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What’s The Difference Between Video Conferencing and a Webinar?

By Simon Davis

What is the telepresence format that suits you best? That all depends on what you’re setting out to do. Evaluating your needs is a little confusing with so many vendors out there trying to get your business. Start first by defining your goals, and then work backwards by figuring out what structure will best support them, while at the same time keeping an eye on your expenses and training budget.

Definitions and Differences

Webinars are seminars held online by a presenter or lecturer and attended by an audience. Webinars and seminars share a common structure such as agendas, presentations, and question and answer periods. The presenter or lecturer and the material or information they are presenting is the center and focus of the webinar. For instance, a webinar may be given in order to train employees in new policies and procedures, or a company may give a webinar to introduce new products or services in a more informative and interactive way than by other forms of advertising. At other times a webinar serves as a classroom for ongoing training and education. Interaction with the presenter is limited, and not collaborative.

Videoconferencing in contrast is more like a face-to-face meeting between two or more individuals. It is less a presentation and more interactive and collaborative in nature. Videoconferencing at its best is scalable, flexible, and capable of being anywhere that a person with a mobile phone, tablet, or laptop can go. Formerly referred to as desktop videoconferencing, the growth of cloud technology has enabled videoconferencing to expand beyond the conference room and the podium. It can almost be compared to a group chat room in which there are many participants in the discussion, but with the ability to see each other’s faces, and to read expressions and body language. Multipoint videoconferencing – such as Blue Jeans videoconferencing – is highly interactive collaborative, engaging the participants on many different levels.

Webcasting is also used to disseminate information on a wider basis. However, it is a monodirectional form of communication wherein the presenter simply broadcasts the information for the audience to pick up there is no interaction, no collaboration, nor do the audience members have any input in the form of questions and answers. Webcasting can be either prerecorded and edited or a live stream recorded and presented later in order to reach the maximum audience.

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