Many marketers are asking themselves whether to invest their money in virtual events or physical ones. Marketers are asking themselves if it is worth hosting an event on a new virtual event management platform or if they should stick to tried-and-true models that have worked for them for years.
The answer lies somewhere in the middle. There is no way to definitively say one type of event will generate better sales than another because there are too many variables to consider when planning an online/offline engagement strategy.
However, here is a list of reasons why you should attend either type of event:
One of the best reasons to host a virtual event or conference is because it will be cost-effective.
You won’t have to worry about things like travel costs, product samples, or other expenses that can take a massive bite out of your budget. And this is especially true if you plan to host an event with multiple stops around the country, which means you’d have to factor in transportation and lodging costs for attendees as well as your travel costs.
If you choose to keep your engagement purely digital through on any video platform, the only thing you’ll need to invest in is equipment (i.e., cameras) and space to host the participants who are joining remotely.
Even better, virtual events force marketers to minimize their footprint by bringing together people from across the country who don’t even have to be in the same city.
Cons: While virtual events can be much cheaper than physical events, they still come at a cost that businesses must pay. The main problem with this is that companies are often unwilling to spend the money to make their event genuinely successful, nor can they see if it was useful for marketing purposes.
One of the most significant benefits of online engagement is that it’s flexible. You can choose a time and date for your virtual engagements that fit your marketing budget and schedule, unlike physical events where you’re limited by geographical region and available dates.
In addition, instead of hosting one type of event with a predetermined length that all participants must attend, marketers can hold several shorter sessions over a more extended period. Doing so allows them to reach out to people on different schedules rather than those who will only have time for an hour-long meeting during business hours.
The more flexible you are with your online engagement strategy, the more people you’ll be able to reach.
Cons: While it may seem like this would help businesses more than hurt them, too much flexibility can often lead to misuse of funds or data collection causing significant problems for any company involved.
Mass Data Collection
With online engagement, marketers can collect data from many users at once through surveys and polls. This also means they don’t have to expend resources on the logistics of hosting an event with hundreds or thousands of participants, which makes it even easier to break even on your investment.
You can host several smaller virtual events over a more extended period with better results than holding one mass-scale offline option that would be cost-prohibitive anyway.
Cons: At times, data collected by virtual means is far less reliable due to the anonymity of the internet, which allows users to give false or incomplete information. This can lead to misguided marketing campaigns, products being designed with ineffective features, and the inability to effectively track ROI because the collected data is no longer up-to-date.
Long-Term ROI Effect
Everyone knows the longer something sticks with people, the more likely their likelihood of purchasing items related to that information or brand in some way becomes.
With offline events, even those that last only half a day, marketers typically have people’s attention for no more than eight hours. This can be significantly limited if you’re trying to reach out to new people, like those who might not attend offline events.
Virtual engagements allow marketers to keep their brands top of mind for potential customers, even during the time of year when they don’t have any physical events scheduled (like winter). A simple email newsletter with information on an upcoming virtual event can help keep your brand high in the minds of people who might even be on vacation at the time.
Cons: While virtual events may benefit a company in data collection and networking at first, the long-term effects are often negligible. Within a year, so much has changed online and offline that the initial data is no longer relevant or useful.
One of the best benefits of hosting a virtual event is that everyone who participates becomes part of a more extensive community to create relationships and go deeper with engagement outside of one session.
Because online events tend to be shorter, networkers who attend them are more likely to go in-depth than collect a business card and never follow up. In addition, with the rise of mobile technology and websites with integrated social media apps that make it easy to connect, marketers can build relationships with their audience any time they want.
Cons: Most of our time online is spent interacting with others who already share common interests/opinions, meaning that it’s difficult for businesses to find new clients or ideas for their products.
The lack of diversity online means that networking opportunities are missed out on, which could have led to an even more successful virtual event had participants been different from one another in some way.
The Bottom Line
Consider how often you attend offline events throughout the year versus how many virtual events you engage participants. If your business typically holds offline events, such as seminars at a hotel or conventions in another city, then you’re already paying for marketing materials and promotional items to be printed and shipped to the event.
Plus, if you want to send staff members there to represent your business, that can add even more costs associated with travel expenses, food and beverages during the event, accommodations, signage, and other marketing materials (e.g., flyers) made available at the engagement.
However, when marketers decide on virtual events, they will incur many of these same expenses but only once per year instead of once an offline event is held.
A virtual event may be exactly what you need to get results. These digital engagements allow marketers to access a broader range of geographic locations where potential buyers might be while avoiding logistical challenges typically associated with offline events.
When done right, virtual events allow businesses and individuals interested in specific topics or products to gain educational information on particular areas of interest while also providing the opportunity for networking with other attendees.