A Twitch Live Streaming, an Online Meetup or a Webinar – What Is the Difference?

Most organizations are running online or virtual events today. For example, my team is hosting events on IBM Developer Crowdcast channel. IBM Developer also has a Twitch live streaming channel. Other teams in IBM run webinars or webcasts.

IBM Developer Crowdcast event
IBM Developer Crowdcast online meetup

People sometimes ask me what is the difference between these type events? I think at a high-level, these are similar. First of all these are all events. Just like a conference is an event and panel is an event.

To go one step further they are online or virtual events.

If we go another step further, we now have a Twitch live streaming, online meetup or a webinar. The following is my opinion or at least my position on these event types. Other people use or define them in a slightly different way – and that’s perfectly fine.

Different event types
Different event types

I look at a webinar (or webcast) as a more formal or corporate event. A webinar is usually a rehearsed event and lasts about one hour. The audience might be able to interact with the presenter via chat. The event is usually passively consumed, it’s not common for the audience to follow the presenter live coding step-by-step.

On the opposite side there is a Twitch (live streaming) event. A Twitch event is very informal and rarely (if at all) rehearsed. The event lasts anywhere form 2-4 hours. It’s common to see complicated software, iteration, rabbit holes and bugs. Audience actively participates via chat and offers solutions to problems and bugs. At the same time, the event is passively consumed – the audience doesn’t usually follow the presenter live coding step-by-step.

Somewhere in the middle but closer to the Twitch side is an online meetup event. The idea is to replicate an in-person meetup experience online. An online meetup is informal and easy going and lasts about an hour. An online meetup can be passively consumed but also actively. Many online meetups we host are hands-on workshops where the audience can follow the presenter live coding and build a small sample application.

IBM Developer Twitch live streaming event

The following table has a more detailed explanation:

Twitch (live streaming)Online MeetupWebinar
Is formalVery informalInformalFormal
DurationUsually 2-4 hoursUsually 1 hourUsually 1 hour
Is rehearsedNot rehearsedSomewhat rehearsed Rehearsed
ConsumedAlmost always consumed live. Sometimes as a replay (after uploading/editing)Consumed live or as a replayConsumed live or as a replay
Type/styleVery informal. More complicated software, iteration, rabbit holes and bugs. Shared experience between streamer and audience solving the software solutionNo worries if demo doesn’t work – makes things real. Like an in-person meetup (easy going, informal) but onlineCode/demo usually works
Audience participationAudience actively participates via chat. The rest of the event is passively consumed – the audience doesn’t follow the presenter live coding step-by-stepPassively or actively. Many workshops have a hands-on portion where the audience can followThe event is usually passively consumed

If I was to draw a line and position the events on it, it would look something like this:

I hope this short article helps you understand how these events fit in the online events space. As I said before, this is how I position these events. The way you position these events might be different and that’s totally OK 😉.

If you are looking for new ways and ideas to create content, please read my How content creates content – virtual edition blog post.

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