The 3 Types of Virtual Events— Defined
I always hear people throw out the term virtual event, but I have found it necessary to define the various types of virtual events so that we can all be on the same page when we talk about a virtual event. I have narrowed the types of virtual events into three categories: webinar, virtual summit, and virtual conference. You should note that each of these three virtual event types could also be a hybrid event. A hybrid event is where the presenter is presenting to a live audience that is also simultaneously streamed to an online audience.
Most of us are familiar with the “webinar” as a type of virtual event thanks to COVID. Everyone has heard of Zoom which is a popular platform for streaming live over the Internet. A webinar is a one-to-many type of virtual event that could have one or more presenters that present in the same session to many attendees. A webinar could be a paid or free event and typically lasts from 1 to 4 hours. You only need one Zoom account and you could use Zoom Webinar if you don’t want people to know how many are attending or Zoom Meeting which allows you to see the audience and potential have them join the conversation.
I define a “virtual summit” as a single or multi-speaker single-track virtual event. This is also done through some streaming platforms like Zoom. A “Virtual Summit” is typically 1-5 days with 2-8 hours of content per day and since it is a single-track only requires one Zoom account. An example of this would be a Tony Robbins Virtual Summit where he might be the main presenter but brings on guest experts to present throughout the day. Most people running virtual summits are using Zoom meeting so you can see the audience, but Zoom Webinar is also perfectly acceptable.
And finally, I define a “virtual conference” as a concurrent, multi-track virtual event where you have multiple speakers speaking at the same time in a virtual setting such as Zoom. This is a replacement for the typical conference that you might go to in-person where you have multiple tracks so there are multiple speakers speaking at the same time throughout the day and it is typically multi-day from 2-5 days. Because it is multi-track sessions, it will require multiple Zoom accounts. I have seen clients use both Zoom Meeting and Zoom Webinar for virtual conferences.
Each of these types of virtual events could also be a hybrid event. A hybrid version of each of these event types requires more tech, more equipment, and staff because you will need a different type of camera, the audio requires lavalier mics, and mixers. You’ll need projectors, a minimum of 2 laptops. One for the presenter’s presentation and one for streaming to Zoom.