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Live, Virtual or Hybrid Event — Which is the Way To Go?

If you’re an event host, then hats off to you because how you perform your work has experienced some pretty serious changes over the past year.

Event planning has never been easy, but there were certain realities planners could consistently count on. That’s changed now.

Tools and technologies that were previously on the fringe have now taken center stage as instruments for planning and hosting events.

And that’s okay!

The reality is that some of these tools allow for high levels of engagement with audiences, not to mention robust data and analytics, and interactive content.

With that being said, we’re now constantly being asked, “What type of event should I host?” That’s a good question. In this article we’ll break down the types of events and share some pros and cons of each.

First, let’s start with the 3 main types of events:

  • Live — All attendees are physically present in one location

  • Virtual — People attend the event entirely online

  • Hybrid — Some people attend in person, while others attend online

Now let’s take a look at each of these events to help you determine which one may be right for you.

Live Events

The historically unchallenged way of doing things has always been in live events.

And why not?

Live events have a few compelling pros:

  • It’s the industry standard. If you’re planning to host an in person event, there is a ton of good info and best practices for you to draw from.

  • Depending on the type of event, it’s the most direct way to reach people and network.

  • Certain intangibles about networking in person just can’t be replicated virtually.

There really is no other medium that expresses the nuances of communication better than face-to-face interactions. Body language plays a big part in communication. The little things that animate an interaction such as gestures, facial expressions, and eye movements are best translated live.

Also, many people attend events not just for the content, but for the opportunity to meet and interact with other attendees, speakers and sponsors with similar interests. The human factor and relationship building experience are the #1 reason people attend events.

Oh…just one issue. COVID has changed the game, which means there are a few more things to think about, like:

  • COVID compliance is expensive. Actually, even before COVID, holding an in person event was expensive.

  • Attendees aren’t so enthusiastic about doing anything in person just yet. There are still legitimate health concerns to consider.

  • People have gotten used to everything being virtual.

That last point is important. Recall that over this past year, the number of opportunities for people to attend large scale, in person events was essentially zero. The opportunities to attend events, however, didn’t disappear, they just changed. Meetings, conventions, trade shows, etc… all shifted to the virtual space.

The attendees shifted too. For the past year, attendees of these events have gotten used to beaming into an event from the comfort of their own homes (pants optional). Some of them may have even ordered food, made some tea or engaged in other rituals that helped them get ready to attend.

Given that people have already started developing habits and gotten comfortable with attending online events, in person events must now be compelling enough for people to get up, put on pants and travel to attend.

Virtual Events

Despite COVID, or other circumstances, people will always seek mediums to interact with other people. With the Internet, if attendees can’t physically go to the event, then the event can come to them.

This is where virtual events enter the picture. With the right amount of coordination, your organization can successfully host an event with hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands attendees online. We know because we’ve seen virtual events of all types and sizes successfully hosted on encaptiv.

Virtual events sound almost too good to be true. You get:

  • Cost effectiveness. No need to rent a space, hire caterers or pay for travel.

  • Higher quality data and analytics. Platforms like encaptiv collect high quality data and analytics around content and audience engagement.

  • Flexible for both attendees and hosts.

Good deal, right? We think so, but there are a couple of cons to consider as well.

Chief among them is competition for your attendees’ attention. This isn’t a new phenomenon. Smartphone use during in person events has been happening for a long time (it’s one of the reasons we created encaptiv in the first place). The difference now is that it’s easier for attendees to become distracted when they’re at home. Since most virtual event platforms are deployed through a web browser, it’s very easy for an attendee to open a tab and get lost in a Wikipedia rabbit hole or social media stream. In fact, web browsers encourage this type of behavior. This is compounded by family, roommates, pets and other offline distractions.

Another con to consider is the technological challenges attendees may face. Problems with internet connectivity, microphones, cameras and browser compatibility do emerge, but are becoming less common as more and more people attend online events. The best way to prevent technical issues is to send short email messages the week before, day before and day of your event, reminding attendees to test their tech.

To sum up, when done well, virtual events are cost effective, safe and they can provide substantial value to event hosts and sponsors from all the data collected.

Hybrid Event

Hybrid events are the best of both worlds. Some of the participants are able to attend face-to-face while others are “brought in virtually”, thus adding to the benefit of the overall interaction.

Hybrid meetings can also be used as a method for cost reduction since you don’t have food, beverage and space rental expenses for the entire attendee pool.

Allowing attendees to participate from wherever they sit in the world — either in-person or online — offers flexibility and convenience and allows you to expand your reach regardless of geography.

Great, so hybrid events cost less than in person-events, and offer more options to attendees, but there are a few things to consider:

  • A hybrid event takes longer to plan. You have to account for planning for the virtual side of things and the in person side of things.

  • Cross networking between live and virtual attendees can be difficult, but is possible with platforms like encaptiv.

  • In general, hybrid events cost less than live events but cost more than virtual events.

The Right Event for Your Audience

We hope this article helps the next time you’re faced with the decision of what type of event to host. And if you’d like to understand how encaptiv can support your upcoming event, contact us. encaptiv supports all of your live, virtual and hybrid event needs.

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