Why Virtual Events Are Better than In-Person Events

Why Virtual Events Are Better than In-Person Events

There was a time, not too long ago, when virtual events were considered a “Plan B” for professionals looking for networking or career advancement opportunities. When logistical challenges would throw a wrench in the gears of an in-person event, organizers would scramble to put together a virtual counterpart. As backup plans, these makeshift events would usually work in a pinch, though attendees’ expectations weren’t always met.

Fast-forward to what’s hopefully the wind-down phase of a global pandemic, and we’ve seen a drastic (and necessary) increase in virtual or hybrid events. In some ways, this has been a positive for would-be organizers and attendees, as a well-run virtual event can be everything a virtual event can be, with the added benefit of convenience. 

In this blog, we’re taking a look at some of the ways you can set your virtual event up to be a success. 

What Are the Pros and Cons of In-Person Events?

Whether you’re thinking about a conference, workshop, or networking event, there are going to be pros and cons. This is true whether the event takes on an in-person, virtual, or a hybrid format.

The most commonly cited advantages to in-person events largely center around the power of live interaction, such as the ability to understand participants’ tone and body language, drive more engaged participation, and build positive relationships.

On the other hand, there are disadvantages to in-person events as well. For organizers, planning and facilitating these events—in a way that’s useful and engaging for participants—can be overwhelming and exhausting. In-person events also come with additional drawbacks, including:

  • Participation is often limited to those who can physically attend the event, missing out on the opportunity to increase attendance through digital accessibility
  • The logistics of finding the right space for the event and participants can be challenging. If the space is too small, it can feel cramped, and a too-large space can feel empty (and cost more to reserve).
  • The potential of issues like weather conditions or other events impacting participants’ ability to attend the in-person event, whereas a virtual event is always just a click or two away!

What Does It Mean When an Event Is Virtual?

As its name would suggest, a virtual event is simply one that takes place in a digital environment, rather than a physical space. Participants engage with each other, and with the presenters, through video conferencing, instant messaging and discussion forums, and more. The possibilities are only as limited as the organizers’ imagination or the limitations of their chosen technologies. SpeedNetworking.com’s platform was built to empower event organizers with easy, intuitive tools for creating meaningful and memorable experiences.  

What Are the Advantages of Virtual Events?

With proper planning, virtual events provide a number of compelling advantages over their in-person counterparts, including better networking, increased attendance, and more. Here are several advantages your virtual event might produce:

    • Better networking: Networking is all about forging meaningful connections with the right people. In person, networking can often feel overly-engineered, considering there are typically strict time windows for meeting new people, as well as physical and logistical limitations to how widely a participant can expand their network. With the right planning and platform—like SpeedNetworking.com—the virtual networking space can be just as engaging and authentic, if not more so! Virtual networking can also be much more flexible, with participants no longer being limited to a certain geographical area. 
  • Lower cost: Not only can the processes of planning and running in-person events be exhausting, it can also be expensive! Renting an appropriate space, providing refreshments or meals, printing out physical materials…these costs can rack up quickly. 
  • Increased adaptability: From a logistical standpoint, virtual events provide more adaptability for event organizers. Using a platform like SpeedNetworking.com means events can be planned and put together more quickly than in-person events. Virtual events also offer the advantage of increased inclusivity for a number of different groups, like those with disabilities or diseases or other physical barriers to attendance.
  • Accessible analytics: Eliciting meaningful feedback from participants of an in-person event can be difficult, as it’s typically done through an end-of-event survey. By the time they receive the survey, participants are likely tired and busy processing the event, meaning they’re unlikely to give too much meaningful feedback. Virtual events, by contrast, generate a wealth of data that can be quickly accessed, interpreted, and acted on. 
  • Better lead generation and conversion: Many companies consider virtual events like webinars to be a critical element of their marketing strategy. It’s for good reason, since these events represent such a substantial opportunity to generate more leads, better qualify and nurture them, and drive conversions.

Do People Prefer In-Person or Virtual Events?

Despite the advantages of virtual events, a majority of people (72%) still prefer in-person events. What this statistic doesn’t consider, though, is the fact that many of the past couple years’ virtual events weren’t originally intended to be virtual. Instead, they were in-person events that had been turned into virtual events. 

By applying a few modern best practices for virtual events, and a digital platform like SpeedNetworking.com, though, you can create a virtual event that’s more than just an acceptable stand-in for an in-person event. With the right planning, you can create a virtual event that will have participants wondering why similar events haven’t been virtual all along!

How Can Virtual Events Replace In-Person Experience?

Transforming an in-person event into a virtual or hybrid experience isn’t always an easy, 1:1 translation. Because the dynamics and logistics are different, they require different types of planning. This shouldn’t be seen as a chore for organizers, though. There are, in fact, imminent possibilities to not just change the event’s basic format but to rethink how it can deliver a meaningful experience for participants. In other words, rather than bemoaning the advantages of in-person events, organizers should embrace the opportunity to develop a virtual event.

Here are a few best practices to consider when planning your virtual event:

1. Ask “WIIFM?” 

One of the biggest keys to planning a successful event, rather in-person or virtual, is to start with the participants in mind. When considering the details of the event, picture an attendee asking the simple question, “What’s in it for me?” This way, you can ensure that you’re using their time effectively and delivering value that’s in line with their expectations.

2. Set the Right Expectations. 

In other words, don’t over-promise and under-deliver. The more clearly you can set expectations in the days and weeks leading up to an event, the more likely participants are to feel like they learned something of value by the end of the event. When possible, provide a detailed agenda in advance.

3. Include Everyone. 

No one wants to feel like an outsider—not in the real world, and not in the virtual world. When you plan your event with diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB)in mind, you can ensure that you’re not going to alienate anyone. There are a number of ways to foster inclusion, from being careful not to use non-inclusive language to explicitly encouraging everyone to engage and participate. 

This idea is deeply ingrained within Speednetworking.com’s Smart Matching technology, which improves 1:1 networking and matching opportunities and empowers participants to make better (and more) connections throughout the event. Rather than relying on a broad matching system like picture profiles, Smart Matching leverages a network of predefined categories to make stronger connections—which helps ensure that DEIB objectives are respected and participants’ time is spent in a meaningful way. 

Ready to Plan Your Virtual Networking Event? Start with SpeedNetworking.com

If you’re looking for the right technology partner for your virtual or hybrid event, go to SpeedNetworking.com to sign up for an interactive product demo. If you’re not sure what all might be possible in a virtual event setting, you can also read a few case studies to discover the power of the platform and get inspired!