What is the difference between a webcast and a webinar?

While the world was already on its way toward a digital transformation in these last few years, due COVID-19, this natural course of action has transformed into an urgent necessity, especially on the professional front.

The rapid rise in the use of online tools for meetings, conferences and events, hosted by organizations, is the direct reflection of the fact that virtual communication is the need of the hour for both internal and external stakeholders.

So if you’re a business looking into tools for web-based communication, you might be facing some confusion, and that’s understandable. There are so many options out there. What’s right for you?

Let us give you some clarity and take a detailed look at a few key differences between two popular methods of virtual communication – Webinars and Webcasts.

What is a webinar?

In the simplest of terms, a webinar is a seminar that takes place virtually. It usually involves a speaker or host, making a virtual presentation to attendees present in a virtual room from various locations at the same time. A great thing about these webinars is that they allow presenters and attendees to interact with each other via text chats, surveys, polls, etc.

Some notable points:

  1. Webinars caters to an audience of up to 1000
  2. The hosts and attendees can connect to a webinar via desktops or mobile devices from remote locations
  3. Sometimes they are recordable and thus, can be saved & uploaded for users to re-watch at a later time
  4. Webinars are best used when the objective is to connect to one’s audience live and interact and engage with them in real-time

What is a webcast?

A webcast, in simple terms, is an online broadcast. Unlike a webinar, which intends to interact with its audience, a webcast involves the host presenting a session without any participation from the audience. Thus, while a large number of people can access and view the webcast online, they cannot interact with the presenters.

Some notable points:

  1. Webcasts are a form of one-way communication, which means they reach hundreds of thousands of attendees from one source, without a scope for interaction
  2. They are often live-streamed to different platforms like Facebook, Youtube or even embedded into a site
  3. Webcasts are best used for events like conferences, announcements and panels so that they can later be broadcasted for people who cannot attend the event live

The Big Difference

1. Features

Webinars and webcasts have different objectives, and thus, both provide different features that cater to said objectives.

Since webinars are designed for interaction and engagement, their platforms include features like text-based chats, file sharing, screen sharing, live-Q&As, etc. This leads to the creation of a highly participatory environment.

For example, Nunify offers features like interactive rooms, reaction emoji, contests and gamification, sponsored spaces, popup polls and a lot more for a brilliantly immersive experience.

On the other hand, webcasts are more presentation-driven and mostly don’t include features that support interaction per se. However, some platforms allow limited scope for engagement by enabling features like polling and surveys.

2. Audience Size

While both these tools aim to make events accessible to a large set of viewers, webcasts are usually made available to an even bigger audience as compared to webinars. Why the difference, though? The answer is simple – technological constraints.

Webinars are designed to be interactive, and thus include features like file-sharing, chats, live Q&As and a variety of other features that allow the attendees and hosts to engage. Thousands of people using these features at once might be quite difficult if not outrightly impossible.

Webcasts, however, are one-way broadcasts and require little to no engagement. Consequently, they do not incorporate a lot of additional interactive features and allow mass-viewing without any difficulty. The audience only needs to access the footage.

The audience make-up also differs here. Webcasts sometimes involve live, in-studio viewers along with an online audience, as is the case in TED Talks. Webinars, on the other hand, are meant solely for an online audience.

3. Execution

There is a marked difference in the way the two forms of virtual events are executed. The presentation of content is also distinct on the two platforms. For example, a webinar focuses on two things:

1) Dissemination of information
2) Interaction with the audience

Thus, along with presenting, the host of the webinar uses various other tools like polls and surveys, screen and file sharing, to provide a more comprehensive and in-touch experience to the audience.

Webcasts presentations are different. Since the flow of information is unidirectional, the entire focus is on what the presenter is saying and how well he/she is communicating. The execution process of webcasts, thus, is very straightforward and uncomplicated as they use fewer presentation aids.

4. Levels of Interaction

This is probably the most obvious difference. Webinars allow a far greater level of interaction between the hosts and the attendees. With audience participation being an inherent and necessary trait of webinars, they include numerous tools that allow sharing and chatting. The audience gets the opportunity to participate in polls and surveys, while also networking with fellow attendees.

Webcasts involve either very little or no participation whatsoever from its audience. The host of the webcast presents information, and the viewers take it in. The flow of information is completely one-way.

The good and the bad

Both webinars and webcasts serve their unique purposes and are great tools to conduct virtual communication, but neither is without its limitations.

As far as webinars are concerned, they are highly interactive, flexible and great for teaching and learning. But on the other hand, they limit the number of people who can participate. Additionally, not all webinars are recorded and thus cannot be used for future reference. Webinars are also subject to internet disruption, which can adversely affect the experience of the attendees.

Webcasts, though, are great in terms of repeatability as well as shareability. They are not only easier to access but also not as prone to quality-degradation caused by internet disruptions. This especially applies to webcasts that are not live. People can easily access the webcast once their internet works well again.

Where webcasts fall short is at providing interactivity or any kind of real-time file or screen sharing. There is also a lot less flexibility in terms of creating and editing the webcasts. The entire webcast has to be re-done in case of any error.

In conclusion, the choice between these invaluable tools of virtual events boils down to user need. There are a lot of factors that need to be considered when selecting one over the other, like the purpose of the event, the audience, the type of information that’s being communicated and what not?

However, despite the differences, both these tools are indispensable when it comes to web-based communication and play an essential role in helping businesses grow, so you cannot go wrong with either one of them.

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