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Physical Events vs Virtual Events

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Are physical events better, or is virtual the future? Read more to find out the pros and cons of virtual vs physical events.

It’s the ultimate debate – are physical events better, or is virtual the future?

Ever since the pandemic outbreak, virtual events have seen a growing trend, with many switching to virtual and coming up with bigger and better virtual solutions. Although sceptics suspected that it was just a passing fad, virtual events have proven to be still rising in popularity, especially with the current move towards metaverse and Web 3.0 technologies.   

The truth is, there is no definitive answer. In-person events have their own charm, while virtual events come with a good amount of benefits. Here are a few comparisons between physical and virtual events: –    

1. Cost-Effectiveness 

Being able to attend an event physically is exciting, but for organizers, there is one obvious shortcoming – the large cost. A physical event requires large amount of spending for various areas, such as:

  • Renting event space
  • Hiring staff and caterers
  • Booking live entertainment
  • Paying for travel costs

With virtual events, you can save up to 80% as most of the event costs are omitted. You can organize your event in “virtual venues”, with creative 2D or 3D spaces that can accommodate all of your employees and guests, no matter where they are in the world. You may be able to get better speakers for a fraction of the price, as you can cut out costs for food and travel.  For marketing events, more high-quality speakers translate into more potential leads.

Here’s an example of a typical cost comparison between physical and virtual events:

2. Broader Reach

When an event is physical, there will always be limitations in distance, space, and time. No matter how big the event, there are only so many people that can attend at a time. This is where virtual events come in handy –  they can be attended from anywhere, any time, on any device, and can accommodate as many people as you’ll like. Virtual events remove the need for any physical logistics such as travel and accommodation, therefore reaching every corner of the world, and maximizing your audience size. Therefore, it’s a good way to expand your brand’s reach and awareness. If needed, virtual events can also run for a longer time.

3. Mass Data Collection

At physical events, data collection is more limited, and the extent of the data collected is usually a handwritten sign-in sheet. On the other hand, virtual events offer more flexibility and convenience in data collection. Your leads can leave all kinds of clues during their user journey, and these data can be collected starting from your digital marketing efforts to in-event and post-event activities. These include what type of content they’re viewing and clicking on, which sales reps they’re talking to, which attendees they’re engaging with, and what resources they’re downloading. 

Many virtual event platforms offer extensive data analytics, which you can access and obtain detailed reports to measure your ROI. These data are immensely important for any event organizer, as this will give you valuable insights on your event, help collect leads and provide a reference for future improvement. Furthermore, if you’re organizing a virtual exhibition or conference, you can share these insights with exhibitors which will provide a value-added service that can attract your exhibitors.

4. Event engagement

Events are all about audience engagement. Physical events may triumph with the ability for personal interaction. However, with virtual events, you can maximize engagement by connecting hundreds or even thousands of people simultaneously, and interacting with them via text, audio, or video features.  Many activities that are conducted in physical events can be translated to the virtual space. You can conduct lucky draws, mini-games, and contests directly in your virtual event, and your audience can participate right in the comfort of their own home. You can also sell and buy things through virtual commerce integrations. With the ability to connect with people all over the world, the virtual space gives you a wider audience to sell your products and services. 

Virtual events also allow you to be more creative, with the use of avatars, realistic 3D concepts and designs, . Your event can be conducted literally anywhere, whether it’s under the sea or even in outer space, as far as your imagination can take you. With the added creativity and flexibility given by virtual solutions, you can give your audience a wow factor and a lasting impression.    

5. Retain Content 

In physical events, you can distribute marketing materials and content directly to your attendees, but these are conducted with physical materials. The downside to this is that the materials are short-lived and can be easily discarded by your audience. With virtual events, it is easier to conserve all your hard work and save content for later use. Your content will be in the form of video, images, pdf files and so on, which are easily downloadable and will more likely be saved on your audience’s device. These materials are also easily retained and used as your company’s own marketing collateral for future uses. 

Hybrid events

While virtual events have many benefits, nothing can replace the social connection provided by physical events. That is why many prefer hybrid events, which are a combination of both virtual and physical events. By conducting hybrid events, you can get the best of both worlds.

Hybrid events can boost your audience engagement and provide more flexibility for your attendees.  By hosting two events at the same time, you can target both kinds of audiences. For example, you can conduct a product launch in a physical venue, while also live-streaming the event to connect to a broader audience. You can also carry out contests and special pre-sale promotions while conducting the event, which can increase your engagement. This opens your hybrid event to a larger pool of attendees. Attendees can choose whether to attend your event in person, online, or bits of both. 

Whether you’re thinking of going virtual or looking for ways to enhance your physical events, it’s always important to keep your goals in mind to choose the best solution for you. Both virtual and physical events will always have a place in the events industry. By combining all the best attributes of both physical and virtual events, reaching for the stars is not just a saying – you can actually land among the stars, virtually. 

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