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Live, Virtual or Hybrid Business Events: Choosing Your Ideal Format

Live, Virtual or Hybrid Business Events: Choosing Your Ideal Format

The historic rise of technology in business communications in 2020-21 showed that people don’t need to be face-to-face to make meaningful connections. Virtual meetings and events became the norm as COVID-19 swept the world. Business leaders had no intentions of losing touch with their prospective and established customers and business partners, not as long as they had access to technology.

But what about now, as people feel comfortable about congregating again? Is it worthwhile to plan in-person events, or does it make more sense, now that we all know how to use it, to stick with a virtual format? Or what about harnessing the best of both worlds — what would that take?

How you choose to host specific events depends on your particular goals, audience, budget and other factors. Take a look at some of the pros and cons of each type of event. Then you can decide which format may be ideal for your next event.

Live event pros and cons

Live events, where all participants come together in a physical location, give people the opportunity to share information, exchange ideas, meet new people and strengthen established relationships. While we have learned how to achieve much of this through virtual settings, being “live and in person” has some distinct benefits:

  • Live events tend to generate a high level of energy that vitalizes the crowd, making attendees more likely to be engaged in the moment and to later recall what they learned or experienced at the event.

  • Attendees can participate in product demonstrations and other meaningful hands-on activities.

  • Complex concepts may be more understandable as attendees have the opportunity to read speakers’ body language and discuss the subject matter in small groups.

  • It’s easy to interact with others, whether meeting someone for the first time or strengthening established relationships.

Live events have disadvantages as well:

  • They can be expensive, with potential costs including securing a venue, catering refreshments or meals, and covering travel and/or lodging costs for staff, speakers and key clients.

  • Planning can be time-consuming, due to the logistics related to the booking the venue and providing meals, travel, lodging, etc.

  • Attendance is limited to the number of guests the venue can accommodate.

Virtual event pros and cons

Virtual events connect people through technology. They can be as simple as a video call or single-speaker webcast, or as complex as a multi-track event with multiple virtual rooms, livestreams, video presentations, etc. The advantages of using a virtual event format include the following:

  • Virtual events can be much cheaper than live events for the hosting organization as well as participants, since there are no costs for travel, accommodations or venue.

  • Planning can be faster and easier, as technology minimizes logistical concerns.

  • More people can attend, because they can connect from anywhere. Booking speakers and engaging participants can be easier, and you can broaden your reach and impact.

  • The content presented at the event can be enhanced with additional materials and shared on-demand with attendees as well as those unable to attend.

Some disadvantages of virtual events:

  • Distractions can cause participants to be less engaged than if they were attending in person. Some event planners recommend keeping virtual events to 60 to 90 minutes to achieve the greatest impact.

  • Networking requires more effort and can feel less personal than face-to-face interactions.

  • Technical difficulties are always a possibility.If you’re planning a virtual event, be sure to have a troubleshooter on hand.

Hybrid event pros and cons

Hybrid events give attendees (and possibly speakers) the opportunity to choose whether they would like to participate in your event in person or remotely. As a hybrid event host, you can benefit from a variety of advantages:

  • You can capture the energy and excitement of a live event, while harnessing the power of technology for content creation and sharing, including on-demand replay.

  • The cost is typically lower than a fully in-person event, because you may be able to use a smaller space and limit food, lodging and travel expenses.

  • The flexible format enables you to include the greatest number of attendees.

Some cons of hybrid events:

  • They are the most time-intensive type of event to plan, as you must navigate all of the considerations of a live event plus those of a virtual event.

  • Creating an experience that is equally valuable to, and inclusive of, both audiences can be challenging.

  • Technical issues can become an even greater annoyance to attendees if the live program must be halted to address issues affecting the remote audience.

How to choose the ideal format for your event

Once you understand the advantages and disadvantages of live, virtual and hybrid business events, you can weigh the alternatives against your unique circumstances and needs. Consider factors including the purpose of your event, the goals you’d like to achieve, the people (and number of people) you’d like to invite, geographic and logistical concerns, and your budget, timeline and technological capabilities.

You may end up using each of these formats at one time or another — virtual for brief presentations and live or hybrid for trade shows, for example. Building experience with each type of event will help your business become more agile, so that you can stay connected with your clients, partners and industry no matter what market or world challenges may arise.

This article is for general information purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting or financial advice. Any reliance on the information herein is solely and exclusively at your own risk and you are urged to do your own independent research. To the extent information herein references an outside resource or Internet site, Dollar Bank is not responsible for information, products or services obtained from outside sources and Dollar Bank will not be liable for any damages that may result from your access to outside resources. As always, please consult your own counsel, accountant, or other advisor regarding your specific situation.

Posted: January 19, 2023