Live Vs. Virtual Events: Which Format Is Best?

Virtual events took center stage during the pandemic, but even as the virus recedes, virtual events are here to stay.
Virtual Events
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April 27, 2022
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5 minutes
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live vs virtual events
By
Amica Graber
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As the fog of the pandemic lifts, the landscape of events has changed. During the global lockdown, live events went virtual with little to no notice. In recent months, organizations have gradually begun to schedule in-person events again, but many of them were canceled or disrupted by the outbreak of the omicron variant, leaving many event planners exploring contingency options for future events. 

Although many professionals missed the experience of attending in-person events, the rapid advancement of technology in the past few years has provided an attractive alternative to the traditional conference format. Even though many event professionals were forced to transition to virtual events, many organizers plan to incorporate virtual events into their programming, even if they plan to return to in-person events. A recent study from Touchcast found:

  • 55% of event planners said that their employer has invested funds to incorporate virtual programming into all live events
  • 20% of survey respondents said they were fully virtual as of Q4 2021
  • 18% of respondents resumed fully in-person events

Virtual and hybrid events are here to stay. But when it comes to live vs virtual events — which format is best?

Live Vs Virtual Events

Event planners are familiar with the benefits of live events — the format has been around for centuries! The ability to network, learn, and have an immersive experience were key features of live events. For many who became dependent on video conferencing platforms during the pandemic, the idea of grainy video feeds, technical issues, and a tile of talking heads left much to be desired. 

Choosing a quality provider of virtual events, like Touchcast, eradicates the pain points of virtual events, and allows event organizers to reap the benefits. From breathtaking, fully customizable virtual venues, to ample tools for engagement, virtual events are sophisticated, accessible, and come at a much lower price point than the traditional conference.

Live, Hybrid, and Virtual Events

What’s the difference between live, hybrid, and virtual events? 

Live Events: Live events are in-person and hosted at a venue or conference center, where all attendees are physically present.

Virtual Events: All attendees and speakers are fully remote, connecting to the event through a digital virtual event platform.

Hybrid Events: Some participants attend an event in-person, and others attend remotely.

Benefits of Virtual Events

When Touchcast asked event organizers to outline the biggest advantages of a virtual or hybrid event format, here’s what we found:

  • 69% said greater opportunity to expand the event footprint
  • 58% said the ability to scale up or down easily 
  • 40% said lower production costs
  • 36% said there are better data collection and analytics capabilities
  • 28% said better integration with social media presence 
  • 24% said the ability to deliver a more cohesive program, messaging, and content
  • 19% said there is an enhanced opportunity to monetize content
  • 14% said demonstrating a return on investment

In the following sections, we’ll break down some of these benefits in detail — and discuss why Touchcast is the best virtual event platform to host your next virtual or hybrid event.

Expanding the Footprint of Your Event

Travel restrictions and lockdowns aside, in-person events are not as accessible as virtual events.

For those traveling to the event, visas, long flights, hotel accommodations, and taking time out of the office can create headwinds for both event organizers trying to boost registrations and organizations trying to balance their budgets.

By nature, in-person events can cause disparities in who gets to attend. Limited childcare arrangements can exclude working parents from participating, while traveling can pose numerous difficulties for people with disabilities.

A virtual event removes these roadblocks and allows greater accessibility and inclusivity to a global audience, boosting attendees and registrations. 

Touchcast offers live language translations in over 100 languages, offering global attendees to experience an event in their native language, amplifying the pool of potential participants.

Easy Scalability

Picture this — you’ve booked a popular virtual event speaker, and interest in your event has skyrocketed. If you’re running a live event, there are finite seats in your venue. Selling out is always a good thing, but a virtual event has no designated seat count. Attendees can log in from anywhere, on any device, allowing an event organizer to scale up as necessary.

On the other hand, a guest speaker cancels, flights are delayed, or another unexpected setback occurs — and you need to scale down quickly. With a live event, the agenda is printed and the venue is booked. A virtual event can be scaled back and modified digitally, creating greater flexibility for event organizers.

Production Costs

If you’re planning a live event, prepare for a big budget. Here's a list of some of the costs associated with live events:

  • Venue: expect to pay between $950 to $1,250 per hour for a conference venue
  • Food and Beverage: Most events don’t offer full meal service to attendees, which can run from $125 to $300 per person. But at the very least, events should offer teas, coffees, and water. The average cost of coffee is $65 per gallon.
  • Event staffing: Live events require a lot of support; including event stewards, registration administrators, wait staff, and security guards. This can range from $15 to $40 an hour, per person, depending on your location.
  • Travel and lodging: Keynote speakers, VIPs, stakeholders, and employees that have to travel to the event can devour a large part of your event budget, especially if you factor in airfares, hotel accommodations, transportation, and food. This can range from $700 and up per person.
  • Printed materials: In-person events require banners, signage, agendas, name cards — that can range from $2 to $170 per item on average.
  • AV and Equipment: Get ready to drop $1200 to $1400 on equipment, and an additional fee for staffers.
  • Rentals: Chairs, tablecloths, tables — venues can charge upwards of $1000 a day for rental equipment.

In summary — in-person events are expensive to run. Virtual events eliminate many of these costs, enabling you to invest in a quality virtual event platform and a higher caliber of event speakers.

Deeper Data and Analytic Insights

There are a few ways to measure the success of a live event. Usually, registrations are the key metric, but outside of gauging how many people are attending, it can be difficult to deduce granular details — like engagement and audience demographics.

Virtual events, on the other hand, can be tracked in the same way you would use Google Analytics to analyze the performance of a website.

With more data at your fingertips, you can find the numbers you need to measure the success of your virtual event — and turn your insights into learning opportunities for your next event.

Not every virtual event platform offers in-depth analytics, but Touchcast offers best-in-class analytic capabilities. Click here to learn more about Touchcast’s event analytics.

Repurposing Event Content

The curtain has gone down on your live event, the attendees have gone home, and you’ve paid the vendors. Now what?

If you had the foresight to record your speakers, you can share video content on your social media channels.

With Touchast, you can transform your event content into a video-on-demand content hub complete with translations, AI-powered articles, and Netflix-style trailers to captivate your audience and maximize your return on investment.

Repurposing event content into editorial content is a smart and strategic way to get more out of your investment. But you’ll need a dedicated resource on staff to help turn in-person event content into editorial content. In Touchcast, this functionality is built into the virtual event platform. Touchcast offers VoD content hubs, accessible long after the event is over. Some of the key features include:

✅ Create a library of on-demand event videos

✅ Automatically convert sessions into articles with AI

✅ Highlight guest speakers with title cards

✅ Include external links

✅ Easily upload PDFs

Sustainability

Among the benefits of virtual events, the positive environmental impact is a key factor. 21% of organizations have implemented some form of sustainability initiatives — and transitioning to a virtual format significantly reduces an organization’s carbon footprint.

You can explore Touchcast’s sustainability calculator to identify exactly how big the carbon footprint of a live event can be. 

Summary

In-person events are making a comeback, but virtual events will persist. Hybrid events are increasingly popular among organizations that like the best of both worlds.

If you’re interested in hosting a virtual or hybrid event, book a demo with Touchcast today to learn more about the benefits of using one of the best virtual event platforms on the market.

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