Written by Bev Jones, Head of Virtual, Digilounge
Let me start by saying — I am done with all the restrictions, lockdown and COVID in general. If I could snap my fingers and make COVID disappear — I would. I miss being able to interact with people, to network and have meaningful conversations in “real life”, not just over an internet connection.
In the last two years, we have all spent a large proportion of our working lives connecting on-screen. However, as the pandemic fades, it seems that going back to a pre-pandemic reality of face-to-face events is a real possibility.
The events industry doesn’t seem to have a consensus — some people seem desperate for a return to in-person; others prefer the ease and convenience of virtual. Looking ahead to 2022, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking — should face-to-face events be the default once again?
From my perspective, virtual events make more sense. You might be reading this article screaming “No!”, but please do hear me out.
Sure, nothing beats an engaging, face-to-face conversation — but virtual events are more inclusive, more time efficient, lower-cost and more eco-friendly. They burst the “London-centric” bubble and improve our work life balance. Best of all, they strip away the boundaries of who you can reach and impact with your event.
To many, the compromise between these two extremes could be a hybrid event. There certainly seems to be an increase in the number of hybrid events that have been put on recently, with a whole range of studio setups being put on show.
However, if hybrid events are not done well, they tend to be the worst of both worlds. Sharing content via livestream has minimal opportunities for interaction, leaving your online viewers feeling like they have had a second class experience. Setting up a camera crew and smaller in-person conference can get very expensive, and increase the workload of your team with very little effect or payoff.
To prove my point, let’s have a deeper look from the perspective of the various parties involved in an event.
Perspective : The Event Organiser
- Face-to-face events are much more expensive to run
- Ticket sales can be much more unpredictable for face-to-face events, as the time commitment of traveling to a venue can be off-putting
- Hybrid events result in a significant increase in time and costs, and run the danger of a poor quality online service
- Hybrid events require two separate agendas, to ensure the virtual event is as effective as the in-person one
- Virtual events allow you to be more confident in your speakers — as the amount of commitment required to attend decreases massively
- Face-to-face events have a much larger carbon footprint and environmental impact
- Face-to-face events are not necessarily geographically accessible for all, and can exclude those in more remote locations, making you less confident in a large turnout
- Time commitment decreases significantly
- Travel and accommodation expenses decrease significantly
- Time away from work and family
- The need to be in a big-city to be relevant
- No option to pre-record, potentially passing on opportunities to share their message due to time (and location) limitations
- Limited rehearsal time may cause a lot of technical issues
- Loss of productivity
- High ticket cost
- Additional travel and accommodation expenses
- If attending the virtual option of a poorly executed hybrid event, it will feel less inclusive
Not all events are suited to staying virtual. However, we do need to make sure that in every case, the arguments are weighed up. Where previously, events were face-to-face by default, there now needs to be a real necessity to justify the move.
Once we have got over the novelty of seeing our colleagues and other figures in the industry, we do need to accept that the new default should be virtual. For organisers in particular, you do need to stop and reassess. Does your event have to be in person? Would it make more business sense to hold it virtually? Would you want to put geographical boundaries in the way of your speakers and delegates? Would it be more environmentally responsible to reduce your carbon footprint by holding the event virtually?
Virtual events can be more engaging, more impactful and most importantly, more profitable than their face-to-face counterparts. Virtual events should not be seen as imitations of in-person ones, but as their own entity — with incredible possibilities and serious business advantages.
With virtual events your business can be boundless.
Share with us your thoughts, what do you like and dislike about in-person events and virtual events?