Bringing people together can spark radical new ideas and exciting connections, whether in person or online. With more attention on virtual events than ever before, the world wide web is your oyster when it comes to connecting and engaging audiences.
As an event host, understanding and selecting the right style of virtual event is the first step to making your gathering successful.
Here we will look at three common types of virtual events: what they are, how they’re used, and what tools to use to bring your event to life.
3 types of virtual event formats
To start off, let’s define the three types of virtual event formats covered in this post.
Livestream: the broadcasting of live video to an audience over the internet
Video conference: two-(or more)-way call during which multiple participants at different locations interact.
Webinar: a presentation held online and in real time between multiple remote participants
On the surface, it may seem like these formats are largely the same. They all entail a video component on the internet, right?
While these formats do have a shared main feature, it’s worth understanding the distinctions between a livestream, video conference, and webinar in order to choose the software or platform that will best support the demands of your gathering.
At the end of the day, nobody wants a technical decision to derail the success of their virtual event. And with so many options available out there, it can be hard to know which tool to choose. With the information below, you’ll be well equipped to select the right platform for your event.
Next, let’s dig deeper into the nuances of livestreaming, video conferencing, and webinars — and the best tools for each format.
You can find livestreaming everywhere these days. In the simplest terms, livestreams are just live video feeds online. As the name suggests, livestreams are shared in real time, although it’s also common to see pre-recorded livestreams — meaning they were recorded during the time of their original broadcast and then made available for later viewing.
Just about anyone with a device and an internet connection can set up a livestream these days; most social media platforms include some kind of livestreaming feature. So you’ll see everyone from ordinary individuals to celebrities to universities to established companies utilizing the format.
Unlike some other virtual event formats, livestreaming is generally used for events without a strong interactive component. Rather, livestreaming is ideal if you’re putting on more of a one-way broadcast: a presenter delivering something to an audience. That doesn’t mean you can’t have any interaction at all — in fact, most livestreaming occurs on social media where engagement is king. Livestream platforms frequently include a chat or comment feature for audience members to react to what they’re experiencing or ask questions. But the key point here is that livestreaming is not intended for events where interaction is central to the programming. (Interactive sessions more often fall into the category of video conferencing, which we’ll cover later on.)
Event formats that work well as livestreams:
Panel discussions where panelists are all in one room
The video below is a livestreamed portion of an event that took place at CIC Boston. You can see how the livestream would have allowed people unable to join in person to tune in — and it remains as a useful piece of content months or years after the event itself.