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Live Stream vs. Pre-Record: The Great Virtual Event Debate

When it comes to planning a virtual event, there are a number of logistics to consider. Full day(s) or half day(s)? Which time zone? Length of breaks? How to structure the agenda? The list goes on.

But perhaps one of the most debated logistics is whether or not to stream the content live or to pre-record the sessions. In this post, I’m going to break down some of the pros and cons and give you some success tips for each.

Live Stream

There’s something to be said for that feeling you get when you’re watching something as it’s happening. Think about why all the major sports events are presented live. Watching events unfold live creates a sense of urgency and excitement for the viewer. Mistakes can’t be edited out, making it more human and creating a greater sense of connection between the participants. But live streaming doesn’t come without its flaws. Read on for some pros and cons.


  • Greater audience engagement.

  • Closer to a live event experience.

  • Allows for real-time interaction between attendees, speakers and sponsors.

  • Increased audience participation through live polling, chat, Q&A, games and more.

  • Can go low-production (flip on your webcam and go) or high production.

  • Creates a deeper sense of connection.


  • The success of your event is dependent on Internet connectivity.

  • Have to be more cognizant of differing attendee time zones.

  • Can’t edit out mistakes or ‘oopsies’ during live broadcast.


  • Instruct presenters and attendees to turn off all other streaming services while consuming event content (i.e. Netflix, Hulu, video games — anything that takes a lot of streaming bandwidth).

  • Record your live sessions as they take place and make them available on demand later in the day (for those in different time zones) or post-event. Adding recorded content also presents an opportunity for ticketing tiers or up-sells.

  • Have pre-recorded content at the ready or intermingled into your agenda as a back-up if something goes wrong with the live stream.

  • Do a tech check and practice run with speakers, sponsors and exhibitors at least 1 week in advance of your event.

  • Have speakers sign on 15 to 20 minutes prior to their scheduled start time to ensure all equipment is working properly, lighting and sound are good, and their connection is strong.


Let’s face it, events are stressful, and running a live event tops the list in the stress department. If you’re looking to take some of the stress out of your planning and execution, pre-recorded content may be the solution for you. You also open yourself up to greater opportunities to book speakers who may not be available on the date of your live event. Sure, going the pre-recorded route may not have the same level of excitement and interaction as a live event, but it certainly has its pros! And with all the advances in technology, there are still plenty of opportunities for audience engagement.


  • Less schedule coordination for speakers and attendees in different time zones.

  • Not dependent on speakers’ Internet connectivity (attendees will still need to stream pre-recorded content).

  • More options for high quality production (i.e. sound design, animation, etc.).

  • Can edit out mistakes.


  • Lower audience engagement.

  • Little to no interactivity with the speaker(s).

  • Less motivation to log on and watch during scheduled event hours.

  • High quality production can get expensive.


  • Pre-record your sessions and schedule them on your agenda just as you would a live session with a start and end time.

  • Follow pre-recorded sessions with live Q&A with the speaker(s).

  • Add gamification to encourage attendees to attend and interact with pre-recorded sessions during event hours.

  • Hire an experienced event producer to help make your pre-recorded sessions more entertaining and engaging.

Still can’t decide? Use both options! We’ve seen a lot of great events that utilize a mix of both pre-recorded and live content. And let’s face it, no matter what you decide, a lot can be done to make your virtual event a success when you choose the right tech partner.

At encaptiv, we have a variety of options to support events of all types. Book a demo to find out if encaptiv is the right solution for your event.

Thank you to Faizan Khan for contributing to this article.

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