The art of using the Internet to set up virtual events in which people from different places in the world can participate is relatively new, but it is picking up popularity at a grand pace. The two common tools that have recently entered the realm of businesses for organising live online events are web conferencing and webcasts. There is a common misconception about the definitions of these terms and how they are different from each other.
Though these terms are used interchangeably, when businesses communicate with web vendors – whether they are webinar providers or webcast solutions providers, they have to be precise about their requirements – for this purpose, it is essential to discern between web conferencing and webcasting.
Web conferencing is a super set of the popular concept, webinars, that originated from the fusion of the words “web” and “seminars”, a transliteration of which would be online seminars. The main difference between web conferencing and webcasts can be summarised in a single way – interaction. Webinar software applications enable online events to be created where people from different parts of the world can discuss their ideas; it simulates the environment of a real seminar online. People can participate, ask questions and discuss ideas at a virtual conference; at the same time, demonstrations, videos and slide show presentations can also be used in web conferencing. Text chatting interfaces are also available as part of webinar services.
The words “web” and “broadcasts” are fused together to obtain “webcasts” – literally a web based broadcast. Webcasts can be anything under the umbrella of multimedia – audio, video or PowerPoint presentations that are made available to a large audience across the world. Typically, any video in a video-sharing website like YouTube can also be considered a webcast. Webcast recording consists of making videos that could vary from tutorials, demonstrations and “how to” videos to technical explanations of a product and discussions of the world market. Essentially, video webcasts are designed to be marketing materials. As is evident from the way webcasts are described, they are a single channel of communication and there can be no interaction. Users cannot discuss their ideas with the creator of the webcast.
There is a bit of difference in the way the webcasts and webinars target the audience; while webcasting target all users across the globe as a part of viral marketing, webinars are more conservative in choosing the audience because these videos are mostly intended to be training material. Webinar hosting predominantly targets people within the realm of the business. Conventionally, it is as easy to access online webinar support websites as it is to get webcast support.