If you’re trying to choose between live vs. virtual events and decide which one is better for you, we’d like to give a few tips.
The purpose of any professional, trade, industry or social event is to bring people together around a common interest. But in recent years, things have grown more complex, plus options have certainly opened up. While previously in-person event planning was the goal, nowadays you need to determine which type of event will be right for you based on several factors. Technology has also greatly improved the quality and ease of use of virtual events, so there’s no one right way!
- Live vs. Virtual Events – Main Concepts and Key Differences
- How to Choose: Define the Goal of Your Event
- What Factors to Consider For a Live and for a Virtual Event
- Live vs. Virtual Events: Advantages and Disadvantages
- Top Reasons Why Virtual Events are Getting More Popular
- Hybrid Events as a Workaround
- Kaltura Virtual Events Platform
Live vs Virtual Events – Main Concepts and Key Differences
Most of us are familiar with live events; similarly, virtual events grew far more popular in 2020-22 due to pandemic conditions. But subsequent energy directed to improving the scope, capabilities, and experience of virtual events has also paid off. In addition to safety concerns, virtual events have their advantages over live.
We’ll give a “pro” and “con” later, but here are the basics you need to know about live vs. virtual events:
LIVE: The definition of a live, or in-person, event requires that ALL attendees be present in the event space, venue, or venues. This was “business as usual” for a long time!
VIRTUAL: As you might expect, at a virtual event, attendees use an online/network connection to be part of the event within a virtual space. While this previously would be something as basic as a video call with multiple participants, virtual event spaces have been greatly improved by leveraging high-speed data networks and streams, HD video, and virtual event platforms which allow multiple virtual rooms or event tracks.
HYBRID: Hybrid events are a mix-and-match. There isn’t the same direct conflict between live vs virtual events in a hybrid. Hybrid events feature options for both live attendees and virtual spaces. Attendees can choose to attend the event in person or online according to their preference.
How to Choose: Define the Goal of Your Event
To decide which format is the best for you, start by understanding why you are holding the event in the first place.
Ask yourself key questions that will identify your goals. It’s frequently recommended to use the SMART criteria, or “S.M.A.R.T. Goals” to define objectives. That is: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Limited.
For example, a goal like “Generate 1,000 social media impressions during your event and one week after the event” fulfills the SMART criteria (in fact it might be modest).
Once you’ve clarified such objectives as “What do I want to accomplish by hosting this event?” and “What unique value can I provide my audience and sponsors?” you can evaluate the factors below to choose live vs. virtual events to your best advantage.
What Factors to Consider For a Live and for a Virtual Event
Now that you can make an informed decision about live vs. virtual events best serving your purposes and content, consider the following:
Who is the ideal or “high value” audience who will help you achieve your goals? What value can you provide to them? What are their preferences? How many attendees are you aiming for, and where are they located? If for instance, your event is providing services to a multinational company, then a virtual event will help ensure as many people as possible can attend.
Your target audience should be first and foremost in planning the event, even influencing the way you account for other factors below.
Some types of events such as performances, charity auctions, or other networking- and connection-focused events, truly thrive on the immediacy of in-person attendance. Nonetheless, virtual event platforms have managed to add many features such as chat rooms, live polls, Q&A, breakouts, and other engagement features. While it’s not the same as in-person interaction (yet!) the overall experience has greatly advanced.
Hosting live events is generally more expensive than hosting virtual events: there are rentals, travel, in-person concerns like food and/or lodging, and a higher level of fees for speakers and performers. When considering live events vs. virtual, remember that in virtual events the majority of your investments will go to technology. In cases of limited budget, this can be the preferable option.
Similarly, planning, hosting, and managing a live event takes more time considering that there is not just planning and executing but also a variety of physical elements. If you have little time available, a virtual event might be ideal. If you’re able to plan well in advance and want to create an experience with real impact, then maybe a live event is the way to go.
Key Performance Indicators
As we mentioned above, keep in mind your event goals! Virtual events can have an advantage in reaching a wider audience as well as yielding very high-quality data. Hybrid, in some cases, can reach the broadest possible audience. Guests will attend in whichever way interests them, and the hybrid technology can help you record, publish and distribute event sessions even further after the fact.
Live vs Virtual Events: Advantages and Disadvantages
- As far as making connections, virtual events can be very advantageous, and if implemented properly offer opportunities for attendees to network as well as hosts to collect content engagement data for analysis.
- Virtual events are cost-effective (decreasing per-attendee cost), flexible, and can even potentially be evergreen, increasing ROI by remaining live year-round.
