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What Is a Webinar? - Definition & Tools

Instructor: David Whitsett

David has taught computer applications, computer fundamentals, computer networking, and marketing at the college level. He has a MBA in marketing.

Explore how webinars are used for interactive presentations over the Internet to a remote audience. Learn the basic technology involved and gain an understanding of the benefits of this presentation medium.

Definition Of Webinar

A webinar is an online interactive meeting - a presentation, seminar, lecture, workshop, etc. - that is held over the Internet. The presenter can convey information to the attendees through voice, video, or presentation software (i.e. Microsoft PowerPoint), and the end users can sometimes interact with the presenter to ask questions or seek additional guidance on a topic. Imagine watching a documentary at home on television and being able to ask the narrator questions - how cool is that?

Webinars can be viewed from your computer, tablet, or even smart phone. You could join a webinar with your tablet while riding the subway or sitting in an airport. Some type of video conferencing software, such as Citrix's GoToWebinar, is used by the presenter and the end user. Webinars can scale up to hundreds of simultaneous users in a single session, making this a very effective and efficient tool for distributing information and connecting people.

Tools for a remote webinar user
Tools for a remote webinar user

A More Detailed Look

Webinars have become much more popular over the last few years due to the increased availability and decreasing cost of high-speed Internet connections for homes, businesses, and mobile users (think of how you're bombarded with ads for 'lightning-fast Internet'). Citrix, a pioneering company in mobile workspaces (doing work from wherever you are), claims that over 2 million people per month attend online events with their GoToWebinar service.

The webinar host will send attendees the links they need to participate and will often send email reminders of an upcoming webinar's date and time. Everybody is given some type of meeting identifier in order to become part of their designated event. You can either dial into a toll free number with your phone to join the audio portion of the meeting or you can use your computer's microphone and speakers to communicate with the group via voice over IP (think of how Vonage works).

The presenter typically has a control panel application where they regulate the audio dialogue with the remote users - take questions, mute users, answer questions via a chat window, etc. Imagine someone dialing into the webinar from the house and their dog is barking - there would be a lot of background noise so the presenter would want to mute them so they didn't interfere with other people's ability to hear. This application also lets the presenter show their computer screen to the audience at large.

If the audience is large enough, sometimes the presenter will also have a moderator online to field the questions and to help control the flow of the discussion. Think about a classroom where a 100 people raised their hands at once to ask a question - someone would have to help keep order! Webinars can require a lot of bandwidth (Internet speed) because you are usually streaming video and audio as part of the presentation.

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