What is a Live Webinar?

Blog 7 min read | Mar 10, 2023 | JW Player


If you are seeking to provide information to employees, customers, and prospects, then one vehicle for doing so is live webinars.

Understanding what a live webinar is and how it differs from recorded lectures and meetings can help you work out when and whether you should use them, as well as what kind of webinar platform you should use.

What is a Live Webinar?

Webinar is a portmanteau of “web” and “seminar.” A webinar is thus a seminar that is held over the web. Seminars differ from lectures in that they typically include a Q&A or discussion period.

Live means that the webinar is being held real-time rather than recorded and provided on-demand. This allows the audience to interact with the teacher. Arguably, as discussion is inherent to a webinar, “live” is redundant, but the term is sometimes used to talk about recorded events and webinars are often recorded so they can be watched by people who are unable to attend. While the delayed audience don’t benefit from interactive components, they can still receive the information and can see answers to questions asked by others.

What is the Difference Between a Webinar and a Video Conferencing Meeting?

A webinar has a specific person, or panel of people, who are providing instruction and information to attendees. Online meetings tend to be less formal and allow for discussion between everyone present.

The goal of a webinar is both to provide information and to exchange ideas, so the interactive discussion period is as important as the lecture portion.

Generally, webinar platforms set things up so that only the instructor or panelists are visible and can talk, with attendees interacting and asking questions through a text chat feature or polls. This makes them more asymmetric in nature, and also makes it more feasible to have a larger number of attendees, such as if you are doing an external presentation. In fact, live webinars may have tens of thousands of attendees, or only a handful. Meetings, on the other hand, are best limited to a small team or group.

The same software might be used for both purposes, but it is set up differently. This also means that there is less of a risk of “zoom bombing,” that is to say somebody who is not supposed to be there getting into your meeting and causing trouble. Because attendees are not able to speak or be seen on camera, there is a limit to how much damage they can cause, which allows you to open these webinars to more people, including providing free material to prospects to encourage them to purchase.

Webinars can also still provide a lot of value if recorded and watched asymmetrically, while meetings tend to be of value only to those actually attending them.

How Can Your Company Benefit from Live Webinars?

Webinars are an affordable way to present information about your company or training information to both internal and external audiences. You can easily have your entire company attend a webinar, and anyone who is sick or our that day can then watch a recorded version to catch up. You can use this to bring in outside speakers too. Recorded webinars are great for training and onboarding purposes.

Webinars also make a great product. You can sell webinars to your customers and also to other people in your industry, positioning yourself as an expert in your field. Some companies sell access to the live webinar and then make the recordings available for a lower price or free, but evergreen webinars can continue to make money for years after they were first recorded. A library of on-demand webinars can result in a good long tail for a company.

You can also use webinars for consumer education, improving your customers’ ability to use your product and thus customer satisfaction. A recorded webinar containing tutorials and other information can be provided to new customers.

Finally, webinars can help you save a lot of money on training, especially if you have remote workers. It is cheaper to hire a speaker and have them deliver a webinar from wherever they are than it is to fly one in, and certainly far cheaper than sending your employees to training.

How Do Live Webinars Work?

The webinar platform you use affects how the webinar works. For example, Zoom provides webinar functionality for up to 50,000 attendees and allows you to both take registration in advance and allow access to anyone with the link.

There is quite a bit of flexibility. For example, for an internal audience, simply providing the link only to the employees who are being asked to attend can be enough, but for an external one you will need a registration system and, if necessary, a payment system. Offering free webinars can be helpful for your sales and marketing efforts. If you do so, then you can request contact details on the registration form which can then be used to add those people to a mailing list, but make sure that you follow privacy rules. Consider having the form take them to a landing page that discusses other live events and offerings your company is doing or considering.

Webinar marketing is needed to attract attendees, but if you have already taken steps to position yourself as an expert it helps. You can also partner with companies with complementary expertise.

On the day of the webinar, your panel (who do not all have to be in the same place) will log onto the live video meeting platform ahead of time. They will have access to screen sharing as needed, which works instead of having a physical whiteboard. Video meeting platforms are typically cloud-based.

Attendees will be given access to the webinar a few minutes before it starts. They will not be on camera or permitted to talk, but will have access to a text-based chat and a Q&A system. The host or a moderator will handle taking questions from the Q&A. People who register for the webinar should receive notifications that remind them of the time and provide them with the link. With some systems they may need to log on.

After the webinar, it will typically be recorded. The webinar recording can then be made available on-demand for free or for a price.

It’s a good idea to ask for feedback from attendees on both the webinar itself and any technical issues that might come up. You need to use a reliable platform to reduce the risk of the webinar or a panel member dropping out, although this can’t always be prevented.

You should do follow-up after the webinar to get this feedback and to remind attendees of future offerings, in the case of external audiences. Internal audiences should also get the opportunity to provide feedback about the quality of the webinar or training and what they want to see more of in the future.

What Are Automated Webinars?

A cheaper alternative to live webinars are automated webinars, which are also called evergreen webinars.

Automated webinars are pre-recorded, but rather than being available on-demand, they are broadcast on a schedule, for example on the first Tuesday of each month. The automated webinar is the same every time, but still includes a Q&A.

This simulates having the same live webinar offered frequently, without having to pay the speaker(s) multiple times. The downside is that you can’t change the main content without recording a new webinar, so this should be done for content that changes only rarely, such as onboarding webinars.

Automated webinars still give the attendees the sense of attending with a virtual audience and should still be high quality offerings. For many companies, a mix of automated webinars and live ones on topics that change more frequently is ideal.

Both offerings can grow an audience over time, but one advantage of recurring webinars is that they benefit from word-of-mouth marketing. People who enjoy the webinar may get their friends to come and do it too. For many use cases, these webinars are a valuable addition. Although you may need a moderator to handle the Q&A, you can put your webinars on autopilot and then focus on other interactions such as meetings. This is particularly valuable for employee training, allowing HR to focus on answering questions and supervisors to focus on personalized training and one-on-ones.

What Platform Is Best to Live Stream Your Webinar?

It depends on your use case. Many people use Zoom or Google Meet for webinars. These platforms work well and are affordable.

However, for truly high quality webinars and other virtual events, you want a platform you have control over and which allows you to do everything from live webinars to meetings to streaming live events.

JW Player covers all of your video streaming needs in one place and gives you full control over monetization, video quality, and your audience. In addition to live webinars, it will handle all of your virtual events and meetings with ease. It has integrations with social media for scheduling and is purpose-built for your video-driven business.