What does webinar mean?

12 January 2021

A female financial services student attending a webinar.

Formed from the words ‘web’ and ‘seminar’, a webinar is a combination of the two that facilitates both live and pre-recorded seminars to happen online between lecturers, teachers or employees and a group of their students, fellow employees or potential customers.

To put it simply, a webinar is a seminar or workshop conducted over the internet. They are commonly used by businesses for training and sales purposes, as well as schools, higher education providers and other educational organisations, to provide informative presentations and lessons, especially when restrictions prevent face-to-face learning. For this reason they have become increasingly popular during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is a webinar like?

Typically, webinars are designed to simulate a regular face-to-face learning experience as closely as possible. With this in mind, the best way to describe what a webinar is like is to imagine the lessons, lectures and seminars you attended at school or university. Of course, the main difference between a regular lesson and a webinar is that you take part online via a computer (or other device that can connect to the internet) rather than physically sharing a room with your tutor and fellow students/employees.

Once you’ve been invited to a webinar, you will be sent a link via email, instant messenger or text message that allows you to sign in and join the session. It’s best to give yourself a little time before the session is due to start as you may be required to download specific software to enable you to successfully join.

During the webinar session, the lesson or training course will typically play out as it would if you were in a classroom setting. This is to say, a tutor (or simply the person who is hosting the webinar) will lead the session, usually using slides, videos or other learning materials which you will be able to view and hear over your device. Depending on the type of webinar being held, there is usually also the option of participation and interaction from those attending. For example, you may be invited to ask/answer questions verbally using your device’s microphone or via written means using a chat function.

What are webinars used for?

From remote learning and internal training purposes to capturing sales leads, webinars are used for all kinds of purposes in a number of different sectors and industries. The following are the most popular uses for webinars.

  • Virtual teaching 

Webinars are ideal for educational purposes and can be utilised by schools, colleges, universities and adult learning centres alike to provide live and remote virtual lessons, module lectures, demonstrations and training courses over the internet. Designed to simulate physical lecture hall/classroom situations, most webinar software allows tutors/hosts to use a number of different learning aids, from slideshow presentations and videos to interactive games and real-time Q&A capabilities. These can promote engagement and help to build a virtual environment that best emulates face-to-face learning.

As the COVID-19 pandemic persists across the globe, this form of learning continues to become more popular, allowing educational institutions of all sizes to carry on providing the education their students/adult learners require.

  • Internal training

Whether you want to upskill members of your business or run onboarding training sessions for new staff members, webinars can offer businesses far more flexibility and efficiency when it comes to inhouse learning and development.

In the 21st century there is no need for awkward full-day staff training sessions or off-site upskilling days with external tutors. While these forms of training are sometimes valuable, they are not always required. For this reason, more and more businesses are using webinars for training purposes. From pre-recorded webinars ideal for the orientation of new starters to live upskilling workshops for other members of staff, webinars are a fantastic learning tool for businesses.

  • Generate new leads

Aside from educational purposes, webinars can also be used to drum up business. High quality sales leads can be generated by running and presenting well-thought-out webinars that pertain to topics relevant to your business.

By presenting yourself and your business as experts in your field and producing interesting and informative (typically free-of-charge) webinars, potential customers who like what they hear are more likely to visit your website or simply get in touch to enquire about your services. In a post-COVID world in which conferences and networking events are still yet to return, webinars represent a fantastic opportunity to network with potential clients and build a solid group of leads safely.

Why use webinars?

Whether you’re looking to learn a new skill, pick up a new qualification or even promote your business, webinars are more important now than ever before. The opportunity to promote your businesses or learn remotely, while still having the support and real-time experience of classroom education, is a fantastic tool and one that should be taken advantage of, particularly during the era of COVID-19 in which face-to-face learning and physical networking continues to encounter a number of practical challenges.

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