By Angela Stringfellow
Delivering value to consumers through free information is a marketing tactic popular among both small and large businesses. These days, marketing executives have a number of good options to do just that, via social networking, webinars, podcasts and conferences.
Webinars and conferences provide the most interactive formats for delivering larger quantities of information to consumers. Some are fee-based, while others are offered free as a way to generate prospects or build an email marketing list.
When deciding between a webinar and conference, there are a few factors to consider.
- Webinars are often cheaper to deliver. Services like AnyMeeting offer the ability to host free or fee-based webinars, but in either case, usage can be free for the business. Conferences, on the other hand, require facility rental, audio-visual equipment, refreshments and other incidental costs.
- Conferences can be more interactive for attendees. Conferences offer one advantage over webinars: An interactive nature. Webinars allow attendees to ask questions via Twitter (with a hashtag), through comments or other means. Conferences, however, offer facilitators the opportunity to have attendees work in small groups, deliver presentations to the group as a whole and otherwise interact with other attendees.
- Webinars are convenient. Attendees tend to gravitate toward webinars due to ease of attendance. Attendees can attend a webinar from the comfort of their own home or office, as long as they have a reliable internet connection or phone line. Conference attendees often must travel, racking up pricey hotel and airline fees as well as sacrificing time away from their families.
- Conferences provide camaraderie. Attending a webinar doesn’t allow for professionals to interact with one another, sit next to each other and network with other industry professionals the way a conference does. A webinar can mimic this benefit to a lesser extent using a chatroom or Twitter hashtag to allow attendees to communicate directly with one another.
- Conferences have a larger environmental footprint. Not only are conferences more expensive, but they carry a larger environmental footprint. A conference room can be expensive to maintain, including electricity, supplies and refreshments. A webinar doesn’t require paper handouts, as all materials can be delivered electronically.
- A free webinar is more likely than a free conference. Due to delivery costs, conferences are rarely offered free of charge to attendees. Facilitators must cover their costs, and even if the fee is nominal, it doesn’t beat a free ticket. Minimal operating costs allow businesses to provide free information more readily to consumers and professionals.
There are many variables to consider when deciding which format to use. Whether a webinar or a conference is right for you depends on the nature of your industry, the material you’re presenting and how important face-to-face interaction is in conveying important concepts.