In-person events are back in full force, with 95% of marketers believing they can help achieve business goals. But it’s not all plain sailing. Running events in person is no longer the same. It presents challenges that have never been faced before.
- With the average in-person event 47.8% more costly than the average virtual one, it’s hard to justify the expense.
- With more events happening every month, too much pervasive online content, and attendees’ time more precious than ever, convincing people to register for in-person events is a challenge.
- And with technological advancements, attendees want a digital-first experience, even when onsite. This is evidenced by nearly 40% of developers stating an app adoption rate of over 80%.
After providing the technology and expertise to help leading companies in high-touch industries run 20,000+ successful in-person events for the past 20+ years, we’ve consolidated what we know into a comprehensive in-person event planning and technology guide.
Find out how to deliver an engaging in-person event experience that justifies the costs, drives more registrations, and maximizes event technology in today’s world.
What is the meaning of in-person events?
In-person events are all about human connection. They’re a chance for people to come together face-to-face, interact, network, learn, and share experiences.
Advisory boards, investigator meetings, satellite symposia at medical congresses – the possibilities for in-person events are endless in the life sciences and pharmaceutical industry.
The same goes for the professional services field, where partner/customer conferences, sales kickoffs, academies, and onboarding are popular types of in-person events.
While technology has made remote interactions more accessible, nothing compares to being in the same room. At in-person events, you can make eye contact, pick up on body language and tone, shake hands, and truly engage with others.
Spontaneous conversations happen organically. Relationships are built and deals get made. Attending in-person events creates opportunities for impact and interaction that aren’t possible virtually.
If making meaningful connections and relationships is important for your life science business or professional services organization, in-person events are essential. They should be an integral part of your outreach and engagement strategy.
What are the advantages of in-person events?
In-person events have some major advantages over virtual events. Here are just a few:
Nothing beats face-to-face interaction. In-person events allow for networking, relationship building, and collaboration in a way that online experiences can’t match.
Attending an in-person advisory board or investigator meeting, for example, gives you a chance to immerse yourself in the content. You can see demonstrations, ask questions, and engage with speakers and other attendees. This multi-sensory experience leads to deeper learning and longer-lasting memories.
At an in-person event, you can escape everyday distractions and concentrate on learning, connecting, and recharging.
When you attend an in-person event, serendipitous encounters often lead to new insights or opportunities. Casual conversations, chance meetings, and unplanned activities expose you to new ideas and help you stumble upon valuable discoveries.
Event engagement tends to be higher in person because these experiences provide a unique opportunity for direct, face-to-face interaction. This interaction is key for fostering meaningful connections and deeper relationships between attendees and with speakers, and organizers.
These events naturally lend themselves to increased engagement due to the immediacy and intimacy of communication, as well as the human instinct to connect and collaborate socially.
Event apps can amplify this engagement further by facilitating networking and interactions before, during, and after the event. They can provide features like personalized schedules, live polling, Q&A sessions, and social media integration that make the attendee experience more immersive and interactive. These apps also enable real-time feedback and analytics, giving organizers actionable insights to continuously improve the event experience and raise engagement even more.
For more information about using event apps at your in-person events, jump to the section ‘Using technology to power your in-person events’.
While technology has enabled virtual events, in-person events remain vital for learning, growth, and innovation. If you want to gain knowledge, build relationships, or find inspiration, nothing beats the power of people coming together in person.
What are the challenges of in-person events?
In-person events often require a sizable budget to pull off. You have to consider the costs of:
- Venue rental
- Transportation and accommodation for attendees
- Marketing and promotion
- Staffing and event production
- Technology like Wi-Fi, audio/visual equipment, and live streaming
The total cost can easily reach tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for large events. For many organizations, this significant investment may not always lead to a worthwhile return.
Planning an in-person event also presents many logistical difficulties. You have to handle details like:
- Securing permits and licenses
- Arranging parking and transit for attendees
- Coordinating vendors and suppliers
- Ensuring the venue is properly set up
- Managing attendee registration and check-in
Any issues with logistics can negatively impact the attendee experience and reflect poorly on your organization. The additional effort required may outweigh the benefits of hosting an in-person event.
Health and safety
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, health and safety have become major concerns for in-person events. There are risks of virus transmission in crowded, indoor spaces. You have to implement precautions like:
- Enforcing physical distancing and mask wearing
- Providing hand sanitizer and hygiene stations
- Increasing cleaning and disinfection
- Screening attendees for symptoms
- Maintaining contact tracing records
These measures require substantial planning and resources, and there is still a chance of an outbreak occurring at your event. For some, the health risks make in-person events unappealing or unfeasible.
