Webinar vs Virtual Event: What's the Difference and How To Choose

Rachel Meyrowitz

Webinars are a powerful tool in a marketing team’s arsenal. Their significantly lower cost compared to physical events also makes them attractive to companies across industries. Although people often consider them interchangeable with virtual events (and even different types of webinars), the two are distinct categories with overlapping similarities but unique differences.

Each type and format has specific processes, functionalities, and best practices, and confusing them or attempting to pull off both at once is a surefire way to launch a disjointed project and earn unimpressive results.

In this guide, we’ll break down webinars and virtual events, delving into their details so you understand how they differ, where they excel, and where they fall short. By the end, you’ll be able to choose the right event type to achieve your business goals.

What Is a Webinar? 

A webinar is an online seminar that’s accessible to viewers around the globe. Participants gather in a common virtual room to learn, interact with, and otherwise enjoy the content presented by the host running the event. A webinar may be live or pre-recorded.

This type of virtual event features a speaker or a group of presenters (or, in the case of a pre-recorded session, a moderator) who guide attendees through an online presentation that covers a specific topic. The presentation is designed to achieve a pre-established goal, normally promotional and or educational in nature.

Webinars enable attendees from around the world to join together in an online “classroom.” They can take a few formats, each of which is well structured but still leaves plenty of room for personalization and creativity. Many marketers create interactive webinars to strengthen audience participation and engagement and thus yield more conversions. 

Besides the presentation, a webinar includes other class-like elements: Audience members can ask questions and interact with webinar speakers through a live chat, Q&A sessions, and other engagement features like polls and quizzes (depending on the webinar platform you use).

Due to their interactive nature, a webinar is a great option for:

  • Product or service explanations
  • Product demonstrations
  • Customer education
  • Internal communications

The emphasis on accessibility allows participants from anywhere in the world with a decent device and Internet connection to participate. This makes them an excellent choice for reaching a large audience with a small investment. 

Webinars are also flexible in their implementation: You can present them in real time to a global audience, or record sessions and make them available on demand, allowing even more prospects to view them at their convenience.

Webinar Platforms as a Marketing Tool

A brand is only as strong as their understanding of their audience. Webinars possess enormous marketing potential and so are often employed as lead generation tools. But they also serve other crucial purposes, such as gathering customer feedback and building brand awareness through broad promotional efforts. These advantages can be seen at each stage of a webinar’s planning and execution. For example, with Demio’s custom registration page creation tools and email marketing campaign, you can better connect with attendees while gathering important information about your targeted demographic. 

An overwhelming 95% of marketers utilize webinars to better connect with audiences and generate quality leads. By maximizing video engagement, marketers can establish themselves as industry leaders in their global market.

When prospective audience members register for a webinar, they normally provide basic contact information. This is an easy way to generate quality leads, as people who sign up already demonstrate some level of interest in the topic and your brand. This isn’t the only focus you should have in generating leads — you also need to nourish them with engaging webinars. This can be done by utilizing the engagement features included in your webinar platform. For example, Demio allows you to host polls, interact with audience members via public and private chat, and insert time featured actions throughout your virtual events to maintain audience engagement and build a genuine connection with prospects and your brand.

Webinars also allow marketers to track audience behaviors, such as the engagement tools they most use, their click-through rates for webinar registration emails, and how involved they are during the session itself. This, in turn, helps webinar planners segment audience members based on engagement so they can move more quality prospects to their sales department. 

Demio, for example, possesses top-notch analytics tools for pinpointing attendee behaviors. That information helps you fine-tune your content and engagement strategies to best meet your demographics’ pain points. 

What Is a Virtual Event?

The term “virtual event” has a broader meaning: It’s an online meeting or gathering around a mutual purpose. These events may have a more general goal than webinars and are multidimensional and less focused than webinars as well. Sessions may also last longer, and topic coverage is less specific.

They encompass any event where people participate in a virtual environment. This form of virtual conferencing is an effective alternative to in-person events and can take the form of:

  • Conferences
  • Internal meetings
  • Trade shows
  • Networking events
  • Demonstrations
  • Entertainment events

A virtual event simply takes any of the above into a digital space and can be as small or large as necessary, be it 50 people or 5,000. Likewise, their goals can vary widely, but they may serve some of the same marketing purposes as webinars.

Virtual events offer a cost-effective alternative to organizations that want to hold in-person meetings while avoiding the associated expenses. They’re more easily accessible to audiences, which expands your reach, and require less investment. Virtual meetings also allow significant customization. Event planners can tailor elements to the needs of their target segment and incorporate a mix of interactive features to engage attendees and gather feedback for future improvements. However, they still require detailed preparation and data collection for optimization.