- Finally, virtual events are considered physically safe and convenient–attendees don’t have to travel, avoid hazards as they don’t physically attend events, and can join in from their own home if they like.
- Due to the nature of a virtual event, it can be easy for attendees to check in, but then tune out, literally or figuratively.
- Virtual events have improved for networking and engagement (especially if you have a great virtual event platform) but there can still be a “sit-back learning” aspect to the virtual where guests feel more like an audience than participants.
- Along the same lines, a virtual event can also literally or figuratively lack a personal touch. Either through the inability to physically and spontaneously interact or a somewhat drab virtual environment, it could feel somewhat lacking.
- Nothing can yet surpass the “live event” experience. As an attendee, not only do you gain the value of the presented information, you can say you were there.
- Much more personal networking. The handshakes are real!
- Live events are considered the opposite of virtual events in their immediacy. It can be easier to build buzz around a one-time-only event, and the experience (as well as physical swag) can leave a strong imprint!
- Physical limitations will often keep attendance limited to those in a specific area of the world unless they are willing and able to travel the distance.
- Less data generated–a virtual event gathers a wealth of engagement and interaction data. Physical events are generally only collecting registration data.
- Physical events are typically far more expensive to put on, as we mentioned above discussing budgets.
VERDICT: Virtual events can offer a lot of advantages, but the impact and impressions of live events can never be completely replaced. That’s why hybrid events are taking off big time. They combine all the advantages of both virtual and live events!
Top Reasons Why Virtual Events are Getting More Popular
Per the above section, virtual events can now accomplish things only live events could do before, and can do a few things better! Why are they catching on?
Advancement in the State of the Art
Virtual events platforms have come a long way in improving branding, personalization, network opportunities, creating innovative virtual event spaces, and generally improving user experience. We’ll introduce you to our event platform a little further below and explain what makes it cutting edge.
Personal Safety and Convenience
Let’s not mince any words, while virtual events were improving at a steady clip, lockdowns during the Covid pandemic SUPERCHARGED the technological advancements mentioned above.
Circling back to the list of advantages and disadvantages: virtual events were still possible during a pandemic, and they can be much more inclusive for people with physical disabilities, or who live far away from the event venue. And in general, if your trip to the event space is six feet from your bed, it’s a lot more convenient to drop in.
Hybrid Events as a Workaround
What if you choose to avoid the live vs. virtual events match-up? Then what you’re looking for is a hybrid event as outlined above.
- can surprisingly provide the best of both worlds, as we’ve already noted!
- tend to have higher production value, both for better and for worse. You’re customizing a virtual space as well as a physical venue.
Drawback: Hybrid events will also require a larger budget than completely virtual events since you are in effect doing both things at once, so be prepared.
Kaltura Virtual Events Platform
When evaluating live vs virtual events, we also recommend evaluating Kaltura Virtual Events, our advanced virtual event solution, as a virtual and hybrid platform of choice. We ensure any event feels like a full experience, even when meeting in person is not an option. Our mission is to make sure all your virtual events can be on-brand and simple to create and execute. We offer high-quality video streaming, best-in-class engagement, and interaction features, and a reliable platform from which to launch content and live interactions.
We’re fully featured to assist from planning stages to execution and follow-ups; you can take advantage of our agenda-building capabilities as well as fully customizable landing pages and preset event templates. Our 5 main event templates can either be implemented as-is or you can reuse or rework them:
- Interactive Webinar
- Town Hall and Large Broadcast
- Single Track
- Multi-Day Multi-Track
- Flagship Event.
“Interactive Webinar” is a great option for an intimate industry gathering, but for a “full 110% effort” style event, our “Flagship Events” template is geared to “Once-a-year and one-of-a-kind” experiences, coming with the full advantages of our platform as well as excellent production support. Templates have robust features for individualized modification intended to keep you 100% on-brand and enable hyper-personalization for attendees.
Options include personalized agendas, customizable layouts, and personal media collections to significantly individualize the experience. On a larger scale, our automation features empower you to use your event to create personalized, customized, and automated live marketing that puts you on track for follow-up campaigns.
All events bring their advantages and disadvantages. Virtual events are more affordable, and in some ways safer and more convenient, but have a built-in weakness in facilitating live interactions and in-person engagement. Live events, on the other hand, offer the most effective human connection and communication, but are expensive, time-consuming, and “high effort” to host. If budget permits, hybrid events can sometimes bridge the strengths and weaknesses of both! But always understand the purpose of holding your event in the first place, and what value it will bring both to you and your target audience.