What is it about in-person interactions that feel so different compared to digital encounters?
Digital communications became the ready norm in the pandemic, catapulting online events into the fore. But despite the rapid adoption of online spaces for all kinds of events, meetings, celebrations, and professional communications, in-person is now on the return.
The digital only experience has revealed a few home truths. Let’s unpack them…
- Cost-Effective: Virtual events often require fewer financial resources. There are no venue fees, travel expenses, or catering costs, making them more budget friendly.
- Amplify Event Reach: Virtual events can attract attendees from around the world without geographical constraints, potentially expanding the audience and networking
- Better Flexibility: Attendees can participate from the comfort of their own homes or offices, eliminating the need for travel and accommodating diverse schedules. Events can even be recorded and played back at the attendee’s convenience – promoting better accessibility for those with busy schedules to balance.
- Removes Social Barriers: It’s not only introverts that might prefer the distance of a virtual event. For those who are time-poor or anxious in social situations, virtual events offer quick and easy ways to engage with others without the social expectations that come with an in-person event.
- Environmental Impact: Virtual events typically have a lower carbon footprint, reducing the environmental impact associated with physical events.
- Limited Engagement: Virtual events may struggle to replicate the in-person networking, relationship-building, and spontaneous interactions that physical events offer. Sat behind a screen, participants feel less inclined to engage, may often multi-task or be unable to focus for extended periods of time.
- Technical Challenges: Technical issues, such as poor internet connectivity, can disrupt virtual events and negatively impact the attendee experience.
- Screen Fatigue: We spend a lot of time online leading to fatigue and reduced attention spans where the format of virtual events have not been thought through or designed with the engagement of the attendee in mind.
- Real-Time Engagement: Natural opportunities for networking, social interaction outside the meeting, and relationship-building often feel more meaningful in real life than when conducted virtually.
- Stronger Brand Presence: Physical events provide a platform for immersive brand experiences.
- Enhanced Interpersonal Connections: At a physical event you can more easily assess aspects such as body language and tone of voice while picking up more from your surroundings, often providing additional context to the event experience.
- Natural Networking Opportunities: From chance encounters to purposeful meet-ups, the ability to connect with potential clients, colleagues, or collaborators is a significant draw for in-person events.
- Immersive Learning Experiences: Hands-on workshops, interactive presentations, and live demonstrations foster deeper understanding and retention of information. Attendees can ask questions in real-time, engage in group discussions, and participate in practical activities.
- Virtual Events Still Need a Physical Base: Having a physical element to your event gives you the option to diversify how you connect with your attendees.
- Geographical Limitations: Physical events are constrained by location, limiting the potential audience to those willing and able to attend in person on the date of the event.
- Environmental Impact: Physical events typically have a higher environmental footprint due to travel, energy consumption, and waste generation.
Are Virtual or In-Person Events Better for Business?
Weighing up the pros and cons, it is clear that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to mandating event formats in the future.
People are craving real-world connections but are not complacent about the flexibility, accessibility, and agility of events in the online space. This has resulted in a sharp rise in hybrid events.
Hybrid events combine the best elements of both its virtual and physical predecessors, empowering the individual with choice – to attend in a capacity that best suits their personal preferences, business need and geographic location.
A facilitator of better work-life balance, hybrid events give attendees the flexibility to participate either in person or virtually, breaking down geographical barriers and accommodating diverse schedules. This innovative format harnesses the power of technology to provide immersive online experiences while preserving the invaluable face-to-face interactions that are the hallmark of physical events.
Attendees can still engage with speakers, sponsors, and fellow participants, whether via virtual platforms, live-streamed sessions, and digital networking opportunities or by attending in person to take advantage of more tangible brand and networking experiences.
In this way, hybrid events not only cater to a broader and more diverse audience but also ensure that the event’s impact extends far beyond the physical, making them a powerful tool for organisations looking to enhance the reach of their messaging and the engagement of their intended audience.
So Is Hybrid The Only Answer?
Not necessarily. Ultimately, the decision on how to hold an event should be based on the specific objectives a business is trying to achieve.
Yes, holding an online event might offer up some cost savings, and if this is a factor for you, virtual may be a savvy way forward. However, if you do have some budget for a team building day, conference or corporate gathering, in-person really will ensure your event is memorable for all the right reasons.
Having contact with others can have a positive impact on how we feel, and even do wonders for our overall health. But with the correct application of technology, the quality of contact does not need to vary as significantly between events delivered online versus in real life.
However, as we emerge from the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s a palpable sense of excitement surrounding the resurgence of the opportunity to choose in-person events over the virtual or hybrid world.
How In-Person Events Can Make Meaningful Memories
While virtual gatherings will remain crucial in the modern working world, there’s little substitute for face-to-face interactions.
In-person events are the ultimate catalyst for forging authentic human connections. Think about the subliminal power of eye contact or a handshake that can’t be replicated in virtual meetings.
We thrive on the energy of being in the same physical space as others, engaging in real-time conversations, and forming meaningful relationships.
Having that in-person contact means all of your senses are activated, which leads to a more three-dimensional experience, meaning you’re likely to feel more connected to others.
Post-COVID, in-person events provide a platform for attendees to strengthen existing bonds and establish new ones, whether in personal or professional contexts.
The trust and credibility associated with in-person events are invaluable. Meeting face-to-face instils confidence and fosters a sense of authenticity. Whether it’s sealing a business deal, establishing trust in a professional relationship, or gaining credibility in your field, in-person events provide a unique opportunity to make a lasting impression and build a solid reputation.
What Does the Future of Events Really Look Like?
The resurgence of in-person events post-COVID represents a return to a human-centric way of doing business. It is clear that human interaction has a positive impact on both personal and professional growth.
While virtual events served as a lifeline during the pandemic, they can’t quite replicate the richness of in-person experiences- (yet).
So, as we continue to embrace the flexibility that the virtual world offers, it is important not to underestimate the opportunities that in-person events put on the table in a world that’s rediscovering the human value of face-to-face interactions.
Hartham Park offers events space that can cater to digital, hybrid or in-person events, from team building, corporate events and meetings to receptions, large dinners and seasonal celebrations.