Virtual Events Vs In-Person Events

Nick Gold 12 September 2022

Despite the pandemic’s best efforts, our society is better connected than ever. We get up-to-the-minute news alerts. We work, shop, and socialise from our sofas. And we can speak to people on the other side of the world at a moment’s notice.

We’ve adapted to post-pandemic life in so many ways — including how we stage events. There’s now space for both virtual events and in-person events. The trick is knowing which one to use.

Our CEO, Nick Gold, led the International Association of Speaker Bureaus through the pandemic — so we’ve overseen the transition from in-person events to virtual events and back again. As we return to normality, it’s clear that virtual and in-person events are two very different formats, each with unique traits that achieve different outcomes.

Here’s what we’ve learned about virtual events vs in-person events, and how to decide which format works best for you.

Why virtual events are still thriving in a post-pandemic world

It’s essential to understand why virtual events are still relevant as we emerge from the pandemic. Virtual events are no longer a stopgap while we wait for normal service to resume. They’re an asset in their own right.

Virtual events are ideal for connecting a global audience. International delegates can meet more easily and sustainably than ever. Making eco-conscious decisions is imperative for modern organisations — especially if you’re running an event featuring sustainability speakers.

In our fast-paced world, virtual events are also the perfect vehicle for dynamic conversations that must be had before the zeitgeist moves on. Snappy debates and topical discussions work brilliantly in the virtual space. Not to mention how quick and affordable it can be to set up and run a virtual event.

There’s a clear place for virtual events in the post-pandemic era. So why are so many event organisers turning back to in-person events?

Why there’s still an essential place for in-person events

Virtual events are cheap, easy to organise, and convenient for attendees. But nothing beats the buzz of a live crowd.

Every attendee brings their own unique energy to an in-person event — and when they get together, sparks can fly. It’s far easier to motivate and inspire people when they’re sitting right there — which is why in-person events are ideal for TED-talk style forums and inspirational events.

It’s also easier to make an event memorable if it’s in-person. Many event organisers strive to create an experience that people will remember weeks, months, and even years later. An extraordinary in-person event achieves this far more effectively than a virtual event.

Certain types of events lend themselves to a particular format. But you might not have the budget to stage a dazzling in-person event, even if this seems like the natural choice. So how can you decide on the best format?

Virtual vs in-person events: which is right for you?

Your event format comes down to 3 key elements:

  • Scale
  • Budget
  • Purpose

The first two factors have a significant impact on choosing a format. If you have a low or no budget, an in-person event may be off the table. If you’re inviting delegates from around the world, a virtual event is easier to attend.

But if you have a budget that allows you more flexibility with your event format, you can use your event purpose to determine whether to go virtual or in-person.

Discovering the purpose of your event

Understanding your event purpose is key to hosting a fantastic event. Every activity, speaker, and element of your event should be linked to your overarching goal. And it helps you decide which format will work best.

To discover your event’s purpose, ask yourself:

  • What do you want to achieve at your event?
  • What’s your message to attendees?
  • What do you hope your attendees will remember about your event?

The answers to these questions will help you discover what’s most important about your event. If you want to inspire, motivate, or celebrate, in-person events tend to work best. If you want to inform, educate, or collaborate, virtual may be a more appropriate format.

Blending virtual and in-person events

Not all events have to be 100% virtual or in-person. Some of the most memorable moments come from experimenting with a fusion of these formats.

Creating a studio recording blends the high production value of in-person with the convenience of virtual. Audiences can also rewatch the presentation again and again, so it’s ideal for refreshing their memories and sparking new ideas.

You can also record in-person events so those that can’t be there in the flesh can watch on a virtual platform. They can participate using hashtags, polls, and learning games. VR and metaverse-based events  are also going to become big in the world of events — so consider adding virtual elements to your in-person event (and vice versa) to create an even more memorable experience.

How a speaker can elevate your event

Speakers have the power to elevate any kind of event, whether it’s online or in-person. They’re experts, both in their fields and in connecting with people — so they know how to speak to your audience on a deeper level.

A new voice can give audiences new perspectives. Hearing from someone with genuine experience — whether it’s a Black speaker for Black History Month, or a motivational speaker with an inspiring tale to tell — can make a huge difference to the reception of your event message. And this has a direct impact on achieving your event purpose.

We led a global network of speaker bureaus through the Covid-19 pandemic. And now leading all kinds of organisations on adapting to the new world of events.

Whether you need help finding your event’s purpose, deciding on your event format, or simply selecting the best speaker for your audience, the Speakers Corner team can help. Get in touch on 020 7607 7070, and we’ll help you elevate your virtual or in-person event to a whole new level.

Learn more about how we support organisations to create incredible virtual events and in-person events.

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