24th Apr 2020

Author : Harvey Clayton-Wright

What Is The Difference Between A Webinar And A Virtual Conference?


With the rise of virtual conferences, there is a bit of confusion about what makes a virtual conference different to simply watching a webinar...

And on the face of it, it’s very easy to miss the differences between a webinar and a virtual conference. Afterall, aren’t they both just online educational videos? What’s special about a virtual conference and how could it possibly match up to an in-person conference?

Well let’s take a quick look at what a virtual conference actually entails and the differences will become quite evident.


The Purpose of a Virtual Conference Is To Truly Recreate a Conference Online

If you were under the impression that a virtual conference is just a series of webinars, then you might think that a virtual conference misses the point of an in-person conference.

And you’d be completely right!

Which is exactly why a good virtual conference isn't that at all.


Recreating The Social In A Virtual Conference

Conferences are inherently social events.

That includes bringing across the social elements and the interaction.


A conference isn’t just a library of talks. Anyone who’s been to a conference will know that these kind of conferences aren’t the best. People go to conferences for various reasons and while hearing from industry thought leaders is a big part of that, there is a huge social aspect to conferences that makes them such fantastic events.

So a virtual conference has to keep up this social element if it wants to compete with an in-person conference.

Platforms like ZoomSkype and Google Meet are all designed to allow multiple people to talk and interact at once through video call. It’s in these platforms that the power of a virtual conference is unlocked.

In between the talks and workshops that you’d find at a virtual conference, social events can be held for attendees, inviting ticket holders to come together and socialise through video and audio chat. Zoom is particularly great for this because breakout rooms can be created, allowing different groups to disappear to their own private chats, just like the real thing.


Virtual Conferences Bring The Q&A To Life

Video chat is also very useful in bringing talks to life and capturing the feeling of an audience actually watching a speaker.


Webinars are traditionally either filmed beforehand, or if they are done live, will be done with just a camera focused on the speaker. Any questions that follow on from this are either prepped beforehand or might be typed out in a chat window for the speaker to answer.

Because of this, webinars can sometimes feel very dead and lack a lot of the atmosphere that a real audience brings to a talk.

Virtual conferences not only have webinar like talks, but they utilise the real time feedback that video chat offers in order to recreate that feeling of being in an audience. Virtual conference talks can either be hosted entirely in a video chat like Zoom, where the speaker can hear live feedback from the audience.

Or alternatively, virtual conference talks can begin as a traditional speaker only webinar and then shift over into a public platform for a Q&A session that is more immediate and closer to the real thing.


Recreating The Structure In A Virtual Conference


This is a detail that will be missed by many who have never attended a good virtual conference before, but once you have experienced a true virtual conference, it’s impossible to go back.

A conference is more than just a library of webinars as we’ve already covered.

A virtual conference therefore has to feel dynamic. It has to feel like it’s live. There are thousands of online learning platforms with pre-recorded webinars. What we need from a conference is that movement. The idea that everything is running like a well oiled machine and there is actually a community running the whole show.

That’s one of the aspects that makes ReAttendance so special as a virtual conference host.

ReAttendance provides a backbone for you to structure a virtual conference around.

  • You can create virtual rooms, with live talks that actually have start times.
  • You can create virtual social rooms for your attendees to gather in during their free time.
  • You can split up your conference into different days and restrict access for certain tickets.


This creates a true to life conference experience, where your attendees jump from room to room, catching the talks and workshops that they’re in interested in, before heading over to a social room for some downtime.


A Virtual Conference Is More Than Just A Webinar

Hopefully, we’ve managed to capture why a virtual conference is so much more dynamic and alive than just a webinar.

While webinars are a great method for delivering valuable information, they arguably like the “live” feeling that talks and workshops have, when a real audience is present and engaging with the speaker.

Add in the social events and you can start to see why a virtual conference is very different to your average webinar and why it can be such a great alternative to an in-person conference – taking the best bits and making it accessible to a huge number of people.

If you’re interested in the benefits that a virtual conference might have for you, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team who can walk you through the service and give you expert advice on how you can bring your virtual conference to life.


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