In a matter of only a few weeks, we have seen travel and in-person events start up in the blink of an eye. Welcome to the next ‘new normal’ for associations; the next reality in the ongoing pandemic world. How will the association world continue to change? The consensus is that people are excited to get back on the plane towards the conference halls, tradeshow floors, and board room tables. However, a key change to post-COVID event planning is the rise of hybrid events, which allow all association members to attend at their own comfort level.
Minimizing physical contact will continue to be an objective for some people as we move forward. Zoom meetings and virtual events are just a small part of the massive digital spike caused by the pandemic. However, the burning question is: will in-person events be feasible in the new normal world? Will your association members start planning to attend large in-person events or will they want a hybrid option? Is a hybrid option financially feasible?
Now, we can confidently say that there are still some key advantages to the in-person event that cannot be replaced by virtual and hybrid events. Let’s look at some advantages and disadvantages of in-person, virtual, and hybrid events.
For more on what a hybrid event looks like, read Hybrid Events Are On The Horizon.
Health and Safety
In-Person: The reality is that this is the new normal: in-person events need to take all health and safety restrictions into account making sure all social distancing measures are being utilized, hand sanitizer is available to all attendees, and encouraging the use of will make attendees comfortable are in place.
Virtual: This option allows attendees to visit the event and connect with other attendees in the comfort of their own homes. For virtual events, the health and safety measures do not impact attendees, but they should be considered if you are meeting any speakers or moderators to produce the event.
Hybrid: This allows you to have the best of both worlds. Hosting a hybrid event allows your members who are feeling comfortable to attend in person events the chance to do so, while also allowing those who are still concerned about health and safety and not yet ready to jump on the plane to attend the virtual part of the event.
In-Person: An in-person event is typically more costly than a full virtual one, mainly due to the venue cost. This will include food and beverage for your attendees, insurance, and travel costs, just to name a few.
Virtual: A virtual event costs are significantly less than an in-person event. The only real cost to an event of this type is the virtual event platform. However, once you invent the wheel once on a virtual platform, you will only have to do some minor tweaks going forward as you introduce more events of this type.
Hybrid: Generally speaking, a hybrid event can cost double an in-person or virtual one since you need to take both in-person and virtual costs into account. However, the focus will shift to the virtual attendees as the in-person attendee numbers will still be smaller. The venue space can be smaller, thus decreasing food and beverage costs, and other rental costs.
In-Person: In-person networking and real time socialization remain the top reasons for members to attend events. Tradeshows or product showcasing provide better experience to touch and feel a product in-person. When you attend an in-person event, the whole interaction and experience is more captivating, whether its room design, lighting, or real faces to talk to.
Virtual: Interacting with members online is possible but it is still an inferior experience to in-person interactions. Most events supply attendees with physical items such as bags, pens, and brochures. You can send these physical items via mail, thus providing the tangible experience, but it is not the same experience as having it handed to you in person.
Hybrid: Unfortunately, socializing and networking in-person is superior to a virtual experience. However, with a hybrid event, you must ensure that you are maintaining a similar experience for both the in-person and virtual member attendees. It will be tough and may a bit more leg work to make this happen.
While we are currently living in this hybrid world, we still need to look forward to full in-person events. With the information provided above, you will be able to figure out what your comfort level currently is. In-person, in-person events will return and will be more widely attended than virtual/hybrid events were. In summary, the key to hosting a successful in-person event post-COVID is to plan ahead and celebrate the distinctive features your in-person event can offer.
Read In-Person Events in a Vaccinated World to learn more!