The Pros and Cons of Virtual Events

Post by 
Elton Lee Hesketh
Published 
September 9, 2020

Virtual events have become increasingly common over the past several months as COVID-19 forced many large events to shut down their in-person gatherings completely. Even as restrictions ease, however, many companies are looking at virtual events and how they have the potential to change the way people interact with one another—even from the comfort of their homes.

Thinking about hosting a virtual event, either by taking an in-person event online or by creating an entirely virtual event for the future? Consider some of these potential benefits and drawbacks at every stage of the event planning process before you get started.

Pre-Event

When you are planning your virtual event and creating a budget for it, it’s vital to consider the pre-event pros and cons to determine if it’s right for you from the get-go. Here are the primary factors of virtual events to understand at this juncture:

Pro: Virtual events can help cut costs

While you do need a certain amount of technology and technical know-how to pull off a successful event, there are several costs that you might be able to cut when you host your event online instead of hosting it in person.

For a physical event, you have to factor in venue hire costs, transport, accommodation, and extensive decor (to name but a few) and with virtual events, none of those exact costs will apply. It’s not only cheaper to host, they are generally cheaper to attend as well, for obvious reasons.

Having said that, it’s important to understand that while your virtual event has the potential to be more cost-effective because it won’t have the “typical” expenses of a physical event, there are other costs to factor in, such as the price of virtual event hosting platforms. These platforms are often quite expensive, require long-term contracts, and don’t offer flexible payment structures. Going virtual can ultimately lead to fewer costs, but, naturally, doesn’t negate expenditure entirely.

Con: Virtual events may generate less excitement

More often than not, it’s easier to create excitement for a physical event than it is for a virtual one. That’s not to say it’s impossible to generate buzz around your online event, however, it might just take some careful planning and a solid marketing strategy.

One of the best ways to drive hype and interest in your online event is to ensure that your content is highly coveted and hugely valuable. You could also look for popular speakers who have huge followings in your niche that people would love to hear live (even virtually), include some big in-event giveaways for attendees, and make sure that your marketing is on point and compelling.

The Live Event Day

You’ve done the prep, created an excellent online event and now it’s time to go live! These are four things to keep in mind when you reach this stage of the virtual event:

Pro: Virtual events can bring in a wider variety of attendees

When you host an in-person event, you are limited perhaps the number of attendees the venue can hold and by the geographic location. Even when people are willing to travel to attend an event, they may not want or be able to go a long distance. A virtual event, however, requires most people to go no further than their living room and means they do not have to factor travel costs into their budget when deciding whether or not to attend an event. In fact, you could have a global reach if that’s what you so desire, which depending on your brand, might be an invaluable advantage.

Pro: Virtual events can allow you to choose from a larger range of speakers and hosts

Like attendees, speakers are limited in how much they can travel and how many events they can cram into a set period of time. During virtual events, however, speakers don’t have to be present in person. Instead, they can record their content from wherever they are. Often, this can give you a wider range of speakers to choose from when you plan your event. Equally as important, it can cut down on the cost of a speaker who would have had to travel a long distance to attend your event.

Con: Hosting an event virtually makes it easier for attendees to fail to attend

When people pay for a physical event, they often make concrete plans to attend: travel arrangements, hotel rooms, and time devoted specifically to that event. With a virtual event, on the other hand, people may purchase tickets, but plan to attend at a time that fits conveniently into their existing schedules. As a result, it’s easier to forget to sign in to the event or have something else come up. The lower cost of tickets may also cause less personal investment in the event itself.

Having said that, virtual events can help you to garner some incredible data on the people that do join, which can help you better calculate your ROI and generate high-quality leads.

Con: Networking is more difficult at a virtual event

People enjoy fewer face-to-face connections at a virtual event than they will when they attend one in person. They may also have more shallow interactions online than they do in person. While virtual events do still allow for some interaction between event attendees, it may need to be more deliberate, which can make it harder for attendees to make those vital connections. Having said that, however, with the advent of interactive virtual event platforms, the flip side of this is that audience participation can actually be easier in many ways with virtual events, via polls and Q&A sessions as two examples.

Post-Event

When a physical event ends, it’s over, the content is gone and all you can do is hope that it achieved its objectives. A virtual event, however, gives you incredible data to use in strategic ways and provides you with several other opportunities as well. Here are some of the post-online event advantages and disadvantages:

Pro: Hosting a virtual event can allow you to make content available after specific sessions

During in-person events, if an attendee misses a session, that’s it: they’ve missed it, and there’s no getting that content back. It doesn’t matter if they got stuck in a line at a vendor table, misread the start time or location of a specific session, or had two sessions going on at the same time that were both of interest. Attendees must make choices about the sessions they want to attend and the parts of the event that are most important to them. Virtual events, on the other hand, allow you to make content available long after the session itself, which means attendees can watch at their convenience. You can also use that virtual content to continue to add value long after the event is over.

Pro: Virtual events can last longer

While physical events usually only last for a few days, virtual events can stay live indefinitely. That allows you to host more sessions, deliver more content, and encourage more people to attend. Not only that, but it can also help raise the excitement surrounding your brand.

Con: Virtual events have less merchandise

Merchandise is a great selling point for many event attendees—not to mention the fact that it can be used to raise profits for the event. Unfortunately, virtual events can decrease the excitement of purchasing a new branded t-shirt or item. Not only that, but many virtual event hosts also choose not to add custom merchandise to their event. It’s good to remember, however, that virtual events will provide their own unique ways of increasing brand awareness.

Hosting virtual events can help bridge the gap while physical events are an impossibility. They can also offer numerous advantages for event planners looking to attract additional attendees or host a more cost-effective event. When thinking about hosting a virtual event, however, it’s important to carefully consider both the pros and cons of that event style. If you aren’t entirely sold on the virtual event concept, then as the world starts opening up, you could consider holding hybrid events instead, which will allow you to capitalize on the benefits of both event types.

Want to learn more, or need help planning that event (no matter the type)? Contact The Event Production Company. With over 29 years of experience, you can trust that whatever event you choose to host, you will be in good hands.

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