Zoom Webinar vs. Meeting – Which One Should You Choose? (With Use Cases)

Did you know that Zoom offers two ways of video conferences: meetings and webinars? Knowing the difference will help you pick the right one and unlock practical features for more efficient and engaging encounters. 

One of the main differences between a Zoom meeting vs. webinar is that in a meeting, the participants are known to the host, and the latter is often collaborative in nature. In a webinar, however, the participants aren’t known to the host. 

So how do you know when to opt for a Zoom webinar vs. meeting? In this article, we’ll guide you to choose the right one for your needs. Let’s go!

What is a Zoom Webinar?

A Zoom webinar is a virtual meeting on Zoom where the meeting host, rather than the participants, is expected to talk. Zoom webinars can be an excellent choice for lectures, courses, quarterly updates, or other formats characterized by one-way communication. (Some people have that magical tendency to turn Zoom meetings into monologues. Hot tip: sneaky-drop this article into their inbox as a subtle hint!) 

Zoom webinars are ideal for larger audiences – they act as a virtual lecture hall or auditorium. They are also suited for non-corporate events like concerts, religious gatherings, and entertainment. Who’s up for hosting a stand-up comedy show?

What is a Zoom Meeting?

Ahh. That legendary Zoom jingle should have won a Grammy as the song of the year in 2020. 

A Zoom meeting is the standard format for video (or audio) calls – you can speak to one other person as an old-school phone call or have a group meeting. It’s the ideal substitute for an in-person meeting. 

During a Zoom meeting, all participants are expected to interact. You can share your opinions by talking,  interact with what the current speaker says by writing in the chat, and quickly react to other attendees’ messages by clicking on an emoji. You can also share your screen to walk the others through a system or process pedagogically. There’s a “raise hand” feature to signal the host that you have something to share. 

Zoom meetings can also be for two people only – for example, one-on-one meetings between a team leader and an employee.

On a more informal note, Zoom meetings can constitute a substitute for a phone call. You can connect with someone and have a voice/video call.

The Differences: Zoom Webinar vs. Meeting

So – what exactly are the differences between a Zoom webinar and a Zoom meeting? We’ve created a list for you to quickly identify what’s the ideal option for you. 

  • Number of participants 
  • Zoom meetings: Ideal for smaller groups of 2+ people
  • Zoom webinars: Best for bigger, town-hall-style meetings or lectures
  • Price 
  • Zoom meetings: Free or paid versions
  • Zoom webinars: paid option with a subscription
  • Participant roles
  • Zoom meetings: Meeting host, cohost, and participants 
  • Zoom webinars: Meeting host, cohost, panelist, and attendees
  • Audio sharing
  • Zoom meetings: Participants can mute/unmute themselves, which facilitates discussions. The meeting host can mute all participants or individual attendees. The host can also activate a setting that mutes all participants upon entry
  • Zoom webinars: Only the host, cohost, and panelists can mute/unmute themselves. Attendees automatically join on a listen-only mode. The host can unmute selected participants (for e.g. Q&A at the end of the webinar)
  • Video sharing
  • Zoom meetings: All participants can share their screen
  • Zoom webinars: Only the host and panelists can share 
  • Capacity
  • Zoom meetings: Up to 100 participants with the free version and 1,000 with the premium subscriptions depending on the plan
  • Zoom webinars: 500-50,000 participants depending on the plan
  • Participants list
  • Zoom meetings: Visible to all participants
  • Zoom webinars: Only the host, cohost and panelists can see the participants 
  • Breakout rooms
  • Zoom meetings: Available 
  • Zoom webinars: Not available
  • Waiting room
  • Zoom meetings: Available 
  • Zoom webinars: Not available 
  • PayPal integration
  • Zoom meetings: Available 
  • Zoom webinars: Not available

One of the key differences is the degree of participation. In meetings, participants are expected to interact and engage by talking, sharing screens, writing in the chat, and reacting to other participants’ messages with emojis. They can also have more intimate conversations in breakout rooms. 

