The events of the past year have certainly changed a lot of things. But one thing, in particular, that has risen both in popularity and out of necessity is virtual events.
Through virtual events, companies have noticed a rise in audience reach and event size. They also have benefitted from cost reduction since the event experience happened solely online.
Needless to say, there are several benefits to virtual events. But the world is slowly going back to normal as COVID-19 lessens.
This is not to say that virtual events will be going away entirely. In fact, a new approach to combine both virtual and in-person events together is on the rise. These are being called hybrid events.
Hybrid events can allow for face-to-face interactions. But they also include a virtual approach, taking advantage of the benefits of this past year.
Virtual and hybrid events each have their strengths and differences. But below is a guide to the planning process of each to help you determine the best kind of event for you.
See Related: How to structure virtual meetings
Virtual events vs. hybrid events
A virtual event takes place entirely online. Most will combine video streaming with pre-recorded content.
Using technology, companies are able to bring clients together through digital means. Event organizers don’t have to worry about travel restrictions.
After all, all of their meetings and Q+A sessions are happening online. Webinars, webcasts, and web conferences have allowed clients to maintain communication.
And virtual attendees can even network with one another in the digital space. Chatbox features and individual conference rooms help to boost attendee participation.
Virtual events will likely have a website too. This helps to streamline the information needed for the event. So attendees can browse their options all in one place.
Alternatively, a hybrid event occurs in person and employs virtual technology. Hybrid meetings are made up of both in-person audience attendees and virtual attendees.
This type of event approach, when done correctly, can foster audience engagement between in-person and virtual attendees. But this balance can be tricky to master.
The goals of an event, whether virtual or hybrid, always remain the same: to bring clients together and focus on the company goals. But the factors of each can drastically change the overall outcome.
Below are some of the advantages of each type of event. For event hosts, these tips will be particularly important!
The benefits of virtual events
A virtual event has become an innovative way to meet the needs of team members who are unable to meet in person. Below are some other benefits to hosting a virtual event:
- No travel expenses
- Perfect for a tight budget
- Expanded audience reach
- Increased accessibility services
Keep reading below to explore each element in depth. And reflect on whether a virtual event will be the right type of event for you.
#1. No travel expenses
Your target audience might reside in one home city. But the goal of the conference is to branch out and connect with others, right?
When your event takes place online, anyone can attend from inside their own home. People can tune in and out whenever they choose. And you’ll get more traffic on the event than you would in person.
In-person events also require a local production company. But virtual events can use any organization they would like.
#2. Perfect for a tight budget
A lack of travel expenses also means that budgeting is easier. Conferences can focus on the content of their companies. And the bulk of their budget can go towards strong production values.
Technology is the main star of the virtual event. So the only factors that event hosts need to secure will be speakers and an attendee pool.
Oftentimes, securing the venue for an event is the most costly part. Not to mention prime location, name badges, and food. But virtual events take those elements out of the equation.
#3. Expanded audience reach
Virtual events allow for a greater number of attendees. People from all over the world can attend digitally. And they most certainly will if high end live or virtual entertainment is on the menu.
With attendees able to participate from their own homes, they have little excuse not to attend. And advertising the event online can broaden the target audience and include more people.
Event planners can focus their efforts on expanding the attendee pool. And this will only help the company gain more exposure and awareness overall.
#4. Increased accessibility services
In-person events can be difficult for people with disabilities or special needs. But the technology used for virtual events can increase all accessibility services.
Depending on the platform you choose, your virtual event can offer subtitles for meetings. Those deaf or hard of hearing may still tune in and have an event experience just as enjoyable as the rest.
Virtual events can also be recorded. This way, attendees have the flexibility to go back and watch the event later. And companies can continue to market the event for longer.
The cons of virtual events
#1. Less personal interaction
Virtual events have the advantage of increased convenience and efficiency. But the elephant in the room is that nobody is actually in the room.
Little personal interaction can make the virtual event feel impersonal. And interacting through digital platforms can be difficult for some attendees more than others.
#2. At-home distractions
In-person events force you to be present in the moment. But when you’re home, distractions from your family, pets, or neighborhood will inevitably pop up.
Keeping people’s attention can be hard enough. But with little to no control of attendees and their environments, the event experience may feel lacking.
#3. Unstable technology
Internet connection is not always 100% perfect. So unstable technology can derail a conference that is meant to happen only online.
This can lead to some unexpected obstacles. The website might be down or attendees can’t get into the virtual conference room. But this is the gamble with virtual events.
The benefits of a hybrid event
Hybrid events are often seen as the perfect union of both in-person and virtual engagement. Below are some benefits to hosting a hybrid event:
- In-person engagement
- COVID-19 compliance
- Greater convenience and flexibility
- Increased collaboration
Some of these benefits remain similar to that of a virtual event. But keep reading to find out how virtual vs hybrid events can alter the feel of the vent all together.
