The Express Blog

Virtual, physical or hybrid event: we unpack the pros and cons to help you decide which is best for you

Across Australia, thousands of organisations have moved their events online and are embracing the many benefits that come with it. From AGMs, conferences, seminars and fundraisers, almost any event you can think of can be made virtual— but how do you know if it’s the right choice for you? 

If you’re yet to make the switch, you may be wondering if the benefits of a virtual event outweigh that of physical events you’ve held in the past.

To help, we’ve unpacked the pros and cons of virtual, physical and hybrid events so you can decide which is the best option for you and your business.

Physical events

Pros

  • In a world where many of us spend significant time in front of a screen, there can be benefits in having your attendees gather together and build relationships through physical interaction such as handshakes, eye contact and face to face conversations. And while you can’t completely replicate this experience virtually, there are certain initiatives, such as providing breakout rooms or having dedicated Q&A sessions that can help attendees gain the benefits that come with interacting and networking without having to meet in-person.
  • Physical events make it easy to provide tangible items such as brochures and other marketing materials, which help to build strong brand associations and promote your product, service, and future events. 
  • The promise of seeing some great speakers in-person can be a major drawcard for prospective attendees. However, if you’re hosting a virtual event there are ways you can help create the same hype and connect people with their favourite thought leaders, such as offering virtual meet and greets or Q&A sessions.

Cons

  • One of the biggest downsides of physical events is the cost. The expense of hiring the venue, staff, catering, entertainment and the cost of employee travel can completely chew up marketing budgets that would otherwise be diversified. When compared to the relatively small cost of setting up a virtual event platform, you can see why the cost of holding physical events is considered a substantial disadvantage.
  • As well as being expensive, physical events offer very limited flexibility, both for attendees and the hosting organisation. The number of attendees you’ll get through the door is confined by scheduling conflicts, geographical distance, travel costs and higher ticketing prices. This of course can lead to lower attendance or engagement and therefore less ROI for your efforts.
  • Collecting important attendee data can be difficult at physical events because you’re limited by the information they’re willing to offer up rather than their actual behaviour, which can easily be tracked and reported on if you work with a good virtual event platform. Those behavioural insights don’t just help shape future events, they provide big data that can be used to identify qualified sales leads and direct your business moving forward. 

Virtual events

Pros

  • One of the biggest advantages to hosting a virtual event is the low cost compared to physical events. Because you don’t need to hire a venue or other expenses such as caterers, potentially thousands of dollars can be saved and redirected into other marketing initiatives. All you need to get started is a quality virtual event platform with the right features to handle your event seamlessly.
  • You can reach more prospects! Virtual events can be promoted to people across the world, attracting attendees from many different nationalities, who otherwise wouldn’t have known about your business or your event.
  • Speakers tend to charge less for virtual events, meaning you can potentially include more speakers in your agenda and appeal to more prospective attendees, it’s a win-win scenario.
  • Because the overheads of holding a virtual event are lower, many organisations reduce the ticket price or make the event free to attend, making it accessible to more attendees which in turn drives sales and improves results.
  • There’s also the advantage of flexibility. Without having to factor in travel time, more people can attend your event and fit it into their schedule. Attendees can jump in and out of sessions when they have spare time and because the sessions can be recorded, they can be accessed on demand.
  • Your event can remain live all year long! The beauty of a virtual event is that all the sessions can be seamlessly recorded and sold as a package that can be accessed forever, if you wish. This will increase your ROI and keep your brand authority continuing for longer and with a wider audience.

Cons

  • People love free merchandise so you’ll have to be creative in finding new ways to provide tangible value in a virtual setting. But on the upside, you can cut the costs of promotional materials from your event budget.
  • If you’ve previously held physical events, you will have to put some time into rethinking your promotional strategy to pivot towards virtual.

Hybrid events

Pros

  • Some people really love attending physical events where others prefer the anonymity and comfort of an online forum. This makes hybrid events perfect for organisations that want to appeal to a wider potential audience.
  • If one of the reasons you prefer live events is the energy and physical connection provided by live speakers but you still want all the cost saving and flexibility benefits of a virtual event, hosting a hybrid event may be your perfect solution. Simply give attendees the option to virtually tune into their live talk and record the session for those who want to access it later.
  • If you’ve been running physical events for years and aren’t sure whether you’re ready to completely move things online, hosting a hybrid event is a great way to gauge audience sentiment and feel out how your events should be run in the future.

Cons

  • While the costs of hiring event space and staff will be reduced compared to an entirely physical event, you may still have to factor some of these expenses into your budget if you host a hybrid event.
  • Trying to juggle both the physical and virtual aspects of your event could potentially be challenging if you have a small team or limited resources. This can be made more achievable by having good organisational skills and using the help of an experienced virtual event team. They will set up and manage a live feed of your event, so that you only have to worry about the content and presentations of your event.

The result

While there are some perks that come with hosting a physical event, when compared to the benefits of a virtual event there’s really no contest.

From potentially saving your organisation thousands in event management costs, higher attendee numbers due to increased flexibility and reach, longevity of your content and the overall impact this can have on the event results—virtual and hybrid events easily come out on top.

The team at Express Virtual Meetings are experts in helping organisations plan and execute successful virtual and hybrid events. Our virtual event team manages every element of your  event using our cloud-based, online video event platform that’s packed with features designed to make your event seamless, collect and report on important data and most importantly make your event enjoyable and valuable for your attendees.

On top of  being entirely Australian-owned and operated, we offer a 100% money back satisfaction guarantee, so that you can feel confident that you and your event are in the best hands. Get in touch  or book a managed virtual event demo with the team to get started.

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