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  • Writer's pictureDavid Bey

In-Person vs. Virtual vs. Hybrid: How to Choose Your Event Format

For brands and event planners, there was a time when life was simple and you didn't have to make a decision on the best event format to use. But since the pandemic, times have changed, and that includes how people plan and participate in events. There are now three options available: hybrid, virtual, and in-person events. Each of these format types offers something unique in terms of planning, execution, and the benefits that they offer.

It’s time to discover what these differences are so you can decide the best approach to use for your next event: a hybrid, virtual or in-person event.

Live and In-Person Events

Traditionally, live and in-person events are the best way to bring people together for a specific event or celebration. But as mentioned earlier, the pre-pandemic situations no longer apply and everyone has to adapt – including businesses and event organizers.

In recent months though, as the risks and health protocols have eased up a bit, there have been more live and in-person events held in various parts of the world. This might give you the idea to switch back to this traditional format for your next event.

According to The National Press Club, a live or in-person event is still the most effective form of experience for the attendees. That is why a lot of brands and event organizers opt for this event format, if possible. An in-person experience leads to more social bonding and interactions, especially after the event. While digital technology has come a long way, there are plenty of aspects to an in-person interaction that cannot be replaced by technology.

Not to mention, a lot of attendees to events do so not just for the content, but also for the opportunity to connect with other people and to network. This is why a live event is the preferred choice for hosting events, if you can comply with the current protocols.

Here are some of the benefits of a live and in-person event for you to consider:

  • The ability to have face-to-face connection.

  • There is a shared experience as attendees are in the same room.

  • It facilitates easier brainstorming and collaboration.

  • It can boost the morale of the team.

  • There is a higher potential to gain revenue.

However, there are also downsides to a live and in-person event such as the following:

  • Limitations to who can attend physically

  • Unpredictability of health protocols

  • Additional time and resources to plan

best approach to use a hybrid, virtual or in-person event

Virtual Event

A virtual event is the next option available when it comes to event formats in this day and age. A virtual event is full-scale digital – meaning the event organizers and attendees will all be on their computer throughout the event.

The faster turnaround is one of the main advantages of a virtual event. It is easier to organize since you don’t need to manage a physical venue. You just need to look for a web platform that facilitates web conferencing and then provide a link to the event for your attendees to visit.

A virtual event is also typically shorter due to the type of setup, about 90 minutes or less. It will still have the features that are commonly available in a live and in person event such as presentations, interviews, open discussions, Q&As, and the like.

There are also other tools that can be integrated into virtual events that are not possible with in-person events like online polls and live chats. Therefore, make sure you utilize these tools so you can get actionable insights for your event.

Here are the benefits of a virtual event:

  • There is a potential to get more attendees due to the lack of physical restrictions.

  • There is a possibility of getting more keynote speakers as they can attend the event remotely.

  • There is more post-event engagement data available to organizers.

  • There is a smaller carbon footprint.

  • There is no need to travel to an event venue.

  • There are more opportunities to expand reach as you can share the event through social media or other platforms.

Meanwhile, consider these downsides to hosting a virtual event:

  • There is a lack of face-to-face interaction.

  • It can be very competitive, so you need to have solid content.

Hybrid Event

Hybrid events bring the best of both worlds into your event planning. It gives you greater flexibility in terms of maximizing the benefits of both types of event: in-person and virtual events.

There is an option to attend the event in person or virtually, depending on the circumstances that best fit your target audience. Those who want face-to-face interaction can attend the event at the venue. Those who are geographically limited have the option to join the event in a virtual space.

Hybrid events are also designed for cost reduction. You don’t need to book an event that is big enough to accommodate a full-sized crowd because virtual attendees can engage and participate through the computer in their homes (or wherever they are).

While the cost of planning a hybrid event is much reduced, it will require more planning and imagination. You want to be able to develop an event flow that will bring in the highest engagement for your would-be attendees, especially the virtual ones.

The following are the benefits of a hybrid event:

  • More attendees can participate in the event.

  • It can expand the reach of your event.

  • It will enable you to produce on-demand content that extends the life of the event.

  • It will enable you to collect data and insights about the event.

Here are the things to look out for when planning a hybrid event:

  • It is not necessarily cheaper as you would have to plan for both in-person and virtual attendees.

  • There are limited platform options for hosting both types of audience.

hybrid, virtual or in-person event which event format is right for you

Hybrid, Virtual and In-Person Events: What is the Best Approach?

So, which event format is the right approach for you? The answer is it depends on your audience and your marketing goal.

It is important to analyze what you want to achieve from the event. Is it higher audience participation or higher engagement? Is it to build your brand by sharing valuable content and resources?

In-person events have the edge when it comes to efficient communication, increased collaboration, and relaying complex information to your audience. A virtual event, on the other hand, is best when delivering a faster turnaround, cost savings, and reduced travel cost. But hybrid events combine the benefits of these two by providing you cost savings, greater reach, convenience, and flexibility.


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