There’s currently a lot of excitement for the webinar functionality for Microsoft Teams meetings. And so naturally this begs the question: What's the difference between a Microsoft Teams live event vs webinar? Follow along as I walk you through the features of each meeting type, helping you pick the right one for your next meeting.
What is a Webinar in Microsoft Teams?
A webinar in Microsoft Teams is almost identical to a meeting, with some built-in functionality. When booking a webinar, there is literally no difference between that and the meeting option, other than in the webinar, registrations are already enabled. If you were to book a meeting, you could easily turn on registrations, and there you go - you have a webinar. Depending on the purpose of your webinar, you will want different features and capabilities. Some that exist in Microsoft Teams meetings, others that exist in live events.
In short, the webinar functionality simply adds new capabilities to an existing Microsoft Teams meeting. To launch a Webinar, you simply select it from the calendar app you as you have done for existing meetings and live events.
The features that really make it a Webinar
For those of you currently running webinars using Microsoft Teams, regardless of whether you used a live event or a meeting – you know the one thing you are always missing is a registration page. Sure you can turn to Eventbrite as it is free and includes quite a variety of features, but having an integrated registration page built right into the Microsoft Teams platform simplifies what is often an annoying part of the process. Because of this integration, you will now be able to download both the registration and attendee report from within the meeting itself.
So, the event registration page feature really turns a meeting into a webinar, but what other features really support Webinars in Microsoft Teams?
Check out some of new features slated already available and for release in the following few months:
- Host up to 1,000 attendees in a meeting (currently limited to 300)
- Overflow attendees beyond the 1,000 limit join in view-only mode, up to 10,000 (currently 20,000 until end of 2021 due to COVID)
- Forms-powered polls in meetings will support guest interaction
- Disable all attendee microphones (not just mute them, actually disable microphones), with the ability to enable/disable individually
- Disable all attendee cameras, with the ability to enable/disable individually
- Breakout room timers, room retention, and participant reassignment
- Configure breakout rooms the meeting starts (currently can only be done once the meeting is under way)
- Ability to schedule and get reporting data from third-party apps
- Access to a dashboard that shows registration and attendance data (instead of having to download and compare reports)
- Show reactions to content as it happens (without having to use the chat)
- More accessible closed captions using external providers
- Allow participants to see (in real-time) if the problem with the meeting is on their end or somewhere else
- Ability to brand the lobby with your logo
- Improved listing of meeting participants
- Spotlight the video of up to 7 participants (currently limited to 1)
- Join the meeting by code (instead of requiring the full link)
- Prevent people joining the meeting after it has started
- Access apps in meetings (i.e. add more content than just slides, files, polls, chat, video)
- Reply to specific chat messages (you’ve been able to do this on mobile for a while, finally coming to desktop)
- Allow others to access organizer functionality such as the event dashboard & reports
The option to disable chat for a meeting has been available from January, which enhances the organizers ability to control the conversation and attention of the attendees.
As you can see from the above list, with all these new features coming very soon – we can turn any meeting into a webinar-esque experience.
When should I use a Microsoft Teams meeting or a webinar?
This one is super simple: a webinar is a meeting. It is important for organizers to be deliberate in their selection of meeting options, whether scheduling a webinar or regular meeting. Choose how you want participants to engage – this is something you should already be doing. The new controls will provide more options for you, which will ultimately enhance the experience.
When should I use a Microsoft Teams meeting or a live event?
A live event is for broadcast purposes. It has no audience interaction capabilities beyond the Q&A functionality. It has none of the above-listed functionality, nor is it on the roadmap to get any of those new features.
A live event is a presentation of heavily curated content and strictly controlled. A meeting/webinar can be the same if you want it to be, but the choice is yours.
When I am asked this question, I tell clients not to think of a live event as a Microsoft Teams feature – because you can actually present them in Yammer and Stream. I explain that the integration point of Microsoft Teams and live events is simply to manage the content. I personally would love to see the branding change so there’s less confusion between live events in Microsoft Teams, Stream, and Yammer – because they’re technically all the same.
For those who are currently using Zoom, GoToWebinar or other purpose-built services for delivering webinars, they will always have some features that Microsoft Teams won’t. However, for many people they will have more than enough, and because of their integration into the rest of the Microsoft 365 platform using Microsoft Teams to deliver webinars will offer an easier, richer, and more secure experience.
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