In webinars, the possibilities for participants to communicate are limited and reserved for Q&A in the end.

The Similarities: Zoom Webinar vs. Meeting 

Even though Zoom webinars are big and often open to many people, they still require a password to join. Zoom webinars and meetings require a password to keep the security high and prevent intruders from sneaking in. 

The host can access similar key functionalities – mute/unmute participants and share screens. Both Zoom webinars and meetings can be recorded and emailed to participants afterward or shared with people who couldn’t make it. 

Another similarity is that you can use closed captioning with webinars and meetings. Closed captioning, also called live transcription, makes for more engaging meetings and simplicity in following the discussion. For high-quality captions in eight different languages, check out a third-party integration like Airgram.

If you want to learn more, the official Zoom site offers free live trainings (probably on Zoom!) to teach you how to unlock the features of a Zoom meeting vs. webinar.

4 Use Cases: Choose Zoom Webinar vs. Meeting

Weekly Team Meeting

The best format for a weekly team meeting is – as the name suggests – a Zoom meeting. In a Zoom meeting, participants can manage their interactions and actively participate in the discussion. They can also easily interact with what the speaker is saying without interrupting by using the chat and emojis (like the heart to show their support).

As a meeting facilitator or host, your role is to ensure everyone is engaged and follows what’s being said. This is greatly simplified by using live transcription. While Zoom has built-in live transcription, it’s not flawless – the transcription is only available in English. It has a hard time correctly detecting anything other than spotless English without accents, which is rarely the case in an actual Zoom meeting.

That’s when using a third-party service like Airgram comes in handy. Airgram has support for eight different languages. The advanced AI assistant can pick up on accents and provide an accurate transcription that actually helps and requires little editing. The assistant also notices who is speaking and labels the captions accordingly. 

The advantage of live transcription and notes exportation through an AI assistant is that you don’t need to assign a record-taker. There’s little room for misinterpretation, and all meeting attendees can focus on what’s being said instead of remembering it and conveying the message to those absent. The meeting minutes can easily be exported to your preferred note-taking software: MS Word, Google Doc, or Notion. 

After the meeting, simply share the meeting notes with the attendees and anyone who couldn’t make it – no tedious editing is needed. Everyone can focus on their zone of genius instead! And happier employees translate into increased revenue. 

College Public Speech or Lecture 

For a college public speech or lecture, a Zoom webinar is the given format. A college public speech is well suited for the webinar format to keep the storytelling flow and capture the audience. 

For a lecture, the webinar format lets the teacher or professor share uninterrupted and convey all the essential information on time. When planning a college lecture, leave space for questions at the end. 

One-on-one Meeting

A one-on-one meeting may be the most interactive of all meetings. The idea is to leave the parole to the attendee and let them share how everything is going and where they’d need support. The optimal format is thus a Zoom meeting. 

During a one-on-one meeting, it’s extra important to leave the camera on, if possible. This makes for a more personal atmosphere and facilitates reading each other’s facial expressions – which is valuable since one-on-ones can be quite vulnerable.

Quarterly Update 

For a quarterly, company-wide update, a Zoom webinar is the best option – at least if your company is relatively large. 

Quarterly updates are characterized by sharing lots of information and data. It’s not the optimal place to stop and discuss each point in detail. The webinar format ensures you have the time to review everything, respecting everyone’s time.

Wrapping it Up 

The question of Zoom webinar vs. meeting comes down to a few factors. The most important is audience size and desired degree of interaction. 

A Zoom webinar is suitable for formats where a lot of engagement would cause frustration and slow down the video call. The opposite is valid for a Zoom meeting, where discussion and participation make a meeting successful. 

Finally, to use a Zoom webinar, you need to have a paid plan. It is suitable for bigger companies or educational/governmental institutions. When in doubt or just starting out, you can always go for a Zoom meeting and mute all participants.