Since 2020, businesses worldwide have experienced difficulties and obstacles they could not have predicted. They have also been first-hand witnesses to some innovative technological developments that have changed modern workforce habits and behaviours, along with how companies interact with one another across sectors, industries, and geographies.
The events sector arguably saw the most drastic changes when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. At the pandemic’s zenith, conferences and trade shows became things of the past; we were all told for months to forget about these large-scale gatherings for the foreseeable future, at least until infection rates dropped and vaccination rates were significantly higher.
However, virtual events have since risen to prominence, acting, in many cases, as permanent replacements for in-person gatherings. What started as a temporary stopgap has now resulted in a profitable multi-track solution for many businesses.
1. Virtual events vs in-person events
Many argue that virtual events are not as important nowadays. Given the worldwide social, economic and political developments since the pandemic and the resulting vaccine rollout, it’s hard to disagree with this on the one hand.
However, many businesses have found increased success in all sizes of virtual events and may ultimately choose not to focus efforts and budget on attending or exhibiting at large-scale conferences.
The pandemic allowed many businesses to reflect on their pre-Covid activities, and for many, it’s understandable that in-person trade shows or conferences may have fallen drastically down the pecking order of their growth plans.
It’s important to recognise the firm place that virtual events and conferences have etched into the market. However, it’s also crucial to recognise the significance of in-person events. It’s clear there are both pros and cons to both. In the interest of exploring the relatively new concept of virtual events, the below information will outline some of the most glaring advantages and disadvantages of virtual conferences, events and gatherings.
2. Benefits of virtual events
The biggest and most apparent advantage is the cost savings of virtual events over in-person events. When planning to attend or host a conference at a brick-and-mortar venue, all of the costs associated with planning, marketing, accommodation, transport, food, staff, expenses, and more, are eliminated with virtual events. Virtual events can save businesses thousands of upfront costs.
No travel time
All that is involved with attending a virtual event is clicking a link. The only thing you will need to prepare is to have sufficient audio and video equipment to be ‘present’. Virtual events can save so much time, money and hassle involved with travel, especially if you’re attending an event that’s located a sizable distance away.
For many members of society, in-person events aren’t possible. Virtual events allow for more members of different communities to actively engage with the content. For example, it’s easier to provide captions on-screen for people that are deaf or hard of hearing. For those who experience logistical issues in travelling to in-person events, virtual occasions mean they can stay where they are and soak up the content.
Brick-and-mortar events require significantly more planning and setup. Meanwhile, virtual events can be set up in a matter of minutes. What’s more, virtual events don’t require organisers to consult with third-party companies to ensure efficient risk mitigation, such as electrics, fire safety, structures, barriers or blocks, as well as security contractors, volunteers, and site managers. All you need is a computer and a quiet room to host or attend a virtual event, and that’s it.
Fewer scheduling issues
As virtual events do not require any travel or logistics preparation, more people would likely be readily available to attend. It might be more practical for them to attend a virtual event, as allowing enough time to travel to and attend a virtual event, would require more time in people’s diaries. Virtual events mean that less time is wasted commuting to and from a location, leaving people with less of an obstruction in their schedules.
3. Drawbacks of virtual events
Audience prone to distractions
Attending events online obviously leads to a higher potential for distractions. It can be tempting for attendees to answer phone calls or emails, or get a bit of essential admin done in a quiet moment. Not to mention the immediacy and availability of the internet right there for the taking. We have to remember that human attention spans have fallen by 25%, according to a recent Microsoft study. When you attend an in-person event, distractions aren’t as likely.
In-person events have a much faster pace to them, with people largely more engaged throughout the day. Spontaneous conversations can happen out of the blue, whereas with virtual events, these discussions aren’t as easy to replicate. You are far less likely to meet people spontaneously at a virtual event who aren’t explicitly present, and if you do manage to strike up a conversation, it can feel more ‘forced’.
Fewer networking opportunities
On the topic of spontaneity, opening discussions seemingly at random with potentially interested people is crucial for networking. In a virtual environment, it’s much harder to do that and recreate that genuine interest. In-person networking events have always presented more opportunities for like-minded people to get into casual conversations, exchange information, discuss potential business opportunities or pass referrals to one another.
Not as impactful
Virtual events can have all the engaging and thought-provoking content in the world, but no event will be able to recreate the magic of human interaction. As a result, virtual events might leave veteran in-person event attendees — who are largely new to digital events — dissatisfied and uninterested.
As explained above, face-to-face interactions are largely organic, with much of it occurring at random in those small pockets of time you find to grab a coffee. While virtual events allow you to create separate meeting spaces, breakout rooms, and other digital replacements, sadly, some people will not engage with these in the same way.
4. Can hybrid events be the answer?
There are numerous pros and cons to consider when thinking about the type of event you want to host, attend, or exhibit at. If you’re still unconvinced by digital or virtual events, you may benefit from a hybrid approach. These events include elements of both live and digital events, allowing you to reap many of the benefits of both while avoiding many of the drawbacks.
For instance, you may be able to attend some seminars or Q&A sessions in person, and later download a digital recording of the keynote speakers’ presentations. Scheduling certainly becomes easier to manage with hybrid events, and many companies are adopting this model.
However, it’s clear to see that the virtual event market has plenty of promise and potential. It can be a huge risk to take your event entirely online, but it can reap better rewards. For others, it might be simply out of the question. It entirely depends on the nature of your content and which you feel is the best move forward for your company.
Are you organising a virtual, hybrid or in-person event? Discover how Weezevent’s technology can help you with easy-to-use ticketing and registration, access control, cashless payment and emailing and CRM solutions.