer sessions, and knowledge sharing between presenters and attendees.

Webinars are very popular for generating leads. They are widely used by over 9 in 10 marketers worldwide to generate high-quality leads. Typically, individuals who have a genuine interest in a particular topic are more likely to invest their time in attending a webinar, which increases lead generation possibilities for the company hosting the webinar.

Key Differences Between Virtual Events and Webinars

Key Differences Between Virtual Events and Webinars.

Webinars Cover Specific Topics. Virtual Events are Multi-Dimensional:

The fundamental structure of a webinar is to cover a specific topic, in depth. Webinars are ideal for anyone seeking in-depth knowledge on a particular subject. Webinars usually have one or two subject matter experts as speakers, who educate their audiences about these specific topics. They often use slides and pictures to help attendees digest the topic at hand.

Virtual events, on the other hand, have a wider scope that includes a variety of themes, sessions, and events. They aim to recreate the feeling of being at an in-person gathering. Virtual events are commonly used to arrange large online gatherings such as conferences, trade fairs, expos, seminars, and so on.

Like webinars, virtual events do not have a single speaker. There are different speakers, such as subject matter experts, leaders, keynote speakers, influencers, and more. They are all experts in different domains but come together to address the larger theme of the event.

Webinars Are Typically Shorter. Virtual Events Last for Several Hours:

Virtual Events Last for Several Hours

Webinar duration is usually 45-60 minutes but it may extend a bit longer. The duration of the webinar is shorter to keep the focus and interest of the attendees longer. Shorter webinars are easily digestible and less likely to be interrupted. 

Virtual events last for 2 to 4 hours to accommodate a diverse range of sessions and activities. While some virtual events may last one day, others may last for several days or even weeks. 

Online events are known to provide immersive and interactive event experiences to the audience. It allows attendees to attend sessions at their convenience and explore the program content at their own pace.

Webinars cater to a Smaller Audience Size. Virtual Events Accommodate Large Audiences:

Virtual Events Accommodate Large Audiences

Webinars tend to have a smaller audience base because of their focused nature and narrow topic scope. Also, the timing may not fit everyone’s schedule so fewer people are able to attend the webinar. Many popular webinar software platforms have participant limits. For example, Zoom webinar permits 500 people per session, and Zoho allows up to 250 attendees per session. However, Airmeet can initially have 100 attendees and go up to 10,000 attendees.

Virtual events work on a much larger scale and can handle a massive number of attendees. Attendees can join in from anywhere, at their convenience. Due to their scalability, they can connect with huge and diverse audiences regardless of geographical barriers. While many virtual event platforms support a maximum of 10,000 participants, Airmeet supports up to 100,000 participants at the same time.

Webinars Provide Minimal Attendee Statistics. Virtual Events Analyze Data in Greater Depth:

Virtual Events Analyze Data in Greater Depth

Collecting user data is crucial to determine if the event was a hit or not. If you miss out on webinar attendee data, then you may lose valuable insights into audience interests, preferences, and demographics. The level of webinar data is relatively limited. Typically, webinar platforms provide basic metrics such as the number of attendees, how many questions were asked, and responses to polls. While any data you collect is helpful, you need to invest in a platform that gives you detailed, granular insights on attendees’ interaction and engagement.  

Virtual events offer a more robust set of data analytics tools. Their comprehensive analytics dashboards allow you to gain detailed insights into various aspects of attendees including behavior, engagement, and interaction. You can go as deep or as wide as you want with your data collection with a range of metrics such as session attendance rates, session popularity, content engagement levels, booth visits, networking connections formed, and more. 

Webinars Limit Networking. Virtual Events Offer More Networking Opportunities:

Virtual Events Offer More Networking Opportunities

Webinars can limit networking opportunities because of their educational focus. Attendees get limited chances to engage with speakers or fellow participants, outside of the main presentation. Some webinar platforms provide chat features for connecting individuals, limiting interaction to text-based communication throughout the entire meeting.

Networking features are more advanced in virtual events to facilitate connections among attendees. Event platforms provide a variety of networking features such as chat rooms, breakout rooms, networking lounges, and virtual lobbies. Since online events can last anywhere between a few hours to a few days,  attendees can engage and connect with more participants, and thereby maximize their returns from the event. 

