Live vs. Pre-recorded Webinars: Pros, Cons, and Use Cases

By:
Rachel Meyrowitz

An appealing advantage to webinars is they provide multiple ways to reach a wide audience and grow your demographic without having to travel to multiple locations. You can host these online events from the comfort of your office or a designated location, targeting attendees across the globe. 

When you livestream an event, you reach an immediate audience and can interact with potential leads on a one-time basis. However, you can largely accomplish the same feat with a pre-recorded webinar. Only instead of having to be present and actively hosting live to get the attention and retention of your consumer base, you can simply give registrants access to a webinar recording. From a marketing perspective, that’s a highly beneficial (and lucrative) way to repurpose your content.  

You can recycle webinar content to gain new leads and drive rich audience engagement without having to spend time and money on creating new experiences, and this guide will teach you how. You’ll also learn the difference between live and pre-recorded webinars as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each. By the end, you’ll be an expert in hosting both types and know which webinar format is best for you to use and when. If you have questions about live versus automated webinars, you’ve come to the right place. 

Differences Between Live and Pre-recorded Webinars

A major difference between a live and a pre-recorded webinar concerns the host. A live webinar is hosted in real time and mainly focuses on the host’s presentation and interactions with the audience. 

In contrast, a pre-recorded webinar can be either a live event that you capture and then edit for future viewing, or it can be a webinar that you never hosted live; it’s rehearsed and recorded strictly for evergreen use. 

Both types of webinars are excellent for informing your customer base, gaining new leads, and increasing your conversion rates. Your marketing goals for your brand play an important role in determining whether live or pre-recorded sessions will best serve you — although it’s easy (and recommended) to incorporate both into your marketing strategy.

Pros and Cons of Pre-recorded Webinars

Knowing the pros and cons of pre-recorded webinars will help you determine when it’s most effective to record your sessions. In many cases though, pre-recorded content gives you more control over what’s presented to your audience so you guarantee them a worthwhile webinar experience. 

Pros

If you make any mistakes or realize you want to include more content later, you can simply edit your pre-recorded webinars to fine-tune them and ensure they’re exactly what you want. 

They also save you time and money on production. Whereas with a live webinar, you have to be present to host and the event happens once, with pre-recorded ones, you  simply tape a presentation and then put it on autopilot for the most part. 

Then, you can make it available to your audience either as an automated webinar (content that has a set time and date for attendance) or an on-demand event (content that registrants can view whenever they want after providing their information on your registration page). 

However, the biggest pro of pre-recorded webinars is the expanded audience reach. When you host a live webinar, you’re limited to the number of attendees who are available for the date and time when you run your webinar. A pre-recorded webinar, meanwhile, is far more flexible in terms of scheduling, able to accommodate different time zones and be replayed if it has evergreen content so you reach more registrants. 

Cons

While you can moderate a pre-recorded webinar to enable live chats (or answer questions that arise during an automated webinar in a follow-up email), there’s little personal interaction. If your goal is to connect and engage with your audience, pre-recorded webinars may not be the ideal route. 

Furthermore, automated webinars may be less precise when it comes to audience targeting because they’re more easy to access. While that inclusivity broadens your brand’s reach, it sacrifices narrowing down your demographic. For this reason, if you’re a new brand just starting to gain recognition, it’s wise to stick primarily to live webinars until you’re more established.

Pros and Cons of Live Webinars

Live webinars are the best route for connecting with your target audience, learning more about their demographics, and authentically presenting your brand in an entertaining way. There’s a reason why so many businesses prefer to host live webinars over automated ones, even if the latter are less costly and time-consuming to create. 

Pros

With a live webinar, you directly interact with your audience and can see in real time how they respond to your topics. You display authenticity to new leads and grow your brand through your enthusiasm and genuine approach. If you’re a new brand, introducing your company via live interactions can do more for your sales funnel and online presence than any other promotional tactic.

Cons

When you host a live webinar, your control over your audience is limited. If your host falls flat or if content doesn’t resonate with your audience as well as you’d like, there’s no do-over. Furthermore, if you host a Q&A and want to moderate the questions asked more strictly, a live event isn’t the best option for this. 

Also, live webinars run the risk of technical issues and distractions from audience members. However, a well-rehearsed event and the ability to mute or control your audience’s video can mitigate any potential technical problems with your live events. 

When to Use Pre-recorded Webinars? 

Before you develop automated webinars to promote content and generate stronger leads, you need to know when it’s best to use pre-recorded webinars over live sessions. 

Keep in mind that the registration process for pre-recorded content is similar to that of live content except for on-demand webinars (which are available as soon as registrants sign up on your event landing page). You can continue using your email marketing strategy to connect with your intended demographic before, during, and after your webinar regardless of which format you choose. 

Broaden Audience Reach

If your goal is to broaden your audience reach, pre-recorded webinars are the right avenue. This is especially important if you’ve received regular feedback about running webinars when your registrants are unavailable. 

Playing several pre-recorded sessions a week or month can expand your audience reach by capitalizing on their scheduling convenience. 

Onboard New Leads

A brand-new prospect who’s interested in your brand enjoys greater autonomy in learning about your products and services. They can catch up on your freshest content without you having to walk through them the entire way. Additionally, you can reach out via email to welcome new registrants and establish a personal connection.

