To understand where they fit with other electronic communication tools, consider these two criteria for grouping these tools:
- Interaction: How much do the participants get to contribute in the conversation? The level of interaction increases as the number of participants grows, and they have increasing ability to contribute. Books, for example, have low interaction (it's all one way, from the author to the reader); presentations have medium interaction; and discussion groups have high interaction.
- Bandwidth: How many different "channels" are used in the communication? The more senses you engage, the higher the bandwidth because we pick up different communication cues. Books have low bandwidth (just reading words and looking at pictures); telephone calls have medium bandwidth (audio); video has high bandwidth (audio and video).
Let's briefly compare the pros and cons of a webinar with similar communication techniques.
Skype video call
Video telephone calls - using technology such as Skype - are certainly becoming more common now, for the same reason webinars are becoming more common (faster broadband and better software). However, unlike a webinar, a simple two-way video conference call isn't usually a presentation; it's more likely to be an equal conversation.
The humble telephone call is still one of the most important business communication tools. I won't say much more about it here, because I'm sure you're familiar with telephone calls!
A teleseminar, like a webinar, also involves one presenter and a group of participants, but it doesn't have the visual component of a webinar. Just a few years ago, teleseminars were far more popular than webinars. But now, as Internet access gets faster and webinar technology improves rapidly, the gap is narrowing.
Video conference calls are the group version of the one-to-one video call. Unlike a webinar, where one person (the presenter) does most of the talking, everybody participates equally in the conversation. In other words, it's a meeting rather than a presentation. Leading this call means chairing a meeting, and the skills required are very different from those for webinars.
This is similar to the video conference call, except it has no visuals. These types of conference calls are very popular in many business environments, because they are easy to schedule and operate.
Like video conference calls, these are usually used for meetings rather than presentations.
What's right for you?
It depends on your needs! Although webinars are very powerful, and often include some of the features of the less sophisticated services, sometimes those other services might be better for your particular situation.