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Webcast vs. Web Conference: What's the Difference?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015 - 15:15
Webcasting vs. Web Conferencing

The explosive popularity of virtual events has been accompanied by an understandable degree of user confusion. In a world of webcasts and web conferences, many incorrectly assume that the terms (and technologies) are interchangeable. In reality, these channels represent very different types of interactions, each with varying capabilities and business use cases.

Where web conferences are intended for small, collaborative groups of 50 people or fewer, webcasts are designed to support one-to-many broadcasts best suited for workshops, townhalls or marketing events. Here are five important nuances to consider when deciding how to format your next web meeting:

Presenters and Audiences

  • Web conferences rarely have designated speakers and are designed to facilitate fluid transitions from speaker to listener for participants.
  • Webcasts offer more structure and allow for a defined audience and presenter(s).

Where web conferencing participants can be both listeners and speakers, the roles in a webcast are usually static. In practice, this means that webcasts are most effective when presenting to large audiences, allowing multiple speakers to present, sometimes even from virtual “rooms” when necessary for breakout sessions or small group learning.

Interactive Capabilities

Both web conferences and webcasts support interaction between speakers and attendees, but that communication differs depending on the event type.

  • Web conferences typically include both audio and visual components, in addition to instant messaging, document collaboration and sub-conferencing capabilities.
  • Webcasts excel at condensing large audiences’ feedback into chat, polling and Q&A formats. Webcasts also facilitate a single video broadcast, typically at a higher streaming quality.

Event Management

  • Web conferences demand little in the way of preparation, beyond an agenda and a PowerPoint deck; they also offer a quick, simple setup process.
  • Webcasts can require months to orchestrate, from finalizing speakers and content to creating invites and other event promotions.

From a technical perspective, webcasts support a range of customizations (e.g., corporate branding, analytics, registration pages) that add another layer of setup complexity. While quick ad-hoc meetings are best left to web conferencing, large, formal events demand the extra functionality webcasts deliver.

Access and Editing

  • Web conferences can be recorded and shared, but the resulting audio files are difficult to edit and best serve as an archive of a meeting’s discussion.
  • Webcast recordings allow for robust editing capabilities, giving presenters the flexibility to add, remove or reorganize content before sharing the file or archiving it for on-demand access.


  • Web conferencing yields basic audience analytics, including the number of attendees and their names, the meeting duration and poll results.
  • Webcasting boasts a much more comprehensive set of reporting features, tracking audience interactions and behavior (that can be weighted against personalized metrics). Webcast insights can be used to guide future presentations, shed light on which engagement tactics resonate best with attendees and even help you determine which leads are most qualified.

Choose Between Webcasts and Web COnferences Based to your Goals

The good news is that there are lots of options for online meetings and events, but choosing the right one means you need to outline your goals first. Web conferencing tools are more ubiquitous and usually have a lower price point. Webcasts take web conferences two steps farther by supporting large-scale events and multiple presenters, but this added flexibility often comes at a cost (and another degree of technical complexity for users).

Webcast Essentials from West gives users the best of both worlds by providing an affordable yet guided self-service platform for conducting webcasts. With Webcast Essentials, users can set up events that accommodate up to 30,000 attendees in five quick steps; West professional event managers are also on hand to support high profile events and other special virtual occasions. For organizations looking to expand their event portfolio, there has never been an easier time to get started with webcasting.

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