Virtual events became realistically feasible during 2020, and that feasibility has become greater in the following years. Future lockdowns won't be as disruptive owing to decentralized virtual events. That said, there are benefits and drawbacks to consider which we'll explore here.
Pros and Cons of Virtual Events
Ease of Accessibility and Lower Costs
An event in Los Angeles requires air travel, taxis or Uber pick-up, hotels, food, and more. Though such things may technically be tax-deductible, the costs are still there. This inhibits the accessibility of attendees.
Less Pressure and Stress
You don't have to manage travel, you don't have to reserve a weekend on a calendar, and you don't have to reserve a venue. Planners just have to set up a virtual event, attendees just have to set aside some time. Altogether, the pressure on involved parties is reduced.
More Effective Data Can Be Obtained
Virtual events can be recorded in real-time, then sent to those who can't attend, or prospective future clients. Direct data can be accurately recorded; every attendee touchpoint – registrations, attendance, sessions selected, time spent in a session, content downloaded, etc. - can be tracked and put to good use. In-person events are more anecdotal and chaotic.
Return On Investment (ROI) Can Be Much Higher
Because the costs of virtual events are essentially time, electricity, and bandwidth, they're exponentially less expensive than physical events. Accordingly, there's a much greater Return on Investment or ROI.
More Extensive Sales Opportunities
At virtual events, better data makes it easier to "sell" every single eligible attendee. You can't do that at a physical, in-person event; you might not even be able to determine the extent of attendees.
Virtual events can actually reach any country anywhere, provided there's an internet connection. Physical events only really reach those who attend or those who "tune in" digitally. Unless the physical event is very large, like a comic con or G4 convention, going the virtual route is likely superior.
Audience Choice is Ultimately Enhanced
At a physical event, attendees may be forced to choose between one event and another, missing key information from a presenter they value. With virtual events, they can watch presentations at their leisure, as all things are recorded.
Virtual Events Are More Scalable
Scalability of virtual events essentially involves increasing who can attend, etcetera. You just have to toggle a few settings in a software display. With in-person events, scaling out can cost thousands of dollars and be almost impossible.
Budget can be used more effectively, sales increase, there's a better choice for attendees, etcetera. However, despite these clear benefits, virtual events do have certain drawbacks to consider. You need to factor these in as you go about planning professional events for your company. Next, we'll look at a few things that definitely need to be considered.
Attendees’ Full Attention Aren’t Guaranteed
Because virtual events are usually attended by people in their homes, they often don't give such events full attention. They may be distracted by a device or family life. As an event organizer you will have to focus on continuous attendee engagement.
Limited opportunities for sponsors
Sponsors understand the difference in engagement and the low cost of such events, so they're less likely to underwrite expenses. This can potentially reduce event revenue, however as a virtual event organizer you can offer your sponsors valuable attendee touchpoints, advertising, and promotional opportunities pre, during and post event. As well as detailed attendee engagement details.
Technical Errors Can Impede Virtual Events
Technical difficulties exist at any event. With a virtual event, this can stop the momentum. However, virtual events often have an added layer of security built-in since they can fall back on pre-recorded content.
Higher Chance of No-shows
It is easier to drop out of a virtual event. Losing attendees is never fun, but every virtual event platform offers several ways to combat attendee drop-off. Developing a customizable email workflow to combat attendee drop-off is a high priority for every event planner.
Reduced Networking Opportunities
Nothing beats the face-to-face physical interaction. But we can come very close with impromptu engagements during a virtual event with chats, P2P messaging, video calling, private meeting rooms, etc. And while we cannot recreate the physical interaction, we can keep several virtual interactions going on at the same time.
Virtual Event Hosting Realities Indicate Variable Success
Virtual events can be very effective, how effective depends on the approach. Sometimes you'll want to lean into virtual events exclusively, in other scenarios a hybrid mixture incorporating web cam feeds and the like may be worth considering. Hosted and managed properly, virtual events can be very effective. Regardless of the type of event that you choose; if you focus on providing your attendees an unforgettable experience than you can be assured that the benefits will far outweigh any potential drawbacks.