Webinar vs. Virtual Event: A Comparative Analysis

Given their similar natures, webinars and virtual events experience some overlap. Both function well for both educational and marketing purposes, but a virtual event is less formal and encourages more social interactions. Depending on your objectives, this can be either a strength or a serious weakness.

Audience Engagement

Along with the need for robust event marketing, both virtual events and webinars have to be engaging to achieve their goals. To that end, both formats employ similar tools and tactics, including:

  • Polls, quizzes, and live chat to hold the audience’s attention
  • Q&A sessions to answer any lingering questions and end the event on a strong note
  • Free resources like ebooks, guides, and even the presentation deck so attendees leave with a memento and extend the value they gained from the event
  • Pre- and post-event surveys and follow-up communications to gauge attendee satisfaction and identify areas for improvement, as well as future topic ideas

They also provide opportunities for breaks to rest the mind and stretch the body, as both need to be limber to gain the most from an online event. Smaller details, like @ mentioning people or using emojis in live chat, are other subtle but effective methods of keeping the audience engaged. Both types of events recognize the need to provide a comprehensive experience for attendees down to the last detail and so make use of various elements to ensure viewers leave smarter and satisfied. 

The elements you can leverage depend on the engagement features included in your virtual event platform or other webinar solution. On the more comprehensive end of the spectrum, Demio features polls, surveys, audience spotlighting, screen sharing, featured actions, and chat to keep audiences fully engaged throughout their virtual event experience. Research available options and choose the right platform that’ll meet your needs and can accommodate various event types, from product launches to general video conferencing and everything in between.

Format and Interaction

Webinars are available in several formats, and the kind you build affects your event management strategy. You can choose a Q&A session, product demonstration or how-to, panelist or keynote discussion, or training format to bring your content to life. 

Since virtual events are less restrictive in how they’re run, there’s less need to stick to a specific format. However, since these gatherings are typically informative, they may take on an educational or training format. As such, audience chat, breakout rooms, and Q&A sessions are heavily encouraged in both webinars and virtual events.

Interactions are also similar, and often in virtual events, audiences are encouraged to engage in conversation and share strategies with their peers. Webinars are typically hosted with a main presenter and have audience interactions built in at specific segments. That requires careful monitoring to stay on task and follow the event’s schedule. 

Scalability and Audience Size

As we’ve touched on, webinars are narrower in scope and attendees enter the session hoping to leave with new and useful knowledge. 

Virtual events, on the other hand, enjoy a wider focus. You can deliver them in many ways, and they offer greater freedom within the presentation as well.

For this reason, you’re more likely to see a smaller audience with a webinar, even if a virtual event covers a similar topic. Studies have even suggested that webinars with 200 participants or less have the highest conversion rate over other audience sizes. 

As an example of this disparity, imagine an event about the “new normal” of work after the Covid-19 pandemic. Examples of virtual event and webinar titles for this topic could be:

  • Virtual event: “The Future of Work: Living in the New Normal”
  • Webinar: “A Guide to the Future of Work: How to Navigate the New Normal”

As you can see, a webinar will specify a narrower subject matter compared to a virtual event.

If your main ambition is to grow brand awareness and fill seats, a virtual event is the wiser route. However, if you’re attempting to gain leads and increase your ROI, then webinars are the way to go. 

Recording and Reusability

As educational presentations, it’s easy to record, edit, repurpose, and reuse webinar content. In fact, on-demand webinar platforms like Demio specialize in these tasks. They remove the headache of presenting and reusing webinar content, providing convenience both to presenters and global audiences.

You can record virtual events as well, but their open-ended format and often non-evergreen content make it difficult to reuse their content meaningfully without heavy editing and cropping. Essentially, virtual events are most successful as one-time, live events whereas webinars focus largely around a key topic and can be easily recorded for future use.

Another consideration is if you intend to transform recorded events into evergreen content that audiences can watch on demand. This practice can maximize the impact of both webinars and virtual events. 

The goal of automating content is to continue interacting with event attendees through timed engagement features (for instance, Demio has Demio AI and chat assistance) without having to go live constantly. This way, audience members have access to quality content at their convenience, and your brand can remain interesting and useful to attendees even when you aren’t live streaming. As a bonus, you also enjoy post-event analytics that measure the success of your content.


Because they have a more defined structure, webinars have relatively predictable expenses that are normally lower than those of virtual events. The average webinar costs between $3,000 and $5,000 to create, whereas a virtual event can start out at a modest $2,500 but can easily reach up to $150,000 for a multi-day session. 

