The Slice

Live vs. Pre-Recorded Webinars: Which Type Works Best?

July 29, 2022

When you first start researching how to host a webinar, you run into a perplexing question: should you host it live or record it before the fact? If you are primarily focused on creating error-free, high-quality content that can be watched over and over again, pre-recording your webinars is likely the better bet. On the other hand, if audience engagement is on the top of your priority list, you might prefer to host your webinar live. Let's dig into the nitty-gritty of the good, the bad, and the ugly about each type of webinar to help you select the best method for your needs. 

Webinars can be an incredibly powerful tool, whether you're looking to boost brand awareness, generate new leads, or create training programs for new employees. When you first start researching how to host a webinar, though, you run into a perplexing question: should you host it live or record it before the fact?

There are pros and cons to both methods of webinar hosting, and you might find one suits you better than the other.

If you are primarily focused on creating error-free, high-quality content that can be watched over and over again, pre-recording your webinars is likely the better bet. On the other hand, if audience engagement is on the top of your priority list, you might prefer to host your webinar live.

Let's dig into the nitty-gritty of the good, the bad, and the ugly about each type of webinar to help you select the best method for your needs. 

What's the Difference Between a Live and Pre-Recorded Webinar?

While the differences between a live webinar and a pre-recorded webinar are pretty clear from their names, it's still worth talking about what distinguishes them from one another.

When you host a live webinar, your audience can listen and watch you in real-time.

On the other hand, pre-recorded webinars are recorded ahead of time and then either offered on-demand or played at a scheduled time as if they are being shown live.

Depending on the setup, you might also hear pre-recorded webinars referred to as simulated webinars, on-demand webinars, and automated webinars.

The Pros and Cons of Pre-Recorded Webinars

So, what's the skinny on pre-recorded webinars? What's good and bad about them?

On the positive side, pre-record webinars can make hosting a webinar less stressful and relieve some pressure. You don't have to simultaneously deal with several tasks at once and orchestrate the entire endeavor like a skilled symphony conductor.

If you're running a webinar all by your lonesome, you might find that pre-recorded is the way to go. When the content itself is already created by the time it airs, you can focus your attention on other important aspects of the webinar, including:

  • Running quizzes and polls

  • Engaging with your audience in the chat

  • Keeping an eye on any technical issues

Some people also might feel nervous doing their webinar live. After all, there aren't any do-overs when people are watching you in real-time!

If you're not a big fan of public speaking and you're not sure you'll be able to get it right in one run, a pre-recorded webinar is a very appropriate choice.

On top of that, you can also edit your webinar before airing it with pre-recorded webinars, which isn't possible for live webinars. It also gives you the chance to add additional audio, video clips, or visuals that will add to your presentation.

Perhaps one of the most compelling benefits of pre-recorded webinars is that your audience has the option to watch them at their leisure. Depending on the reason for holding your webinar, you might even choose to sell it in an effort to produce passive income over time.

Of course, there are also some drawbacks to going the on-demand route for your webinars.

For one, audience members tend to feel the most engaged when they can see that the host is energetic and passionate. When you're doing it live, it's a lot easier to be engaging than when you're in a room alone talking to a camera.

On top of that, you won't be able to engage with the audience in real-time if you pre-record your webinars. Audiences often appreciate the authenticity of having a host present to whom they can ask questions and interact.

You also might find that the webinar you pre-recorded ends up being behind the times pretty fast. Of course, this depends on how evergreen your topic is and how quickly your industry changes.

The Pros and Cons of Live Webinars

There is something so exciting about hosting live webinars. At the same time, it can be truly terrifying. When you go with the live option, you're gambling with the whole endeavor unfolding in front of an audience and the fact that there are a lot of little things that could go wrong that can't be erased.

This might sound like a con, and, in some regards, it is.

At the same time, even having issues crop up can make you seem more authentic and relatable. Audiences like to know that the person they're listening to is a human, and dealing with a problem like your adorable dog running into the room can help to improve your brand.

One of the major benefits of hosting live webinars is that it offers an opportunity for interactivity that simply can't occur with pre-recorded webinars. You'll be able to take questions from the audience and answer them and otherwise be present with your audience.

When it comes to the disadvantages of live webinars, one of the big ones is the fact that you can't redo them. When it's done, it's done.

This makes them inherently riskier than on-demand webinars. There are no second chances in live webinars.

It can also be a lot of work for one person if you plan to put the webinar on yourself. You'll have to engage the audience with your presentation, interact with the audience, and deal with any technical issues that crop up simultaneously.

Live recordings can also be unideal because you might not receive as big of an audience as you could through pre-recorded webinars because they happen at a specific time. Of course, you can remedy this by offering a recording to your audience after the fact. Regardless, if the webinar being live is a part of its appeal, you might find that it's difficult to find a time that works for a global audience in different time zones.

