Virtual Meetings: Many Flavors

virtual meeting
Virtual meetings come in many flavors.

Virtual meetings are often lumped together as a single entity, but there are many types, platforms and nuances. We spell it out for you.

Web conferences, webinars, virtual conferences: All virtual meetings are not created equal. Here are the differences.

Web Conference

A web conference is essentially a phone conference where participants dial into a common conference call bridge, via their phones or a link on their computers, using an assigned passcode. Attendees have the option to choose audio or video, and many services allow presenters and attendees to show and share files. This format is ideal for remote team interaction. The down side is that there can be technical issues based on participants’ internet speed. Vendors include UberConference, Zoom.


Webinars are live events used primarily for one-way communication, such as seminars and presentations, vs. interaction. They usually run for a finite time period of an hour or less, and can include tools such as polling, group chats and Q&A. They can be recorded and accessed afterwards as well. The biggest difference between webinars and web conferences is scale, with webinars being structured, planned in advance and promoted, then attended by large groups. Vendors include GoToWebinar, ON24  

Virtual Conference

Virtual conferences are the online version of a live meeting condensed into a shorter timeframe of a few hours. There is formal registration (as with a webinar), an agenda, a moderator, multiple speakers, even virtual coffee breaks. Participants can ask questions, chat or join polls. Virtual conference technology crosses the line when it comes to sophistication, with features such as Dolby Voice and immersive video. These companies provide consulting, live support and security safeguards. Vendors include BlueJeans Meetings and Live Online Events

Virtual Trade Shows

Virtual trade show platforms seek to re-create the live experience and are highly visual, with branding options, customizable exhibitor booths, appointments, chat forums and even the ability to perform online transactions. Vendors include vFairs, eZ-XPO

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Barbara Scofidio is editor of Prevue and heads up the Visionary Summits, our exclusive conference series targeting senior-level meeting and incentive planners. In 25 years of covering the industry, her articles have spanned topics ranging from social media to strategic meetings management. She is currently the media liaison for FICP's Education Committee and was the first member of the media ever to be invited to sit on a committee by GBTA, where she spent three years on the Groups and Meetings Committee. She has also been an active member of Site, chairing its Crystal Awards committee and acting as a judge. A familiar face at industry events, Barbara often leads panel discussions or speaks on topics close to her heart, such as green meetings or how the industry can help combat human trafficking. She is also on the board of ECPAT USA, the human trafficking organization. Barbara is based outside Boston, in Groton, Mass.