Webinars Lack Engagement. Virtual Events Boost Engagement:

Virtual Events Boost Engagement

Webinars are often based on one-way communication, where the presenter delivers event content to the audience, without much opportunity for interaction. They do have some engagement tools for interaction, like Q&A and polls, but these features fall short when it comes to fully engaging all the attendees.

Webinar participants listen to and understand what is taught in the session, but don’t really get to engage efficiently with the speaker, not with fellow attendees. Not having enough interaction can make them feel disconnected or uninvolved during the session.

Virtual events, on the other hand, actively engage attendees throughout the entire duration of the event. According to a survey, 49% of marketers believe that audience engagement plays a crucial role in the success of an event. 

Through virtual booths, live chat, and Q&A sessions, attendees can engage directly with speakers, hosts, and other participants in real-time. Also, gamification features such as quizzes, or challenges can highly engage attendees, allowing them to have fun. 

Webinars are Less Expensive. Virtual Events cost a little more to host:

Webinars are similar to online classes and are more cost-effective to host than large virtual meetings. The simpler format of webinars makes them affordable. Webinars can be organized and managed by a smaller team of people. 

But, virtual events are more expensive in comparison, due to their size, multi-dimensions, and need for extensive planning. It involves a lot of different tasks like scheduling multiple sessions, coordinating with speakers, performing promotional activities, managing technical aspects, setting up virtual exhibitor booths, and so much more. It is also more resource-intensive, when compared to webinars, to manage all of these things effectively.

Webinars Only Address One Topic. Virtual Events Share the Brand Story:

Webinars are intended to convey valuable information to attendees in a short time. So the focus is on explaining a single topic concisely, and in detail. This ensures that event attendees receive relevant knowledge within the scheduled session.

Virtual events have the great potential to tell the story about the brand. Businesses can show their values, mission, and unique culture to their audiences in a compelling manner. Virtual event tools provide a dynamic platform to share a brand story by incorporating multimedia elements such as videos, presentations, and live demonstrations.

Webinar Marketing is Cheap. Virtual Events Require Extensive Promotional Activities:

Virtual Events Require Extensive Promotional Activities

Promoting webinars requires marketing efforts but is less demanding than virtual events. Digital channels are used to market webinars, such as sending targeted email invitations or running online ads for specific audiences. But when compared to virtual events, it is much more affordable.

Compared to webinar marketing, virtual events require more marketing efforts. To generate interest in the event and reach the maximum number of people, a variety of digital channels have to be used such as social media, paid ads, email campaigns, website banners, and more.

Conclusion

Both virtual events and webinars provide a platform to connect and engage with people all around the world. Each format has unique purposes and benefits, so consider your needs and goals when choosing between the two.

Whether you want to host a virtual event to show a variety of offerings or conduct a successful webinar to educate a specific audience, both formats will give opportunities for meaningful online interaction and collaboration.

For big gatherings and networking, you can go with virtual events, and for focused and structured sessions, you must go with webinars. Make sure you make the best use of each format to meet your business goals and strategy.

FAQ

Virtual events are more suitable for businesses that want to engage a broader audience with diverse content and networking opportunities. On the other hand, webinars are ideal for those who aim to provide focused education to their audiences, in a structured manner.

Webinars cover a wide range of subjects, including career advancement, mental health and wellness, personal finance, entrepreneurship, online marketing, personal development, design and architecture, leadership and management, productivity hacks, and more. These topics give vital insight and knowledge to attendees who are keen to learn and progress in their particular areas of interest.

While choosing a virtual event platform, consider factors like: 

  • scalability to accommodate your expected audience size 
  • interactive elements like live chat and Q&A live sessions 
  • networking rooms 
  • customization options for branding 
  • data security 
  • analytics for tracking attendee engagement
  • customer support 
  • pricing structure to ensure it is within your budget

Airmeet is a popular choice for many event organizers because its primary focus is to keep audiences engaged. The platform is renowned for its ability to foster a sense of community among webinar attendees. Airmeet offers a comprehensive solution for hosting and managing webinars through its versatile platform. Its extensive interactive features like polls, Q&A, live chat, and group chat keep attendees fully engaged in the meeting.

A hybrid event is a combination of virtual and in-person meetings. A virtual event, which takes place entirely online, and a webinar, which is typically a one-way communication, are not the case with hybrid events. Instead, they give attendees the freedom to decide how to participate and engage in the session, whether in person or virtually. 

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