The Difference Between Webcasting and Web Conferencing

When trying to select a video technology, enterprises often get confused between webcasting software, and web conferencing software.

While both have similar functionality, their feature sets and what they can deliver actually vary quite a bit. Here is a quick explanation to help you understand the difference between webcasting and web conferencing solutions:

The Basics

A web conference is best defined as an event during which multiple computer users can communicate with each other at the same time using cameras over the internet. There are generally options to present slides and share screens and audio is transmitted through your phone line, or via VoIP. Web conferencing makes the most sense for small and collaborative meetings (usually under 50) involving a lot of participation.

A webcast is a live or on demand presentation that is streamed over the internet. It is ideal for targeting very large audiences (unlimited size). It is often a higher quality, streamed live, and makes use of interactive features like survey and polls, and Q&A.  In even simpler terms, think of a webcast as like your local nightly news broadcast.

Both webcasting and web conferencing each have their own benefits. A webcast can be played multiple times on demand, and can easily be shared. Meanwhile, a web conference is typically a more closed and controlled environment.

Interactive Components

Web conferences usually include both audio and visual components, as well as instant messaging, document collaboration, and sub-conferencing capabilities.

Meanwhile webcasts excel at condensing the feedback from an audience into chat, polling and Q&A formats. Webcasts also facilitate a single video broadcast, typically at a much higher streaming quality.

Event Management

Web conferences demand very little in the way of preparation, beyond a simple agenda and/or a PowerPoint deck. They also offer a convenient setup process, and therefore can be executed quite quickly.

Webcasts however can potentially require much more preparation. This could include things like finalizing speakers and content, creating invites and other promotional material, and setting up polling questions.

Access and Editing

Web conferences can be recorded and shared, but the audio files may be difficult to edit and often best serve as an archive of a meeting’s discussion.

Webcast recordings allow for a lot of editing. This provides presenters the flexibility to add, remove, or reorganize content before sharing the content, or archiving it for on-demand access for later viewing.

Analytics

Web conferencing carries basic audience analytics. This includes things like the number of attendees, their names, the duration of the meeting, and any poll or survey results.

Webcasting offers a much more sophisticated set of reporting features. Apart from the basics offered in web conferencing, a webcast can track audience interactions and behaviour. Having this level of reporting provides organizations with a deep insight into their audience, which can help guide future presentations.

To summarize, audio and web conferencing services are ideal for interactive meetings such as sales presentations, and dedicated webcasting platforms are best when attempting to reach a large global workforce. Neither technology is better than the other, but they do serve very different needs. Selecting the right one really depends on your goals. If your goal is to allow small groups to collaborate in a virtual setting, then a web conferencing solution is a better choice. If your goal is to communicate and broadcast to very large audiences with a rich interactive experience, then you will be better served with a webcasting solution.

Whatever solution you choose, it’s useful to provide a detailed explanation to your attendees of exactly what type of event they are or will be attending. Since the difference between webcasting and web conferencing is still confusing to some it’s important your audience understands what they are attending and any participation that may be required. This knowledge will go a long way in optimizing the experience for both the audience and the speaker.

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