Workshops Versus Webinars: What’s Right For You?

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Clickability.
Engagement.
Advertainment.

Don’t worry. That big buzz you hear isn’t a swarm of bees in the walls, it’s the buzzwords of the digital marketing world. If those three don’t ring any bells for you, let’s give a few more a try:

Viral.
Webinar.
Workshop.

And while a decent Google search is full of articles like Four Tips for Making Your Content Go Viral and Seven Tips for Hosting Webinars That Rock, how good are those 11 tips if you don’t even know what these buzzy words mean?

Webinars and workshops for example: do you know the difference between the two?

I didn’t (until I started writing this for you). I always assumed that webinars and workshops were interchangeable words like promoting and advertising, diary and journal, literally and figuratively.

But when it comes to how you deliver value to your audience (what they get from you) and how your audience interacts with that value (what you get from them), the difference between workshops and webinars is worth knowing more about. Here’s what I’ve learned:

The Similarities:

  • Both are methods for sharing information you have with others.
  • They can both be hosted by one person, a pair of co-hosts, or even a panel.
  • The two methods leave the audience with key takeaways.

Aaaaand that’s about it. Workshops and webinars are BFFs, for sure, but like any pair of good friends, the subtle differences between them is where the magic (and synchronicity) happens.

The Differences:

Webinars happen exclusively online (putting the WEB in webinar). Workshops can happen online or in person, or even both. Thanks to streaming media and the powerful webinar tools available to us all, in person workshops can be sold as digital events too.

Lewis Howes has been doing webinars since 2010 and credits these powerhouse brand building sessions for his rise to the top of his game over the last five years. Was it easy and fun and perfect that first time around for Lewis? Absolutely not! But, as he said a while back on his blog:

Each time I present, I learn how to make the next one better.  Hosting a great webinar takes time to master in order to get more sales or achieve your professional goals.  Record each webinar using ScreenFlow or Camtasia so you can go back and listen to how you presented and what you can improve on.

No one in business is an overnight success.  Although it may seem that way for some, most of the time they have spent years of preparation to get ready for big stages and big business opportunities.  Webinars can set you up for the big game, and prepare you for that interview on CNN, or your moment on Oprah.  It’s all about the journey for the big games.

Workshops are a teaching platform where selling isn’t the focus and webinars are traditionally designed to teach and sell at the same time.

Matt Ragland, host of ConvertKit’s weekly workshops and customer success guru, was brought on the team to lead workshops and webinars for the brand. Since, clearly, Matt has a vested interest in running successful webinars and workshops, I got Matt on Skype and asked him to tell me more about teaching versus selling. Here’s what he said:

“The way that we think about workshops is that it is something that has a much stronger lean toward training for the specific tool that we’re teaching. It’s a lot more training and learning focused than it is a sales focus. With a webinar, there’s always going to be a pitch at the end. Not that that’s a bad thing. I think that what ConvertKit does really well and Nathan in particular is that he teaches so well with the webinars even.

So some people use those terms interchangeably but for us I think of it more in terms of what we do with them. On workshops we’ll get a lot more into the details and specifics of ConvertKit. We’ll answer really specific questions. When I’m doing a webinar I won’t go too deep into saying “Okay, let’s go step by step and I’ll show you how you can get a form on your site.” We won’t do that in webinars. They’re a lot more big picture. We’ll talk a lot more in a webinar about how to get your first 1,000 subscribers whereas in a workshop here’s how you import your subscribers, add them to course, and so on.”

Webinar = strategy. Workshop = tactics.

In fact, some brands, like Blogcademy, build their entire business around workshops. The powerhouses behind this blog-building-breakthrough business have designed three versions of their training: in person, online, and home study. (They even offer a handy dandy chart so you can easily decide what’s best for you.) Recognizing that their audience extends beyond those who can attend their in person workshops, Blogcademy Online was launched for those who want their content in a more flexible format. In their own words, online workshops are for you if:

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 3.01.35 PM

Offering both online and in person allows the Blogcademy Bosses incredible flexibility. For now, in person workshops are on hold and these three powerhouses are able to focus on their own individual businesses while they continue to see revenue and profits from their online workshop sales.

Typically, webinars are free and workshops are paid events. Last week we talked about using workshops to double your product revenue and this is exactly how that happens. Sure, there are plenty of paid webinars (like Danny Iny’s at Firepole Marketing) and free workshops (like our very own Getting Started With ConvertKit weekly workshops), but the key to doubling your product revenue with workshops is to get paid for them. Remember the story I told you about Brennan Dunn’s sold out workshops? Brennan and our own Nathan Barry hosted a live workshop in London a few years ago and not only did they sell it out, they got some serious testimonials and marketing efforts from it all. Watch this video and tell me if you don’t want to attend a workshop with these guys:

Sign. Me. Up. For. That.

Webinars are for wider, larger audiences. Workshops are more intimate affairs (though the definition of intimate is up to you). Thanks to that technology Lewis shared with us, webinars are easily accessible to hundreds, if not thousands, of participants. Since workshops have that deeper dive Matt mentioned, you may not want those same high numbers in that venue… but it’s all in how you run it. Here’s what Brennan has to say about shifting formats in his workshops:

When I first started, it was done as a traditional online webinar with me presenting slides over the span of two days, with marginal time dedicated to discussion. This was OK — people got a lot of value out of it — but I always knew something was missing. I was drained at the end of each day, and felt as if I were talking into a vacuum. Additionally, I knew I could provide more value to the attendees without adding more time or content.

[Now] instead of 25 students watching a GotoWebinar presentation, it’s 14 in a Google Hangout with me. I’ve ditched the slides in favor of discussion (which is still guided by all the material that was on the slides.) And instead of dedicating time for Q&A (which used to be at the end of the day), we regularly break into discussions and figure out how each attendee can apply what we’re covering to their business starting next week. The focus is now on the application of content, and not the instruction of content.

If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. – Dad-ism

While Brennan certainly was successful with his first workshop format, it didn’t feel right to him. So he iterated on the plan and found his happy zone. It works for him, it works for his attendees, and, most importantly, it works for his bottom line.

So how do you know which one’s for you?

Maybe it’s both. You could use webinars to grow your audience and then offer them workshops that appeal to their needs. You could host in person workshops to build brand awareness and gather testimonials and piggyback off of those with webinars that sell your product.

Or you could pick just one. Lewis did nothing but webinars (300 of them, in fact) for that first year. Blogcademy focuses on their workshops and the content within them.

At ConvertKit we like a combo of both. Our audience is varied and some prefer webinars, some prefer workshops. No matter what you ultimately choose to do, remember this from our very own Matt Ragland:

You have to make something interesting in the first five minutes. That’s when the magic happens.

Now let's hear from you. Tell me in the comments below: which format works best for you? Which one are you going to implement in 2016?

Feature image by Russ Hendricks

Val Geisler

Val is a yogi, mom, military wife, and avid podcast fan. She is ridiculously obsessed with sharing and creating content that actually makes a difference in the world, connecting with her fellow bloggers, and doing more with less effort. Val is based on Columbus, Ohio (O-H!) and can often be found oversharing on Instagram at @lovevalgeisler.

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