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How-To: Decide Whether to Hold an In-Person, Hybrid, or Virtual Event

According to Bizzabo’s Virtual Event Benchmarks Report, 93% of event marketers plan to invest in virtual events in the coming future.


A woman watches a man present a virtual event on her laptop. He's writing on a blackboard.

Are you still hosting virtual events? Or are you making a return to in-person events? Or curating a hybrid events strategy?


Whatever your current event strategy, you might want to know more about the pros and cons of all options. Read below to investigate further. Also, comment below which type(s) of events you currently hold, and which you think might be best for your events’ purposes. Are these the same, or do you expect to alter your events strategy in 2022?


An audience at a live conference.

In-Person Events


A PromoLeaf survey found that 72% of participants prefer to attend conferences in person. Therefore, if it wasn’t for financial and safety considerations, physical events might be the obvious choice. However, it’s not quite as simple as that.


In the above survey, an even larger percentage (85%) of 16-24 year olds said that they prefer in-person conferences. Therefore, in-person events are best if your event strategy’s targeted at a younger audience. For instance, if your member organisation wishes to target young industry professionals or apprentices.


PromoLeaf suggests that this may be because younger people associate digital spaces with escapist fun. This is as opposed to associating them with work or learning. They quoted Community College Research Center as finding that younger students who engage in online learning are less likely to retain information and finish courses, and more likely to drop out of school. This is bad news for remote learning during COVID times, but does mean that if your goal’s knowledge dissemination for people who’ve grown up with the internet, you should hold your event in person.


That covers the audience and one of the goals of your event strategy. However, another goal is networking. This is something that you may be keen to kick-start at a time when the professionals in your industry are keen to get out of the house to communicate face-to-face and gain more meaningful connections. It’s generally agreed that in-person conferences are the best format for networking. This idea hasn’t come out of nowhere; It’s always easier to trust someone when you’ve met them in person.

An in-person event is livestreamed to a virtual audience.

Hybrid Events


Hybrid events tend to be among the most difficult to organise if you don’t get sufficient help. Especially if your team aren’t used to holding these types of events. This is because you need to cater to an in-person audience as well as an online audience. However, if you have a mix of audiences that you need to reach (a regional network of local audience members, plus a far away audience from all over the country or perhaps the world), hybrid events are the ideal format.


Hence, hybrid events tend to usually be held by organisations that have the budget for both event components. You need to be able to hire out a venue, catering etc. for your in-person audience, and also a high quality livestreaming team that can reach your online audience in an engaging way. If your event’s a simple Zoom webinar, people won’t feel immersed. They’ll instead feel disconnected or neglected compared to your in-person audiences. Therefore, hiring a livestreaming team is key.


Furthermore, if your event’s objective is to increase your reach while obtaining a good ROI, this is also a good incentive to hold a hybrid event. For instance, Adam Parry, Editor of Event Industry News and Co-founder of Event Tech Live, told PromoLeaf that people don’t wish to pay for an online event if it’s the type of thing they can access for free. With a hybrid event, the online component isn’t usually free as it’s just a more accessible alternative to the in-person version. Instead of just giving people a free event, you’re giving people two different alternatives. Except one of these is cheaper than the other, so you’re still likely to get money out of your attendees who don’t want to pay to travel to a physical event.

A man views a webinar on a laptop, where a woman is speaking into a headset to give instructions.

Virtual Events


If your audience is worldwide, or otherwise far away and it doesn’t look like you can get them to all travel to where your event is being held, a virtual event is best. There may not be much point in hiring out a venue for an in-person component of a hybrid event if most people you’re targeting can’t be in this venue. This is especially true if your budget is on the smaller side. Therefore, you may prefer to hold your event fully online. Alternatively, if your event is quite soon and you don’t have the time to book a high quality yet cost-effective venue without much notice, a virtual event is much easier to hold.


Furthermore, virtual events are best for events that can be condensed into a couple of hours. You don’t want to get too many people to travel unnecessarily for an event that could’ve been effectively received in a smooth, high quality virtual format. Especially in the time of COVID, when unnecessary travel is still a risk.


Conclusion


Overall, different factors will affect which type of event is best for you to hold. Below, we’ve summarised the key factors into a handy flowchart.


Flowchart to help event planners determine whether they hold a virtual, in-person or hybrid event

What type of event are you planning to hold next? Let us know in the comments. And if you’d like a professional livestreaming team to broadcast your virtual or hybrid event online, let us know by filling in our contact form here.


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