Are you looking for speakers and panelists for your next webinar but are struggling to know where to look? Check out our complete guide to finding speakers for your next event.

When Is a Pre-Recorded Webinar a Good Choice?

In some instances, it makes a lot more sense to offer a pre-recorded webinar rather than a live one.

Here are some examples of circumstances where you might choose to record your webinar ahead of time:

  • Creating staff training videos

  • Making product demos

  • Streamlining orientation for new team members

  • Improving the efficiency of your recruiting efforts

  • Automating your onboarding process

  • When you want to reach the largest audience possible

When a webinar is useful to you as something that can be used repeatedly, a pre-recorded event is likely the best choice. You'll be able to design it in an evergreen way that suits you for months, if not years, to come, and you don't have to deal with the pressure of putting on a live event.

When Is a Live Webinar the Right Choice?

While pre-recorded webinars can be a great choice for a lot of different scenarios, there are some instances where doing it live will likely offer the greatest benefit to both you and your audience.

Some examples include:

  • When audience engagement and interaction are key

  • One-time events that don't have re-use value

  • When you are a central part of your brand

There's no reason to do a live webinar every time you're onboarding new staff members, but it might make a lot of sense to offer a live webinar if you're trying to boost audience engagement as a self-help author.

Identifying your goals and purposes in creating the online event can help you determine which method is better for your organization or brand.

If you're running a live webinar on your own, it's worth noting that this can be a lot to take on for one person. You might consider incorporating at least one moderator to help you deal with the backend during your event. You can learn more about the roles of a webinar host and moderator here.

Is a Pre-Recorded Webinar or a Live Webinar Better?

There simply isn't a right answer when it comes to whether a live or pre-recorded webinar is better. Depending on your goals, your presentation style, and what type of webinar you're putting on, you'll want to consider the pros and cons of each option.

Some people prefer to host their webinars live when they are able to interact with the audience in real-time. If you feel that you create the most compelling content when you're actually talking to real live people, offering a live webinar with the option to watch it later can be a great choice.

However, if you aren't as focused on audience interaction and you're planning on creating evergreen content, recording the webinar ahead of time is likely the most predictable option on the table.

Tips For Creating the Best Webinars

When you decide to put on a webinar, it's natural to feel nervous about the whole thing. Will anyone watch? What if it isn't a success?

Understanding the best practices for webinars is a good place to start when you're new to the world of hosting online events. For now, let's take a look at specific tips to help you create the best webinar ever, whether you're hosting it live or recording it beforehand.

Live Webinars

Regardless of whether you choose to hold your webinar live or record it ahead of time, one essential tip for hosting a great webinar is ensuring that you have a good microphone that will allow your audience to hear you clearly.

That being said, your microphone is especially important when you're hosting a live webinar because you won't be able to make edits after the fact.

You'll also want to be thoughtful about which webinar software you use. There are a lot of different options out there, each with its own price points and features.

Before your webinar is live, you'll want to get very familiar with the software and test out your gear to ensure everything is in working order.

Do a dress rehearsal for your family or friends to help avoid mishaps or jitters on the big day. If you're planning on incorporating images into your presentation, incorporate these into your dry run so you feel comfortable with the whole operation when you're live.

Are you wondering how to boost your webinar attendance? Check out these 20 creative tips to improve sign-ups for your next webinar.

Pre-Recorded Webinars

When you're offering a pre-recorded webinar, one thing you'll want to focus on is helping to make the event feel like it's happening in real-time, even though it isn't.

Audiences love to interact with webinars rather than simply passively watching them. For this reason, it's a good idea to incorporate interactive features like Q&As and polls. Even though your webinar isn't live, you can be actively engaged to participate in the Q&A and monitor the chat if you schedule it for a specific date and time.

During the recording session, try to imagine that the audience is really there listening to you. This can help you be more engaging, which will give the audience a better, more authentic experience.

Would You Like Some Pizza With That Webinar?

If you're nervous about your webinar attendance, we have some advice that will likely encourage fence-sitters to register ASAP. We offer that advice in the form of one simple word: pizza.

Whether you're trying to get your employees psyched for a new training session or you want to encourage early registration for your product demo webinars, offering pizza is known to be the fastest way to any webinar attendee's heart.

Plus, if you're nervous about mistakes or mishaps occurring during your event, you might find that your audience is much more forgiving when they're well-fed. After all, judges are known to give more lenient sentences after lunch than right before.

We know what you're thinking. How the heck are you supposed to plan and put on the best webinar the world has ever seen while also coordinating simultaneous pizza delivery to addresses around the globe?

That's where we come in. At Pizza Time, we specialize in bringing people together through the power of food, drinks, and virtual experiences, no matter how far apart they are as the crow flies. If that sounds good to you, you can place your order today.

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