Post-pandemic, the events industry is evolving to accommodate businesses and viewers by offering virtual and hybrid events. The pandemic expedited the shift from in-person to virtual events to meet the needs of companies, employees and consumers.
Now that the danger of social distancing has lessened, businesses are faced with decisions of sticking with virtual events or shifting back to in-person. What are the benefits of each type of event and which should they use for their business? Here are some of the ways different kinds of events can benefit businesses.
Benefits of Virtual Events
Hosting virtual events provides myriad benefits for companies and individuals who attend them, ranging from targeting a broader audience to cost savings.
Many attendees and businesses prefer virtual meetings to reduce their carbon footprint, provide higher-quality content and be more inclusive with their guest list. Here are some of these benefits and more explained that virtual events can supply.
1. Cost- Effective
Virtual events cost significantly less than traditional events for those holding the events and their attendees. Business travel totaled $306 billion in 2019 for events, meetings and other travel expenses. Travel expenses can cost companies thousands of dollars to accommodate their employees and attendance for conferences and events.
Virtual events eliminate travel costs and allow companies to use those funds elsewhere to better their businesses. Additionally, virtual events eliminate the need to rent meeting spaces or booths at exhibition halls, saving even more money. Meeting spaces or event halls can be costly to allocate for a grand audience. Virtual meetings provide enhanced audio making speeches clearer and often easier to understand than traditional meetings that may not have the best sound system.
2. Wider Audience
Virtual events provide easier access to a broader range of attendees that can join from the comfort of their homes or an area of their choosing. Virtual events exist in a digital space that allows the audience to interact with one another and collaborate as if they were in the same environment, welcoming diversity, inclusion and accessibility.
With such ease of access, more attendees will likely join since they don’t have to travel to an alternate location. Many organizations are shifting to virtual events, and the statistics support this. In fact, 70% of organizations that hosted a virtual event with a guest speaker had “much more” attendance than they would have had at a live event. Virtual events also avoid scheduling conflicts and provide easy access to interactive workshops, with replay capabilities for any components they miss.
3. Planning and Promoting
Virtual events are much easier to plan than traditional events, saving time and cost. Links and emails replace paper invitations—one person can replace an entire marketing team. There isn’t a tedious set-up or tear-down process with virtual events requiring multiple team members’ effort and time.
Promoting an event is simple with social media and engages audiences across platforms. Audiences can join from different countries or cities and gain insight and information that could lead them to invest in products or services. Virtual events also cut costs on marketing endeavors like merchandise and other means of networking that don’t exist in a virtual space.
Benefits of In-Person Events
Hosting traditional events still provides benefits that virtual events have yet to compete with on a larger scale. In-person events provide familiarity and comfort to attendees who haven’t become familiar with technology and all it offers. Here are some benefits of hosting events traditionally rather than through a digital platform.
1. Increased Engagement
In-person events offer opportunities to bump into colleagues, potential investors, industry leaders and more which can expand networking and increase attendee engagement. However, there are some ways to increase engagement in virtual spaces, like offering live games, competitions or well-being activities for attendees.
There’s nothing like experiencing the energy from like-minded individuals gathered at an event, though. For some, it can be worth the cost. Side discussions with other attendees offer ways to connect and engage with peers that aren’t possible online.
2. Educational Opportunities
Educational opportunities are a driving factor of event attendance both in person and online. Face-to-face settings provide ample learning opportunities that can be missed in virtual environments. Being at an event in person limits distractions and allows you to be in the moment, picking up on social cues and being present in the group environment.
The speaker’s and attendees’ body language can provide insight and inspiration to help build or improve business plans or personal growth. Nonverbal communication supplies over 55% of the information, with 80% of people more likely to retain information than verbal communication.
3. Avoid Technical Issues
All you need to attend an in-person event is the address. A virtual meeting requires a stable internet connection, familiarity with technology and often an ethernet cable to enhance connection and allow communication without error. Technical issues can limit learning, be embarrassing and restrict communication with others. This can limit educational opportunities, networking, potential business prospects and the event’s overall experience.
In-person events provide the opportunity to catch the eye of potential associates that would otherwise have to dial into virtual events with intention. Expo halls have booths that attract attendees to stop and gain information, leading to business opportunities like word-of-mouth networking. Virtual events don’t have this capability on a comparable scale to in-person events.
Combining Forces With Hybrid
Tipping the scale in favor of one event or the other can be challenging with so many benefits to each type of event. Hybrid events combine the best of both worlds by incorporating virtual components into in-person events that allow attendees to join virtually if they wish.
Virtual events are evolving to meet the needs of attendees and hosts that they’d experience in person. For example, meeting new friends online is possible by attending online events, but meeting them in person elevates the experience. Virtual events are evolving to accommodate most interactions, yet something about interacting in person might be here to stay in business and personal experiences.
However, as they transition to accommodate on a larger scale, hybrid events seem to meet both online and in-person accessibility needs exceptionally well. For attendees that gain more from attending in-person events, they can cash in on these investment or educational opportunities. However, they can also choose to opt out of attending in person and choose to attend online in a virtual space.
Deciding Between Virtual and In-Person Events
Virtual meetings and events provide ample opportunities for businesses and individuals to enhance their business models, cut costs and reach a wider audience. In-person meetings also have many advantages, but virtual events are rapidly becoming the norm with their benefits exceeding in-person events at an accelerated pace.