Run Product Demos

You can utilize pre-recorded webinars for product demos or service tutorials, so long as the content shown is updated as your brand grows and changes. This provides new leads easy access to what you have to offer without a live introduction to your company from you. Plus, product demos create urgency among consumers and can lead to more sales.

Train Staff

Keep your staff and team members current on your most recent how-to videos, safety training, and other relevant information with automated webinars they can easily reference. All staff should view the same pre-recorded webinars so the information used in the learning process is consistent. 

Reuse Old Content 

Refreshing old content into new and current pre-recorded webinars is a great recycling option. It produces evergreen content that’s convenient for your audience and also helps you avoid burnout by not having to host yet another webinar or come up with new ideas. 

Best Practices for Creating Successful Pre-recorded Webinars 

Your pre-made content is a great way to acquire new leads and help consumers make buying decisions. To build high-quality pre-recorded webinars though, you need to follow best practices. 

Be Transparent

Always let your audience know if a webinar is live or pre-recorded. Make clear the topic or subjects to be covered so registrants aren’t surprised or confused. 

Edit for Perfection

If you decide to automate a live webinar, edit the session to remove the boring and irrelevant parts. A pre-recorded webinar should be short and to the point to keep the audience riveted until the end. 

Provide Incentives to Stay Until the End

A common webinar challenge is audience members leaving before the conclusion. Provide end-of-session bonuses and CTAs to maintain the attention of your webinar attendees until your virtual event is over. 

Consider a “value stacking” strategy. This is where you display a CTA along with a one-time discount or promo code if an audience member signs on by the end of the webinar or while a timed handout is on display. 

Note: You can always present on-demand webinars so your decision-making registrants can click on and access them as soon as they’ve decided to buy.

When to Use Live Webinars 

When in doubt, host a webinar live and then turn it into a pre-recorded video later. Here are some webinar setup tips to help you determine when live webinars may be best for you. 

Connect With Your Audience

Few things can compete with a live audience connection if you want to appear authentic to your targeted demographic. If you’re sharing new information with your audience or running a panel or Q&A session, host the event live. You can always edit the content later for an on-demand or automated session that latecomers can enjoy.

Hosting One-Time Events

Some promotions, special events, or conferences are made to be hosted live and then referenced later. These include conferences discussing time-sensitive topics and product launches, for example. If you have a one-time event that deserves urgency, host it as a live event to encourage registrants to become participants. 

Personal Preference

If you love connecting with a crowd and being in the moment or you simply want to monitor how your audience responds to you and your brand in real time, then hosting live is the way to go. 

Best Practices for Creating Outstanding Live Webinars

To make a live webinar resonate with your audience, you have to keep distractions at bay, know your audience and what they’ll find valuable in your content, and have a host who’s engaging and interactive. 

You get one shot with a live webinar, so make sure you do it right by using these best practices. 

Prepare Beforehand

Set a goal for your live webinar and stick to it. Run through your presentation several times to ensure a steady and consistent flow with no dead air. Have a backup plan in the event a technical issue arises or a host is unable to attend the webinar so your live event can proceed with minimal issue.

Ensure materials are uploaded into your presentation ahead of time and rehearse it more than once before you go live. Also, take advantage of your webinar platform’s email marketing features to send event reminders to all your registrants. 

Stay Engaged During

Interact with your audience constantly throughout your live webinar. Demio’s webinar platform features several ways to interact with your attendees, including timed handouts, CTAs, Q&A sessions and chats (both public and private), polls, surveys, and more. When in doubt, ask your audience questions.

Remove attendees who are no longer engaged or who’ve been uninvited. Monitor chat rooms to ensure the content discussed is relevant to the webinar topic. 

Check in After

After your webinar’s conclusion, immediately email all participants and thank them for their attendance. Contact the no-shows as well and invite them to visit your next webinar. Offering a promo or other incentive in the email can convince them to click on your links. 

Feedback surveys are also a great way to gain insight from your audience, so include them in your thank-you emails. The more you engage with your attendees after your webinar ends, the more likely they’ll be to act on their buying intentions. 

Find Success With Live and Pre-recorded Webinars

Both live and pre-recorded webinars can help you achieve your business goals when applied to their appropriate use cases. Live sessions are excellent for cultivating personal relationships with attendees thanks to their authenticity. Meanwhile, pre-recorded webinars guarantee a consistent and informative experience for every viewer.    

The type you choose will depend on the results you want to achieve and the format you decide to build. Live events are the best option for audience engagement, but pre-recorded sessions can expand your audience reach with ease and provide greater convenience. If you want to give pre-recorded webinars a try but are confused as to how to get started, look no further than Demio. Demio is designed with beginner to advanced webinar creators in mind, so you can engage with your audience and create beautiful, informative, and reusable content with ease. We make it easy to get started for free, so check us out today! If you aren’t ready to commit though, you can book a demo instead and see firsthand what Demio has to offer.

Related Articles

Webinar Use Case

10 Top Virtual Event Platforms for Seamless Engagements in 2024

Webinar Use Case

Top 12 Automated Webinar Software Tools for Maximizing Conversions

Webinar Use Case

Best Video Marketing Platforms of 2024