Updated: Apr 28
How many emails and social posts have you seen recently that have included the word, ‘virtual events’? We’re guessing your inbox and feeds have been inundated, and with good reason. In the current climate a virtual event offering can help maintain a momentum around your event strategy and keep you connected with your audiences around the world. However, as effective as the tech alternatives may be, there’s no getting around the huge benefits that face-to-face events offer.
The events industry, like most other industries, has been affected by the unprecedented circumstances that have pressed pause, for the time being, on our normality. This has led to events cancelling and postponing and event organisers looking for an interim ‘virtual’ option.
But when you place virtual events head-to-head with in-person events, what advantages do each offer. What are the limitations of the virtual offering that once this crisis is over will put live events firmly back on the map?
Virtual Event Pros:
Going temporarily digital with your events offers many benefits. Here are just some of them:
Based 100% online, attendees can view content from wherever they are in the world. All they need is a computer, laptop, mobile device and a good, reliable internet connection. Not only does this ensure accessibility to event content but it also extends the reach of core brand messaging.
Depending on the complexity of the event programme, virtual events can be set up and run in short timescales, providing an agile solution in times of necessity.
Like live events, virtual events can facilitate multiple speaker sessions simultaneously; allowing audiences to access content streams that are most useful and relevant to them.
Hosting a virtual event, cuts out a geographical destination for delegates to journey into. This saves on both travel time and on other costs associated with attending a physical event.
Taking an event online can also help lessen the environmental impact of travelling to and from a live event venue.
Virtual Event Limitations:
When it comes to migrating events online, it can be hard to keep people’s attention for a long period of time. Without the built environment to captivate attention, attendees can become distracted – taking important focus away from your business communications.
Although virtual events can incorporate engagement tactics such as Q&As, live polling and real-time chat functionality, face-to-face events leverage the five senses and have the ability to immerse and consume attendees in an engaging, purpose-built event setting.
It’s indisputable that innovations in technology are enabling more effective, advanced online gatherings to occur, but there’s no substitute for interacting with people in real-time and having meaningful in-person debates and conversations.
Whilst virtual event solutions have their place in the overall marketing mix and can be integrated as part of a hybrid event strategy to complement a live event schedule, in-person, physical events are unrivalled in their valuable ability to bring audiences together, evoke emotional responses and drive action to prove ROI and hit strategic KPIs.
These are just a selection of reasons, that position live events as an unparalleled, human-to-human marketing channel:
They enable businesses to build and nurture relationships with customers, prospects, employees and partners in person and in environments conducive to business requirements.
Face-to-face events put you in front of an audience where you can feel their reactions, gauge their thinking and observe body language.
Humans are social creatures and we thrive off the ability to come together and communicate. Live events are a platform for these exchanges to take place and underpin the development of social, communication and interaction skills. Human connection is also hugely beneficial in supporting good mental health – in a time-precious world, making the time for one-on-one or group discussions on relatable subjects is key.
Live events are hubs for knowledge exchanges and the gathering of new information that can inspire and influence new ideas, perceptions and approaches.
Nothing can compare to the ability to network one-on-one. Live events facilitate these interactions and provide the unequalled opportunity for organic connections to be made and maintained.
People are, by nature, inquisitive, therefore seeing products and services demonstrated live offers a superior experience over that of viewing them online.
With all said and done, virtual events, and their increasing capabilities, provide event planners with a sophisticated tool to integrate into their wider event marketing strategies. However, being virtual can’t compete with the experiential, sensory impact that a live event format can deliver. It’s for this reason that, we believe, in-person events will continue to evolve, adapt and prosper.
Whilst, of course, it’s essential to carry on taking all necessary precautions, there’s a growing optimism on the outlook for Q4 2020 events. As the landscape around us changes day-to-day, now’s the time to remain positive, think ahead and plan for future events; to remember the power and ongoing tenacity they have unite businesses with their audiences.