The variance in costs is due to the multitude of contributing factors, such as the length of the event (e.g., a short session versus a conference that spans several days), audience size, and more, so it’s difficult to pin down general budget expectations for virtual events. Other factors like event scope and complexity control which option is more expensive. Typically, if you want to keep costs low, webinars are the better choice, as they’re shorter, more limited in audience viewership, and easier to budget. 

Virtual events, meanwhile, may require a greater investment to manage, depending on their scope. If you plan to run virtual booths (that is, rooms in the event) with different presenters taking on different roles, organization costs more. 

A general tenet to keep in mind when budgeting a virtual event or webinar is the attendee allowance, number of speakers, and length of the event will usually have the largest impact on cost. 

The Pros and Cons of Webinars and Virtual Events

Webinar Benefits and Drawbacks


  • Targeted audience
  • Audience engagement
  • Strong ROI
  • Brand awareness
  • In-depth topic 
  • Thought leadership


  • Cost
  • Flexibility
  • Audience reach
  • Registration versus attendance 
  • Potential technical issues

Virtual Event Benefits and Drawbacks


  • Broad audience
  • Audience engagement
  • Brand awareness
  • Cost


  • Less targeted audience 
  • Less brand authority
  • Potential technical issues

Weigh the pros and cons of both webinars and virtual events to make the best decision as to which event you should create. 

Tips for Choosing the Right Format

Virtual events and webinars are both excellent tools. However, the right option for your business depends on your target audience, your goals for the event, and your budget.

Consideration for Businesses’ Goals

At the beginning of your event planning, ask yourself: What do you want to give to your audience? What do you want to receive from them? Is your aim to provide an immersive experience that positions you as a networker and leader? Are you trying to establish yourself as a thought leader and authority in your industry?

Every virtual event or webinar should have clear, measurable goals, such as closing more sales, reducing turnover, or generating a certain type of lead. The key performance indicators (KPIs) you set for these goals will return information that’ll help you refine your future events for better results.

In general, if you want to share in-depth knowledge about your products or services, webinars are the better choice. If you want to supply fully branded, engaging experiences, virtual events are the way to go.


In terms of budget, either choice can be cost-effective, but if you need consistency and have little wiggle room, webinars win out.

Virtual events boast an expansive range, as there are fewer restrictions on what they can include. Webinars, meanwhile, are more predictable, but you can still easily go over budget with them in hiring speakers, marketing and promotion efforts, and even in product endorsements. 

Controlling your budget entails deploying resources wisely. Do this by encouraging past attendees to give referrals (free referrals from trusted sources is always a win), offer low-cost incentives to keep guests engaged, and reuse old attendee lists to reignite relationships with past prospects to save on marketing costs. 

When it comes to speakers, collaborate with partners and notable social media figures who will help boost sales and brand awareness to help you get the most from your investment long-term. Some speakers will even guest on your event for free in return for a promotion of their relevant brand or product during your webinar or virtual event. 

Your Audience

Your event should align with your audience’s wants and needs. So, first, consider your target segment.

What will your attendees benefit from the most? A highly informative webinar where they can ask a few questions at the end of the session? Or, a dynamic and entertaining virtual event? You have to understand what your audience is looking for; what do they feel will benefit them?

Every webinar or virtual event you produce should be tailored to a specific audience segment and need, so hone in on these two factors when deciding between a webinar or a virtual event.

How to Create Webinars and Virtual Events With Demio

Demio makes creating your first webinar or other live event simple. Simply choose a template and get started customizing your registration page. Then, you’ll be able to invite audiences to join and share your event with their own network and across social media. There’s no download for them, and you can even create a custom domain for this page as well. 

Then, you can move on to building your webinar or virtual event, which includes uploading videos and slides and incorporating elements like featured actions and CTAs. Demio also allows you to customize slides and templates with your brand image and color theme to maintain consistency. 

You can even add timed engagement features so you interact with your audience at regular intervals. 

Once the webinar or virtual event finishes, you can easily review the content analysis to determine which engagement elements, interactions, inserted links, featured actions, and other aspects performed best. 

Be sure to email your audience after the event has ended to thank them for their attendance and gather important information in a post-event survey. 

Demio has amazing automated webinar tools to help you generate leads even while you sleep, so keep on-demand and automated evergreen content in constant rotation — Demio has you covered. 


Webinars and virtual events exist in close proximity to each other but are nevertheless distinct and serve unique purposes. Capable event organizers can yield great results with either format. But their key differences could make the difference between a successful virtual event and a forgettable experience for your audience.

You can create both webinars and virtual events to grow your brand, and when you’re looking for solutions, like Zoom, to bring your content to life, consider the wealth of options available. Choose a platform that lets you host both types of online events so you can pivot between the two with ease. Demio is user-friendly and has an interface that beginners and experienced marketers alike can appreciate. Book a demo to learn more, or get started for free today.

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