Web meetings basics
To hold basic web meetings, you need three key items: a computer with an Internet connection, a web conferencing solution, and either a phone line or computer speakers to hear the presenter. That's it. To use services that include live video, participants will also need a web cam.
To set up a meeting, you simply use the web conferencing software to reserve a slot on a specific date and time. The software then lets you send invitations to attendees. Web meetings can range in size from 2 to 500 or more people. Generally, you'll purchase a software package or subscription that can accommodate your typical meeting size — you can always "buy up" on a per-event basis if you have the occasional larger meeting.
In the invitation, attendees receive a link to access the meeting, which usually takes only a few minutes with a high-speed connection. Some services may require you to download a plug-in or other software, which can be a hassle, so verify this before you buy.
Depending on the service you use, the invitation may also include a phone number for the audio portion (unless internet audio is being used) and/or a unique conference ID for the attendee claim their spot.
Other types of online web conferencing
As you add more features or a larger number of attendees, online web conferencing morphs into other types of conferencing. Here's a quick rundown of the different flavors available — but keep in mind that different providers use these terms in different ways, and the boundaries can be blurry.
A webinar is similar a web conference but is more of a one-way presentation than an equal conversation; they are used for structured events like training sessions and often include interactive tools like polls and question and answer sessions.
Webcasts include video to allow you to see the speaker, but the video is usually one-way. Web-based video conferencing provides face-to-face components to meetings to participants who have webcams configured.