Are virtual conferences and events more effective than in person events?

authorShannon Correia dateSeptember 21, 2020

Virtual conferences and events can be effective, but are they - and will they ever be - as effective as events in person? In this article, we’re looking at the state of the world and how that impacts the way businesses conduct their event hosting strategy or participation in conferences. We’re also sharing a comprehensive pros and cons list so that you can ultimately come to a conclusion regarding the future of virtual events and their effectiveness.

The rise in popularity of virtual meetings

The impact of COVID-19 required many nations to adapt, with restrictions put in place that affected both people and businesses. As a consequence, business professionals were forced to conduct their business communication almost entirely online.  Businesses and marketers therefore needed to develop their experience with these mediums, as well as adapting and developing their skills to meet the current needs and opportunities.  As people became more comfortable communicating with vendors, suppliers and prospects using tools such as Zoom, Teams or Google Meet, more and more people felt comfortable taking this to another level, attending and even networking at online events and conferences.

As we've all seen, many events, meetings and conferences have already moved online, largely due to necessity. This is leaving many wondering if this will become the new norm. While restrictions globally are expected to remain in place for the next 12 months, they are likely to remain the modus operandi for the time being, and a viable alternative in the future. People are likely to want the option to attend online or in person for the foreseeable future. Some favour the comforts of their own spaces and have become hyper selective with how they spend their time, while others may soon be seeking digital escapes. With many mixed views and unknowns, only time will tell. In the meantime, here are the pros and cons of hosting your events virtually to help you decide what’s better - you’ll notice the pros do outweigh the cons.

The pros

  • Lower costs: Costs are saved on hiring a venue, catering company and staff. Attendees can save on entry fees to the events and any associated costs such as transport and accommodation, which can be very costly.
  • Increased reach: Virtual meetings allow for greater geographical accessibility and visibility, while providing more convenience. You can therefore grow your email database and subsequently your audience and leads as well.
  • Save time: Attendees simply need to follow a link in order to attend virtually. This saves the time needed on transportation for in-person events, which can therefore improve productivity.
  • Improved note taking: Content can easily be shared with the audience in a compelling, digital format during or after a meeting or event, meaning that less time is spent taking down notes.
  • Faster processing times: Unlike organising physical events, virtual events can be put together on a hosting platform with ease, without the need for approvals, logistics or having to adhere to restrictions.
  • Increased Flexibility: With digital events, you have the ability to easily change details of the event with minimal disruption to your attendees. This includes date or time changes, or changes to the event schedule.
  • Scalability: Your event can grow with your leads. If marketing for your virtual event or conference takes off, you can easily adapt online, unlike physical venues that have capacity limitations.
  • Environmentally friendly: Less travel means less transportation with less carbon footprints. This therefore makes virtual events and meetings more sustainable options.
  • Better reporting: Conducting your meetings online means you are able to gain various sets of precise data from your attendees. This improves your reporting capabilities which can in turn further improve your business's performance.

The cons

  • Distractions: Since people are online, they have access to the internet in front of them, which means they are open to more distractions. This is also affected by the location where they tune in from, as there can be distractions in their environment too.
  • Highly curated: As with all things digital, the level of personalisation can be a con, as your exposure to people is limited. Even with some virtual events offering networking opportunities, this is not as effective or easily available as when done in person.
  • Decreased business benefits: Many businesses make use of business trips as vacation benefits for their staff, which is diminished with virtual events. This also impacts countries that promote MICE tourism.
  • Less effective sponsorships: Sponsorships are not as high or effectively communicated on the online space. There is also a limitation in how people can access and utilise merchandise which acts as souvenirs and marketing momentos from events held in person.
  • Limiting the audience: This will not be applicable to all businesses, though it is important to remember that millions of people around the world do not have easy access to a device or internet connectivity, which can exclude them from such events.

That wraps up the pros and cons of virtual conferences and events. So, which option do you think is most effective - virtual or in person? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you.

If you’re in need of a digital marketing agency to plan, prepare, market and host your virtual event or conference, get in touch with us.