#1. In-person engagement
Virtual technology is amazing. But in-person experiences and events are difficult to replace.
Hybrid events match the perfect balance between virtual and in-person experiences. Physical contact is important for some people to feel that they can truly connect.
And hybrid events can provide that for attendees. When a team is able to meet in person, they are also able to read body language better.
Virtual formats can only convey so much. And if technology freezes, the topic at hand might be lost among some of the people attending.
#2. COVID-19 compliance
Hybrid events also manage to mirror current COVID-19 restrictions. More folks are getting vaccinated, making in-person meetings feel more tangible.
But some people still face obstacles due to COVID-19. Hybrid events allow the greatest flexibility for attendees.
They can choose whether to attend virtually or in person. And it is ultimately left up to them to decide what will work best within their given circumstances.
#3. Greater convenience and flexibility
Sometimes, people cannot attend events due to their location. But hybrid events continue to bring the world together through technology.
Those with a small budget may still receive pertinent information and content. But they do not have to travel to a specific place to access it.
Providing options such as these can also boost the number of attendees altogether. As event formats meet the differences and needs of audience members, hybrid events will surely become more prevalent in the future.
#4. Increased collaboration
Hybrid events offer a variety of advantages. But the planning process does require more work.
This should not deter you from hosting a hybrid event. In fact, a hybrid event is an opportunity to collaborate with more people and organizers.
Additionally, hybrid events can greatly inspire the content of the conference. With both an in-person and virtual audience, event planners can innovate new ways to market a product. Think outside-the-box. Come up with creative and entertaining ways by hiring a professional virtual comic to represent the product and overall event.
The cons of hybrid events
#1. Difficult to deliver
A hybrid event is essentially two events in one. So the planning process is twice as involved as it would be for a standard event.
This also makes the delivery of the event difficult. Audience members will have different experiences so the content may not feel cohesive.
#2. A divided audience
In-person attendees will have a completely different experience than virtual attendees. Because of this, audience members may not feel like a united front.
Extra planning will ensure that attendees have positive experiences all around. But getting them to have the same perception of the event altogether will be tricky.
Not very many people like change. And a hybrid event is surely a change in how organizations will choose to lead their conferences.
There may be some pushback from certain attendees who enjoy good old-fashioned in-person events. But stick to your guns to make your event one with the future.
How to choose between a virtual or hybrid event
Virtual and hybrid events both have their merits. But below are some questions to ask yourself which event will work best for you.
When is the event happening?
COVID-19 restrictions are changing at a rapid pace. But your organization should still anticipate the reality of hosting a virtual event.
Virtual events also require less time to plan. And the number of attendees will only increase since they will not have to travel to a specific location.
If you have more time to plan, a hybrid event could give you more flexibility. Face-to-face contact increases engagement and excitement.
So the event itself will be well-anticipated and perhaps well-attended. Besides, given the past year of isolation, in-person events will likely be approached with more vigor.
Who are your attendees?
The deciding factor between virtual and hybrid events will also boil down to the attendees. Consider the following questions to choose the best event experience for them:
- How many people are you anticipating?
- Where are the attendees coming from?
- Can you safely host face-to-face events given current COVID-19 guidelines?
- Will guests feel comfortable attending in person?
Ultimately, the goals of the conference should meet the needs of the attendees. So if meetings are best kept from a distance, perhaps a virtual event can provide a safer and more comfortable atmosphere.
But if your target audience is scattered across the world, then a hybrid event might suit the overall goal. Whether you choose virtual or hybrid will depend on your clients and their level of comfort.
What kind of event do you want to have?
There is no question that virtual vs. hybrid events host a myriad of differences. But what kind of event are you striving to create for your attendees?
Will communication be best-achieved face-to-face? Or can collaboration be secured through a virtual way?
Consider what will benefit the team involved in planning the event as well. Is the team scattered across the nation or are they willing to travel to one place?
Some events require face-to-face contact so your event may need to fulfill that requirement. But others may be able to translate their content in a virtual way that is just as effective.
Either way, the choice between a virtual or hybrid event will depend upon attendee participation. So structure your conference to meet the goal of the organization overall.
Making an event worthwhile
All in all, there are several subjective factors that go into the planning process of any type of event. So choosing between a virtual or hybrid event will greatly depend upon your company’s intentions.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this past year will be flexibility. With the world going on lockdown, organizations still managed to maintain communication.
Any ways to adjust were valiantly attempted and praised for their tenacity. So whether you choose to host a virtual or hybrid event, make sure you approach it with a positive attitude.
Adam Christing is a professional comedy magician, virtual MC, and the founder of CleanComedians.com. He is a member of the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood and a popular virtual comedian, magician, and virtual speakers for hire.