Events are designed to bring people together for a specific, shared purpose. But these days there’s more than one way to bring people together. Live events used to be the tried-and-true way to meet your goals, but now there are virtual events and hybrid events to consider. If you’re choosing between virtual event vs hybrid event, which is best for your event type, purpose, and budget?
Virtual Events vs Hybrid Events: What’s the Difference?
Virtual and hybrid events share some elements in common, but they’re not exactly the same:
- Live events take place in a physical location or venue, in real time. Everyone gathers together in the same place, including attendees, guests, and other visitors.
- Virtual events take place entirely online. People can attend from all over the world by connecting remotely to the online event platform.
- Hybrid events are virtual meets live. People can attend by visiting the physical event venue or by connecting remotely online. There are typically some differences in the event experience for online versus live attendees.
Pros and Cons of Virtual Events vs Hybrid Events
Hybrid Event Pros and Cons
More options, fewer barriers. With hybrid events, attendees can choose to attend either in-person or online, depending on the event experience they prefer. This means there are overall fewer barriers to attending the event, since people can attend online if they can’t make it to the physical location.
Hight impact and high engagement, plus broad reach. Successful hybrid events allow you to take advantage of the benefits of both live and virtual events. You get the impact and engagement of an in-person event, plus the broader audience reach from making event content available online.
More logistical concerns and more expense. On the flip side, with a hybrid event, you’re essentially planning two events in one. That means there’s a lot of logistical elements to organize. There are two venues (one being online) and two groups of attendees, and you have to find ways to ensure both groups find value in the event. Overall, it means more planning as well as more expense. It also means increased opportunities for something to go wrong. When you’re streaming a live presentation, for instance, technical issues can affect both the live and the virtual audience.
Virtual Event Pros and Cons
Easier and faster to organize. With a virtual event, there are no worries about renting a physical event space and less live event minutiae to deal with. This means it can take much less time and energy organizing an event when it’s virtual. It’s also easier to bring in speakers and guests from across the country and internationally.
Anyone can attend. With a virtual event, there are almost no barriers to attendance, apart from what’s required to log into the event. And since everyone’s attending online, those virtual attendees never have to feel as though they are settling for a sub-par experience, which can be a risk with poorly executed hybrid events.
Reduced engagement, more distractions. One of the key drawbacks of virtual events is that they’re less engaging than in-person events. Accessing content online tends to be less impactful than experiencing it alongside peers. Plus, people access online content either from home or from their offices, two locations that are likely to be full of distractions.
Lack of personal interaction. For many people, the lack of direct personal contact makes activities such as networking and other group activities feel a little awkward and less organic. Online events can provide networking and interactive opportunities, but some people feel they’re not as enjoyable as taking part in person.
Choosing Between Hybrid and Virtual? Consider This
To choose virtual or hybrid events, consider all the benefits and drawbacks of each type of event and how they affect the specific event you want to hold. These are factors to consider in your event strategy:
Event type: What type of event are you holding? Will your audience benefit from or prefer live interactions with products, or with sponsors, exhibitors, and other guests?
For instance, with events such as product launches, trade shows, and networking sessions, many people prefer to attend in person. They like being able to see and experience products and find in-person networking to be more organic and enjoyable. When you’re planning a high-impact event, the live component is important—so hybrid makes the most sense.
In contrast, training and education-focused events do well online. This format is ideal if your event benefits from providing content on-demand. With an education-focused event, for instance, everyone gets the same education experience, no matter where or when they access the event content.
Attendees: Who’s your audience? Where are they in the world, and does that affect how they prefer to attend events? What event format will most benefit that audience?
Budget: When your budget is limited, a virtual event can be an effective way to make every dollar count. With a virtual event, you can eliminate certain expenses, such as:
- The venue
- Travel and accommodations for guests
If you have a sizeable budget, a hybrid event is a great option for maximizing the value you get from holding an event.
Timeline: How much time do you have to organize this event? If your deadline is a matter of days or weeks, a virtual event may be the best way to ensure you’re ready in time. In addition, a tight deadline doesn’t leave much time for attendees to plan for attending in person. When time is an important factor, a virtual event is usually the way to go.
Any Event Can Provide Value If It’s the Right Format
Choosing virtual vs hybrid has a significant impact on how you plan and execute that event. It also affects attendee experiences and satisfaction and whether it keeps attendees engaged. With so much on the line, it’s vital to choose the right event approach for any gathering youhost. The good news is, when you combine the right event with the right format, you can create something impactful and valuable for everyone.