There are times where individuals at the university may feel the need to host a webinar. But what exactly is a webinar in contrast to a meeting? It seems at times that the two terms: webinar and meeting, are used interchangeably when the idea to host a virtual gathering is planned.
What is a meeting?
When looked at as an in-person event, meetings are simply real-time events where multiple individuals collect together to discuss one or more items that are relevant to all of the attendees interests or roles. These are usually performed in a room, at a table, during a pre-acknowledged day, time and location. Virtual meetings are the transposition of that event into a virtual space, where the room and all of its functionality is facilitated by a service, such as Zoom. As Zoom states, "Meetings are designed to be a collaborative event with all participants being able to screen share, turn on their video and audio, and see who else is in attendance."
What is a webinar?
If we are to look at a webinar as an in-person event, individuals would be expected to sit together in a room to watch a speaker or a group of speakers on stage. Where a meeting is presumably a dynamic and active conversation between all parties in attendance, a webinar is an event where attendees quietly view the performance put on by the speaker(s). Usually with a Q&A towards the end of the presentation. The term webinar is simply a portmanteau of the word web and seminar. Once again, as Zoom states, "Webinars are designed so that the host and any designated panelists can share their video, audio and screen... allow view-only attendees... have the ability to interact via Q&A, Chat, and answering polling questions."
Zoom Pro license versus a Zoom Webinar license
Please refer to the vendor's Meeting and webinar comparison page here.
Meetings: The cost for hosting your meeting is free to you. The university has purchased a block of licensing from Zoom, so that every eligible individual who works, studies and/or teaches at the school can take advantage of all that Zoom has to offer.
Webinars: You may need to look at this option especially if you have over 300 expected attendees. Depending on how many attendees you need for your event, the price per year will fluctuate. Please refer to our page on webinar costs here.
The primary considerations will be both the cost and the amount of attendees you want in each of your sessions. You will have to ask yourself whether or not the benefits provided with the webinar licensing will justify the cost of purchasing it for the year.
Otherwise, can you use your Zoom Pro account, with its 300 user limit to host a large meeting that could act like a webinar? There are some things you can do when creating a meeting that would allow you to imitate some of the webinar experience. Such as turning the video and audio off upon entry; disabling of desktop/screen sharing for users (Advanced settings); the designation of Alternative Hosts; and the hiding of participant profile pictures. While this will not replace a webinar, it will definitely be much cheaper for you to plan and facilitate. For this solution, your key concern will likely always come back to vulnerability to any unplanned interruptions by guests—be that through unmuted and unsolicited interjections during the seminar, through to the more serious and potentially dangerous Zoom-bombing event.
Circling back to cost: Learning Technology Services (LTS) holds a webinar license that can be booked at a cost. This will be a much cheaper alternative to purchasing your own, but due to demand, you will want to book your time as far in advance as possible. Information on this option can be found here.