In our quest to improve productivity, save time and cut costs, much of our daily work activity has migrated online, freeing us to collaborate virtually from wherever we happen to be at whatever hour we happen to be connected. As advantageous as this is, the world of online meetings has gotten a little confusing. From web conferencing to webcasting to webinars, selecting the most appropriate application isn’t always obvious. Aren’t they all more or less the same thing? In short, not really. While similar at first glance, these web-based collaboration solutions serve different purposes. Read on for info on how to choose the best platform for each of your online events.
Before you get started, considering these factors will help steer you to the most appropriate tool:
– The purpose of your online event (internal communication, lead generation, training, product launch, investor relations, etc…)
– Audience size
– Level of audience interaction
– Will documents be shared?
– Will the host be asking polling or survey questions?
– Will the session be viewed on-demand?
– Do you need to integrate additional tools? i.e. CRM, marketing (Eloqua) and/or social media platforms…)?
Once you have set your event objectives, you can better select the web platform to best showcase your message.
A web conference refers to an audio managed call with a form of web interactivity i.e. screen sharing between remote locations. In most cases, web conferencing is made possible by software run over the internet, allowing for real-time point-to-point communication such as collaborative working on a single document, demos, screen sharing, and more. Applications include virtual meetings, trainings, lectures, presentations and workshops from any connected computer across geographically dispersed locations.
Many web conferencing solutions today also include a video option so that participants can see each other. Web conferences are optimal when audiences are kept small, allowing for high levels of participation and verbal engagement. Participants can ask discuss back and forth and even share work on the same document.
Think of a webcast as a one-to-many broadcasting platform, best employed when communicating announcements to large audiences. Webcasting solutions often incorporate rich media and interactive tools that allow audience members to engage directly with the host. However, engagement during a webinar is not intended to be two-way verbal communication, as is the case with audio, video or web conferencing. Webcast interactivity generally comes in the form of audience polling, Q&As and chats.
The most common form of webcasting today is done by combining audio with slides. However, hosts can also pair broadcast video or video clips with their other webcast content. As a standard, webcast solutions should offer recording and playback functions and analytics.
Useful Webcasting Facts:
– The most common uses of webcasts are executive messages, product launches, press conferences, town hall meetings, financial results, partner / franchise communications, Thought Leadership messaging, internal communications
– The average ratio of webcast registrants to live attendees is 42.9%
– The average webcast attracts 200+ attendees
– The average webcast viewing time is 56 minutes
Falling somewhere between a web conference and a webcast, webinars are both collaborative in nature and used as a broadcasting platform. They are ideal online events for medium-sized audiences and allow for single or multiple presenters to share a presentation or several presentations with webcam communication. Up to 100 presenters can be involved in a single webinar, however a single dedicated host is always needed for the collaborative meeting. This type of online event typically incorporates VoIP-enabled audio or traditional telephone communication.
Webinars also offer varying levels of interactivity, from two-way verbal exchange to polling, chat and Q&A features.
Web-based collaboration has paved the way for greater, faster and more convenient levels of information sharing. Where the ability to simply meet online was once considered novel, web events have matured to the point where users have the ability to craft the manner in which audiences receive messages – one-way or two-way delivery, interactive or broadcast. Using the above criteria to define your communication objectives will help ensure that you select the web event application best-suited to your needs.