Webcasts and webinars are often confused – even used interchangeably. To successfully create a webinar or webcast, you need to be aware of the differences between the two including what each offers and the purpose they serve.

Broadly, webinars are virtual gatherings targeting a specific audience or group that encourages interactivity and participation. Webcasts, on the other hand, are live streams that are broadcast to a large audience.

With that, let’s unpack all the differences between webcasts vs webinars in this post. We’ll look at what is a webcast versus what is a webinar. By the end of this short guide, you’ll leave knowing whether you need to host a webinar or a webcast to reach your specific marketing goals.

Let’s get to it.

What’s the difference between webcasts vs webinars?

Both webinars and webcasts help you reach a wider audience – the way you reach them is where all the difference comes into play.

So what is a webinar? Webinars take a two-way, interactive approach and are helpful for creating and nurturing leads in addition to boosting audience engagement. These gated virtual events require interested folks to share their contact details to get in. Because of this, your speaker(s), content, presentation, and everything in between must offer lots of value in exchange for the attendees’ time and contact information.

Webcasts take a more one to many approach and are akin to broadcasts of in-person events. Traditionally, they do little to specifically engage virtual attendees, though newer live streaming software allows broadcasters to add interactivity like live chat and polling and add layers of security with SSO. Webcasts play a useful role in increasing brand awareness by getting more people to learn about your business and what you offer.

As we unpack what webinars and webcasts are, here’s a quick look at webcasts vs webinars:

What is a webcast

A webcast is a live or pre-recorded, one-way broadcast of information for a large number of viewers.

These events help increase the reach of in-person events so virtual attendees can join regardless of their location. It’s for this reason that webcasts are also referred to as live streams.Because webcasts are primarily broadcasts, the attendees can’t engage among themselves or with the host(s). As an example, Vimeo uses webcasts to announce quarterly earnings to current and prospective shareholders.

In some cases, companies strategically plan to engage online attendees alongside their real-life audience with hybrid events. Hosts might look directly into the camera to speak with their virtual audience – even ask them to drop an email with a promise of responding either live or after the event.

Unlike webinars though, webcasts don’t have engagement features like live chat boxes, polls, screen and file sharing, etc.

Similarly, the focus for webcasts is also different with the attention on the speaker(s). Naturally, this means the speaker needs to have exemplary storytelling skills to encourage viewers to continue watching the broadcast.

When to use a webcast

Use a webcast as a way to make in-person events more inclusive. These are also great for broadcasting events like corporate announcements, conferences, and panel sessions.

The underlying aim? Educate, inspire, and/or entertain more people without any physical attendance barriers.

Webcast audience size

Webcasts have larger audiences than webinars. In fact, webcasts often have over a thousand people tuning in live. You can grow your live stream’s reach further by sharing it to social channels like Facebook and embedding it on your website.

Pro tip: Embedding videos on your site helps SEO and doesn’t reduce page load speed. The good news: you can customize the video player’s color to align with your brand colors using Vimeo. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how to embed your video.

Considering the large number of people who join webcasts, it’s essential you choose the right live streaming software and have a dedicated Ethernet connection to offer an uninterrupted, high-quality experience to web watchers.Also, make sure you’ve the right live streaming equipment before you try to go live. Some essential gear that you’ll need include camera(s), mics, encoder, and lighting set up. Here are more tips for hosting a smooth live stream.

What’s a webinar

For a formal definition: a webinar is a gated, interactive online event covering a specific topic that’s relevant to a niche audience.

Presenter(s) educate attendees using webinar platform features like screen and file sharing, presentation slides, and video clips among other multimedia tools. The audience, on the other hand, can interact among themselves and with the hosts, ask questions, and share feedback using interactive tools like live chat, Q&A, polls, and surveys.

Hence, the overall idea when creating a webinar is to encourage engagement and community building.

Pro tip: Maximize the value of your webinar by repurposing its content. For instance, create bite-sized videos from the content and share them on social media with tools like Vimeo Create.

When to use webinars?

Leverage webinars for both internal sessions as well as engaging with external audiences for marketing purposes.

Internal webinars can focus on anything from:

“Vimeo’s platform gives us the ability to produce professional, branded company events that are engaging our associates and supplier partners in more meaningful ways.”
Peter Strella, Director of Communications & Creative Media Services at Rite Aid

On the flip side, external webinars can cover:

  • Inspiring stories
  • Educational content
  • Customer product demos
  • Thought leadership content

Host webinars (internal or external) whenever you want to engage with your audience in interactive conversations.

Unlike webcasts, webinars offer confidentiality and interactivity – features that are crucial for hosting engaging team events and nurturing leads by building relationships with them.

Webinar size

Webinars can be small or large events with attendees totaling to a few hundred people to a couple thousand.

To add, most webinars are 30-45-minute long sessions – the audience-preferred time. In fact, 44% of attendees prefer 45-minute long sessions with 41% appreciating 30-minute long webinars. Only 10% say they prefer hour-long sessions.

Whatever duration you pick for your webinar the key is to pack in as much value as you can so attendees can enjoy their time.

To this end, focus on respecting your attendees’ time as you create a rad webinar presentation. In the planning stage, ask yourself: 

✅ Is this content worth my audience’s time? 

✅ Is this new for my audience or do they already know this and won’t benefit from it?Additionally, use audience engagement driving tactics to keep participants engaged.

Here are 3 quick tactics: 

  • host quizzes
  • source attendees’ questions before the webinar to answer them in your presentation
  • incentivize participants (with giveaways, for example)

Webcasts vs webinars FAQ

Before wrapping this up, let’s answer some remaining questions that you may have:

What is a live webcast?

A live webcast is a virtual broadcast of your event. This can include a virtual conference, music festival, town hall meeting, or company update. The one-way broadcast enables people across borders to join you virtually, therefore, helping you grow your audience. By offering a replay to the live stream, sharing on social media, and embedding on your site, you can further increase your reach.

Is webcast one-way?

A webcast in a one-way transmission of your event with the audience tuning in to listen to the speaker(s). Unlike a webinar, a webcast isn’t very interactive since its focus is on making your content more accessible and increasing its reach.

Can they see you during a webinar?

Webinar hosts and other webinar participants can only see you when your camera is turned on. The same is true for webinar hosts – attendees can only see if you turn on your camera. Otherwise, you can host by sharing your screen, presentation slides, and video clips.

Do I need a camera to be on a webinar?

You don’t need a camera to join a webinar. You can join using your microphone only. In that case, your name will display with a placeholder dummy image (specifics depend on the webinar hosting platform) as you interact in the chat box during the session.

Wrap up: should you host a webinar or webcast

To recap, both webcasts and webinars help businesses meet different goals, offer interaction at different levels, and need different levels of prep work.

Put simply though, if you’re looking to build a community, nurture leads, or host an interactive event – whether internal or external – organize a webinar.

But, a webcast is your best bet if you’re looking to expand your reach and get more people to join your conference, event, or festival regardless of where they’re in the world.

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