People make events into stories. Stories give events meaning.

Scarlett Thomas (*1972) in: Going Out
English author

An event is simply something that happens (Merriam-Webster) – accordingly, online events are something that happens online. We should be a little more precise what have in mind, when we want to organize “something online“.

The term „Live Event“ helps us only insofar as it makes an important differentiation between synchronous and asynchronous communication. That means, live events happen at a specific time when the participant has to attend/follow, while recordings can be viewed/watched/attended any time. 

Formats of Online Events

synchronous („live events“)asynchronous („recorded“)
Online Seminar: a live online educational presentation during which participating viewers can submit questions and comments.

Online Workshop or Training: like a seminar an educational presentation including interaction with the trainer for teaching purposes – usually more focused on instructions, hand-on learning and practice tests than a seminar.

Online Panel: Panel discussion moderated with two or more guests on a certain topic.

Virtual Conference: an online meeting of two or more people (usually much more) discussing a given topic.

Virtual Summit: an online conference with several sessions on a varity of topics under a common theme.

Fireside Chat: informal discussion with a guest and a moderator with a comfortable setting giving the impression that the participant talks to a friend. 

AMA: Ask me anything!, a virtual session with an expert, where the guest takes questions.

Online Music Concerts: a form of concert where the musicians play live and are followed over the internet. 

Online Team Building: strengthen team coherence and motivation during one or several online session.

Online Coaching: direct coaching one to one via the internet.
Online course: a course conducted over the Internet, usually through a learning management system, in which students can view their course syllabus and academic progress,. They are generally self-paced, allowing for greater flexibility in completing coursework.

MOOC: massive open online course, usually offered by universities to a large number of participants.

Tutorial: In the online world we mainly mean video that provides practical information about a specific subject. 

Of course, you can always record your (synchronous) event and upload it. Thus, it becomes asynchronous with the advantage that people can benefit from it at any time and might get interested in your future live events. 

The further advantages of asynchronous online events are that you have make only one time the effort, they are available 24/7 and they bring you benefit once uploaded. In other terms, it’s scalable. 

For a synchronous event, e.g. a online workshop, you always have to invest and reinvest. Yes, once you have made preaprations like a workbook, resource material, presenations and so on, the effort will be less, but still you have to present – and as with every live form: things can go wrong. 

And just on a side note: a life event (written with a f instead of a v) is a psychological term for a critical event, which effects major life changes that occur at significant points in an individuals life eg. child birth, marriage and divorce. They are usually stressful. So, don’t mix it up with live events!?

Which format of online events should you choose?

Concise answer: That depends! First and foremost your objective will lead the way to an answer. But not exclusively: Bound to your goal is the target audience by which you will reach your goal. And there starts the research and analysis! Because you need to know how your target audience (TA) communicates, the TA’s preferences etc. You can deliver the best event and it can simply bypass your target audience because you are sending on the wrong channel or at the wrong time. All your efforts in vain!

The same holds true for the platform or software you use. They depend on the event format: do you want just to upload a tutorial, do an online workshop for 20 participants or host a conference of 1.000 people? Secondly, will those attendees accept your software and get along with it?

Consequently, you might want to have a look on goal setting and target audience analysis first, before you jump into the section below. And if you need help, don’t hesitate to ask!

Side Note: I don't use the common term "Webinar" as this is since 2003 a registered trademark in Germany. As TheWorkshopLeader.com I prefer anyhow the term workshop and will use Digital Workshop (DiWO), online workshop or seldom Webseminar instead. 

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