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January 16, 2024

Webinar, Masterclass, Workshop – Which One is Best

Introduction

When folks talk about virtual or online events they use different words like webinar, masterclass, workshop, etc. They seem like the same thing and the terms are just synonyms.

Webinar and masterclass are the most typical terms that are interchanged to mean the same thing. However, they are different types of virtual events.

Additionally, we see and hear words like workshop, bootcamp, challenge, keynote, web series, etc. It can get really confusing as to what each is. As a participant, you may not really know what to expect. As a coach, you may not really know which one you should focus on or what is involved to develop the event content.

Here are some quick definitions of a few of the most common terms used and what to consider when deciding which to use in your coaching business.

Webinar

The combination of words web and seminar. While seminars are supposed to be small groups actively engaged in the exchange and discussion of ideas, a webinar has evolved to be a shorter presentation of about 60 minutes.

Usually more lecture-style, with limited audience interaction The focus is typically on the WHAT and not the HOW. Meaning the presenter focuses much of the time on broad concepts with little audience interaction and pitching services can dominate much of the time.

Of course, a webinar doesn't need to have this structure and in my free guide, Creating Engaging Webinars, I promote the opposite. The idea of focusing on the What is intended to peak people's interest and motivate them to follow-up to learn more such as booking a discovery call.

The biggest benefits are webinars are convenient for knowledge sharing and reaching a broad audience. However a major disadvantage is limited participant engagement, which doesn’t not foster deep connections. There is increased potential for information overload.

Folks are much more discerning with their time and are less interested in this format of presentation. What I see quite often is the headline promises one thing and the content delivers another. The presenter comes across as disingenuous and less trustworthy.

If you don't have the time to do a longer session, you can break from common practice and provide a shorter AND high value, interactive webinar.

Masterclass

They evolved from the field of music and is traditionally defined as someone who is an expert in knowledge and skill teaching a group of more advanced students. In the digital world it is often a longer (90+ minutes), more in-depth session or sessions. The focus is on the WHAT AND HOW with more emphasis on the How by offering detailed insights and practical knowledge.

There is more interaction and engagement between the presenter and audience using strategies like hands-on activities and flash coaching sessions. There are often audience member interactions using features like breakout rooms.

Masterclasses are a great method for group coaching programs and given to existing clients. However, it can be used when connecting with potential clients.

Unfortunately, many people label their webinars as masterclasses. This is where much of the confusion arises. And as folks typically model what they see and experience this cross labeling perpetuates.

With a masterclass, you can provide much more value and impact to your audience in a way that can't be achieved in a shorter session. It allows you to lean into your expertise and build your authenticity, trustworthiness, and credibility. Although, consider the time commitment for participants and if they prior knowledge.

Workshop

Is very similar to a masterclass as it incorporates many of the same strategies such as hands-on activities, discussions, etc. However, the person leading the workshop isn't always at the expert level and is facilitating more than presenting content.

Workshops are intended to focus on the practical application of content and by the end participants have created or completed something specific and significant like a content marketing plan. The benefits of a workshop are the high engagement, interactive learning, and fostering a sense of community.

A workshop is less about the What and more about the HOW. Audience members already know the What and are ready to apply that knowledge or skill more in-depth.

The length of a workshop can range from 1 1/2 hours to a full day. And in some instances, a series of workshops can be used around a common theme. An example out of my own life is I've taken a workshop to design a pollinator garden using local native plants for my yard.

When considering this format, make sure your target audience is ready for active participation and you have the time plan the different elements like hands-on activities, guided group discussions, handouts, etc.

Bootcamp/Boot Camp

Typically associated with the military, a bootcamp is a multi-day, immersive, and intensive training with the intent of making significant change or learning something in-depth. For coaches this can often be specific behavior, mindset, strategy, etc.

The audience is highly engaged and learning the content in multiple ways. The biggest benefit for participants is rapid skill development, focused learning, and a sense of accomplishment. However, a bootcamp does requires a significant time commitment both for you as the trainer and participants. Also, it might be overwhelming for some participants if they don’t have the prerequisite skill sets to full benefit from this type of event.

While bootcamps can be free, it is typically recommended they not be. This is for several reasons. One is the level of work for the presenter to create content and give content, another is that when folks pay, they are more invested in participating and learning the content, and it can ensure that the individuals attending are at the right stage to learn the content at this level.

For instance, if the bootcamp was focused on advanced yoga, you wouldn't want an attendee who has never done yoga. Or if the focus is executive management, you wouldn't want someone who is in an entry-level position without supervisory responsibilities.

Challenge

A multi-day themed event set to happen during a specific time period (e.g., 5 days), with a focus on fun and high engagement. They utilize gamification strategies where participants undertake specific tasks or activities to achieve a predefined goal.

They are similar to a workshop because it encourages action, builds momentum, and creates a sense of achievement. The difference is that the structure is around a series of small, easy to accomplish tasks that encourage participants to take action on a designated day. Any training provided is focused on a granular skill or strategy to help participants achieve the specific task.

Challenges are often free but don't have to be. The intent or purpose is a lead up to a longer paid program that is community focused like group coaching or cohort training (a group of students go through the training as one cohesive group).

Conclusion

Webinars (traditionally) are convenient for knowledge sharing but have little audience engagement. Masterclasses provide in-depth learning but require expert level knowledge and are for a smaller, targeted audience. Workshops are for practical application and have high engagement with interactive learning but require more time to plan and develop.

Bootcamps are best for participants who want an intensive learning experience to take a deep dive into content. The disadvantage is time commitment for you and the audience and can be overwhelming for many participants. Finally, the structure of a challenge provides easy wins for participants in a short period of time, but it won’t provide an in-depth learning experience.

While there are commonalities between many different virtual events, each has a specific purpose in how you can engage with potential and existing clients. Even though it is easy to swap out different terms and use them as synonyms, when trying to gain clients, build trust, and provide value, stop for a moment to consider which is best for your business.

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Jennifer


Jennifer Sharkey is known as the Virtual Presentation Specialist. Being passionate about seeing people shine and be heard, she leans into her 20+ years of public speaking experience and uses what she has learned from presenting, both in-person and virtually, to small groups all the way up to 5000 people. Jennifer draws from her experience as an associate professor, academic librarian, and coach to help holistic coaches master virtual presentations to grow their business. Her unique immersive program provides practical strategies and methods to build confidence, engage audiences, and generate authenticity and authority.

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