If you are wondering if your next virtual event should be a Zoom webinar or a Zoom meeting, then this article may help you decide. The following analogy may be helpful, a more detailed explanation is below.

Basically, a Zoom meeting is akin to a “campfire chat” where everyone sitting around the fire is free to be seen, heard and share content- without much intervention from the hostA Zoom webinar is more structured and controlled, like a concert, where only the panelists have access to the “stage." The audience is not visible in a webinar and they passively watch and listen.  A webinar host can solicit and manage some audience interaction through polling, text questions and answers, and they can grant individual audience members audio access to ask questions.

Technical definitions:

Zoom meeting: A two-tiered virtual gathering held on the Zoom platform wherein one person is the host and all participants have two-way audio/video communication and the ability to screen share. Breakout rooms, polling and chat are modalities available in Zoom meetings.  Although a meeting should have a minimum of two participants (one host and one participant), it can accommodate up to 300 participants. A large meeting option for up to 500 participants is also available.  Live Streaming can be used to reach an even larger, yet strictly passive audience.

Zoom webinar: A three-tiered virtual event held on the Zoom platform wherein one person is the host, a set of panelists are presenters, and all other participants (attendees) are mostly passively witnessing the event. Polling, Q&A and chat can be used to solicit attendee responses. Webinar participants/attendees cannot share their video or be seen in Gallery view.  The host can, however, prompt individual attendees to unmute their microphone and thereby grant them access to be heard during the event (usually to ask a question).  Breakout rooms are NOT available in Zoom webinars. Webinars have a maximum attendance of 1000 participants. Live Streaming is available to reach a larger, yet strictly passive audience.

A table and comparing Zoom meetings and webinars is available on the Zoom support website: Meeting and webinar comparison.

Reasons to choose one over the other?

Zoom meetings and webinars are similar enough to each other that most virtual events at Whitman can be run using either format. Nonetheless, here are some common reasons for choosing each one.

Note that the host in either format has ultimate control over the virtual event and can grant and restrict permissions beyond what is stated in the general reasons below.

Reasons to use Zoom meetings:

  • Quick.
    A web meeting can be scheduled in a matter of minutes, without having to coordinate with other departments for available Zoom add-ons or additional staff support.

  • Easy to manage.
    Since all participants in a Zoom meeting are granted audio/video interaction, chat access and can share screens -  there is no need to grant individual attendees access to video, audio or screen share.  The host can easily monitor and participate in the meeting. By the same token, there may be a multitude of camera feeds visible at one time, as well as microphones that are on.  If the meeting participants can manage their own cameras and microphones, then there should be no need to manage what is being seen and heard.

  • Trusted participants.
    Everyone in the meeting is entrusted with the ability to share and speak what they want at whatever time they want.

  • Simple and ubiquitous.
    No special Zoom add-ons are needed.  Everything you need to schedule and run a Zoom meeting is built into your
    licensed Whitman Zoom account. If you need to establish a Whitman Zoom account, go to Zoom: Start here

  • Familiarity.
    Many members of the Whitman community are familiar with how to participate in Zoom meetings, and many have hosted meetings of their own.

  • Breakout rooms.
    A feature unique to Zoom meetings that can be used to separate attendees into groups, with the host being able to check in on each group. Breakout rooms are NOT available for webinars.

Reasons to choose a Zoom webinar:

  • Control.
    Webinars offer a high level of control over an event through the use of a three-tiered structure: host(s), panelist(s), and attendees. Each of these roles have predefined abilities during an event. The host maintains the highest level of authority during the event, followed by panelists, then attendees.

  • Security.
    Presentations are shielded from interruptions like heckling, uninvited screen sharing, de-platforming, event commandeering, or even accidental interruptions. Since only panelist(s) and host(s) can be seen and heard - attendees/participants cannot speak out of turn. This security feature has the added benefit of creating a smoother and uninterrupted event recording.

  • Curation.
    Audience participation is managed through a semi-curated Question and Answer text box. Submitted questions can be seen by the host(s) and panelist(s) before they are acknowledged and made visible to the webinar at large. Hosts and panelists can choose which questions to acknowledge, answer, dismiss, and the order in which they are addressed.

  • Event Reports.
    Attendance reports and a log of submitted questions is available for each webinar.

Further information about Zoom meetings or Zoom webinars.

Zoom meetings can be scheduled in your individual Zoom account. For information on how to schedule a zoom meeting, see Scheduling a Zoom meeting

If you would like to schedule a Webinar or have further questions about Zoom in general, please contact IMS@whitman.edu