With the pandemic-driven surge in online events, it helps to be able to use the right terminology. Here is a quick breakdown of four different types of virtual events and what functionality they offer.


A webcast is a one-way broadcast to an online audience, which can be live or on-demand, or both.

This format works well when you need to deliver information to a large audience without facilitating audience engagement, such as product launches or company announcements.


A webinar is similar to a webcast, except that it allows for limited audience engagement during its live broadcast.

Desktops are preferred by 93% of webinar participants.*

Usually one or a few speakers present and discuss a topic, while the audience can ask questions or respond to polls in real time. Webinars are useful educational tools, and during the pandemic have been a popular way for expert speakers to share their knowledge and insights on a specific topic. They can also be used for product demos and basic training sessions. Often they are recorded so that they can also be watched on-demand afterwards.

Virtual summit or conference

A virtual conference generally offers the same functionality as an in-person conference, except that it is all held online. For example, as well as speaker sessions (possibly with different tracks running parallel) they can have breakout sessions, chat rooms or other networking tools, and even a virtual exhibition component.

80% of people join virtual events for educational purposes. The next biggest reason for joining virtual events is networking.**

The registration and communication around the event is usually built into the virtual platform being used, which allows for a smooth and seamless delegate experience. This format tends to offer more tools for the audience to engage with the speakers and each other, as opposed to simply being fed information.

Virtual trade show

This is possibly the trickiest type of virtual event, as it seeks to re-create an in-person exhibition online, and connect buyers and sellers. This involves rendering a 3D exhibition hall with exhibition stands, so an attendee can virtually ‘walk through’ the space and browse the exhibitors. The technology for virtual trade shows is improving rapidly, so we can expect to see more innovations in this space soon.

41% of event organizers use Zoom for their small virtual events. The runner up is Microsoft Teams, which is used by 29% of marketers.**

While all of these events are ‘live’ in the sense that they are launched on a specific date at a specific time, they can also include inserts of pre-recorded content. This allows for high production values and a polished product. However the amount of pre-recorded content needs to be carefully balanced with the amount of live streaming in order to engage with your attendees, answering their questions and responding to where their interests and curiosity are directed.

* https://99firms.com/blog/webinar-statistics/#gref

** https://www.markletic.com/blog/virtual-event-statistics/

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