Video Conferencing vs Live Streaming: What’s the Difference and How to Choose

Video Conferencing vs Live Streaming: What’s the Difference and How to Choose

Video conferencing and live streaming: Two terms that seem to represent the same of thing. However, while both deliver real-time online experiences, video conferencing and live streaming solve different challenges and provide different benefits and solutions to business users. Let's take a look at the characteristics and advantages of each option.

Table of Contents

  1. What is Video Conferencing?
  2. What is Live Streaming?
  3. How to Choose Between Video Conferencing and Live Streaming
  4. How Viostream Can Help

What is Video Conferencing?

Video conferencing is effectively a collaborative online meeting designed for small group sessions. Video conference applications, like WebEx, GoToMeeting and Skype are a great way of holding online meetings with a limited number of people from different locations. Through desktop sharing, it's easy to have conversations aided with pictures or webcam video, generally with a relatively small group - all in real-time.

Generally, you access these video conferencing platforms through web apps or installed software, which means your audience needs to download and install the application in advance. This can also mean that you are sometimes restricted on what devices you can participate from.

Another reason video conferencing is like an online meeting is that by default you can see the details of all the other participants in the session, with the chance to interrupt or question the presenter with limited or no ability to moderate offline.

Commercially, video conferencing is usually licensed based on the maximum number of concurrent live viewers. For example, if you want 50 people to join your online meeting, you pay for 50 seats. This can be somewhat of a barrier to large-scale use for internal meetings or presentations, as it can be cost-prohibitive to upgrade the licenses to account for, say, an all-staff town hall meeting.

Video conferencing is also extremely bandwidth intensive, and using it as a platform to broadcast a presentation to large numbers of staff could easily overwhelm the corporate network.

Video Conferencing Pros 

  • Real-time desktop sharing and collaboration
  • Ease of use
  • Ability to share presenter mode with different attendees

Video Conferencing Cons 

  • Pay per viewer model can be expensive
  • High bandwidth impact on corporate network
  • User experience / value of recorded session is limited

 There can also be many noisy disruptions as participants join, interrupt or leave the video conference.

What is Live Streaming?

Live streaming is an online broadcast designed for one-to-many communication. Though similar in some ways to a video conference, live streaming takes the concept one step further by giving essentially unlimited numbers of people access to the same video at once. Users have the ability to communicate with a much larger, global audience on almost any device without the need to download anything in advance. 

Since the presentation is accessible from any browser or device with internet capability, engagement can happen inside or outside the corporate network. Because of its flexible nature, live streaming can also allow for both live and on-demand viewing. This means that regardless of location, time zone or working hours, people can view the same content.

One of the benefits of live streaming an event as opposed to just filming it for later distribution is the ability to have online viewers contribute questions, answer polls and surveys or pose comments to the presenter. Unlike video conferencing, this can be moderated so that only relevant questions are put forward to the presenter or shared with the online audience, facilitating community engagement while keeping the dialogue on topic.

Just as TV viewing has been transformed by technology like Foxtel iQ and Netflix, the ability to turn a live CEO announcement into a searchable, on-demand video has had a similar impact on internal communications. Now it’s a no-brainer to make internal presentations available to staff on whatever device they want, when it’s convenient for them to view it.

In terms of bandwidth, adaptive streaming automatically detects the viewer’s device and available bandwidth to play the optimum format. Like all good tech, it’s invisible--all the viewer has to do is press play. Live streaming is now commonly based on HTTP protocol (HLS) which means that both live and recorded presentations can be cached on corporate networks, significantly reducing bandwidth consumption and effectively making 100 viewers look like 1 in terms of impact of viewing content on the network.

Related Reading: How Live Streaming is Upending the Rules of "Engagement"

Live Streaming Pros

  • Non-interrupted forum conducive to clear and directive communication
  • Scalable to support large (e.g. all-staff) presentations or briefings
  • Ease of repurposing content for on-demand convenience
  • No downloads needed
  • Management of viewer interactivity

Live Streaming Cons

  • More set-up involved
  • Not cost-effective for small group presentations
  • May only be available at certain price plan levels depending on the platform

How to Choose Between Video Conferencing and Live Streaming 

Video conferencing and live streaming really aren’t directly competing solutions so their relative suitability depends on your requirements.

If you have a meeting or presentation you need to share online with a small audience, then video conferencing is a great option. Similarly, if you simply require small groups to collaborate on projects and don't need or want the session to be accessible on-demand, video conferencing might be better suited. Companies often use this type of solution when conducting product training with remote customers. It’s a simple, effective way of sharing desktop and audio with them. 

For large-scale communication (e.g. if your workforce is spread across the globe but needs to get the same message at the same time), then live streaming would be a better option. It will give your online audience a high-quality, interactive experience that will complement that of the in-room guests and give everyone the sense they’ve been able to participate and contribute, while managing Q&A to help make your presentation a success.

How Viostream Can Help

Our platform allows organizations to reach and engage their audiences and employees using online video through live streaming as well as searchable, on-demand video galleries. For more information on how Viostream can help you with your next online event, reach out to our customer support team.

Evan Parker
Evan Parker
Chief Executive Officer
Evan is the Chief Executive Officer, with over 15 years of leadership experience across technology, management consulting & military service.
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