Virtual events vs webinars

Virtual events and webinars have been top choices among event planners recently. But are the two one and the same? They’re both online. They both…

March 23, 2022

- 4 minutes

Virtual events and webinars have been the top choices among event planners recently. But are the two one and the same? They’re both online. They both use a virtual platform to host the event. And they can be used for very similar purposes.

But virtual events and webinars aren’t quite the same things. Let’s explore some key differences.

What is a virtual event?

Let’s start with a definition: A virtual event is the broad term for any type of event that takes a fully digital format. Event planners will use a virtual platform like Canapii to execute all aspects of the event, from audio to visuals to breakout sessions and more.

Similar to in-person events, a virtual event is usually comprised of various segments or sessions. It might span an entire day or even multiple days. There are usually lots of components to the event, just like you’d expect in person. And virtual events can serve a variety of purposes, from product launches to conferences to award shows and more.

the differences between virtual events and webinars virtual event2

What is a webinar?

A webinar is one type of virtual event. Webinar is a portmanteau of “web-based seminar” and is usually dedicated to learning. Webinars are shorter in nature compared to other virtual events (about an hour or so) and are usually comprised of a host and one or multiple presenters.

the differences between virtual events and webinars webinar2

Webinars vs. virtual events

Both webinars and virtual events share some similarities, but the two are far from being interchangeable. With these definitions in mind, let’s look at some of the unique characteristics of virtual events vs. webinars and when to use each one.

How specific the focus

Webinars are very topic-specific. They focus on one subject, such as how to do something or a State of the Industry report or best practices or tips. By the end of the webinar, attendees should be able to walk away with specific insights or next best actions. They’re extremely useful lead generation tools that allow the host or speakers to directly connect with the audience during live Q&As or even follow up after the event is over.

Virtual events are a little broader. Because they will likely consist of multiple sessions and speakers, there’s more to take away from the event. Events cover more topics, and attendees may not be interested in every session or topic.

Freedom for attendees

Since webinars are shorter than full-scale virtual events, they’re usually engaged throughout the entire session. Attendees also expect some form of Q&A or direct interaction at the end of the webinar.

The same isn’t always true for virtual events. There are more sessions and speakers, some of which may not interest or apply to all attendees. They can pick and choose which content they’re interested in receiving. Your guests will also have more freedom in how and when they engage at the event.

Audience engagement

Event engagement is always a critical part of its success. When attendees are engaged, they’re better able to take something away from the experience. But keeping your guests’ attention can be more challenging in virtual events.

Since webinars are shorter, attendees are usually dedicated to seeing it through to the end, as long as it’s meeting their expectations. They also know that they can share their questions or thoughts during the Q&A. Or, to put another way, they can plan their engagement.

This doesn’t quite translate with a virtual event. Virtual event software can facilitate engagement throughout the event, but event planners need to know how to integrate engagement activities in a natural (not forced) way. Finding ways for attendees to interact with speakers and each other can help to hold their attention for longer.

the differences between virtual events and webinars audience engagement2


To tack onto our note about engagement, networking is a huge deal for any event. It increases an event’s value when attendees can share ideas with each other, grow their network, and help each other after the event is over.

In webinars, networking is fairly limited. Attendees register for the event to learn something specific. They’re not really focused on networking to begin with, and those that are may struggle to do so because webinar platforms tend to lack networking opportunities and features.

Virtual event software is purpose-built for all aspects of an event, including networking. It’s easier to facilitate for the event host and easier for guests to participate.

Event experience

Both webinars and virtual events take place online, so the experience is similar. But webinars offer a very one-dimensional experience since they’re short and focused on a single topic. With virtual events, the experience is more tailored to the individual. You can choose how and when you engage and have more overall control over your experience.

Event data & analytics

Webinars and virtual events offer some data and analytics. But using an event platform gives you deeper insights into each phase of the event, from pre-registration engagement to follow-up. By comparison, webinars offer limited data and analytics. If you’re generating leads or otherwise need to learn more about your attendees, using an event management platform is a better course to take.

Learn how Canapii is changing the landscape of virtual events when you schedule a demo.


Anna Blaney

Events and Marketing Executive

Subscribe to our newsletter

You may also want to read