In-person events, especially large-scale ones, can have a significant negative impact on the environment. This is primarily due to the carbon emissions associated with travel to and from the event, including air travel for international attendees, and ground transportation for local attendees. The energy consumed for event logistics, such as heating, cooling, and lighting the venue, as well as the waste generated from food and beverage services, disposable materials, and promotional items, also contributes to the environmental footprint.
In-person events vs virtual events vs hybrid events
Having seen the advantages and disadvantages of in-person events, you may wonder how they compare to virtual and hybrid events. Here’s a quick comparison between all three:
In-person vs. virtual vs. hybrid
When planning an event, determining whether to host in-person, virtually, or as a hybrid of the two is an important first step. Each format has pros and cons, so consider your audience, goals, and resources.
In-person events allow for direct face-to-face interaction and networking. Attendees can engage all their senses, gaining a more immersive experience. However, in-person events typically require more time, money, and effort to organize and can be difficult for remote attendees to join.
Virtual events are more convenient and budget-friendly but lack the personal connection of in-person interaction. Engagement and networking may be more challenging without the energy of an in-person crowd. However, with the right technology and interactive features like live Q&As, virtual events can still be highly engaging.
Hybrid events aim to get the best of both worlds by streaming to virtual attendees while hosting an in-person audience. While more complex to organize, hybrid events maximize reach and accessibility. With strategic use of technology like live streaming, Q&As, and social media integration, hybrid events can create an engaging experience for in-person and virtual attendees.
The right format for your event depends on your priorities and resources. Evaluate how much interaction and networking are needed to achieve your goals. Think about your target audience and what would be most meaningful and accessible. And determine how much time, money, and effort you can put into the technical and logistical organization to make the event a success, whether in-person, virtual, or hybrid.
To fully weigh up the pros of cons of in-person and online events, check out our article about live vs virtual events.
How do you run an in-person event?
To run successful in-person events, meticulous planning is essential. Start by determining your event goals and objectives. Who is your target audience? What do you want attendees to learn or experience? Then create a timeline working backward from your event date to keep yourself on schedule.
To pull off an unforgettable in-person event, like a medical congress or a partner conference, start planning at least 6-12 months in advance. Map out key milestones and deadlines in a detailed event brief to keep yourself on track. Determine your event goals and objectives to guide your planning. Think about your target audience and what will resonate most with them.
Create a budget
Figure out your event budget early on in the process. You need to know how much you can spend and allocate funds to major areas like venue, catering, entertainment, transportation, decor, promotions, and staffing. Get quotes from different vendors and negotiate the best deals. Look for ways to cut costs without compromising the experience. Sponsorships or partnerships could help offset expenses.
Find the perfect venue
Selecting the right venue is crucial for the success of your in-person events. Visit potential sites to evaluate the space, amenities, location, ambiance, and staff. Make sure there’s enough room for all event elements and any anticipated attendance. Check that the venue can provide necessary equipment like chairs, tables, lighting, A/V gear, etc. Negotiate the best rates and reserve your date as far in advance as possible.
For top tips on how to find the perfect venue for your in-person event, jump to the section ‘Choosing the perfect venue: 6 things to consider’.
Find the right event app
Selecting the appropriate event app for your in-person events is a crucial step that can significantly impact their overall success. A well-suited event app can streamline event logistics, facilitate interactive attendee participation, and provide valuable real-time analytics to guide strategic decisions. The right app can empower attendees, giving them access to personalized schedules, networking opportunities, interactive session content, and more. It creates an environment for greater engagement, fosters a sense of community, and improves overall attendee satisfaction.
It’s not just about adding technology to your in-person event but about enhancing your event experience in a meaningful way. So, investing time in finding the right event app is not merely an option; it is a necessity for modern, successful in-person event planning.
To help you find the event app that will help you boost engagement and achieve your event goals, check out our list of the best 25 mobile event apps.
Source your speakers
Securing the right speakers is a crucial element in planning successful in-person events. The quality, relevance, and charisma of your speakers can significantly influence the level of engagement and satisfaction among your attendees.
Notably, speakers are often the primary source of content and learning opportunities at these events, directly contributing to the overall event value for attendees. They bring unique perspectives, knowledge, and experiences that can inspire, educate, and challenge your audience. Plus, prominent speakers can enhance the credibility and appeal of your event, attracting a larger and potentially more diverse audience.
For ideas on how to get the best KOLs speaking at your in-person events, check out our KOL engagement plan.
Plan out the agenda
Crafting a thoughtful and well-structured agenda is vital for the success of any in-person event, especially multi-session events such as a life science congresses or partner conferences. With multiple sessions happening at the same time, it becomes crucial to develop an agenda that offers clear choices and balances for attendees. It should cater to different interests, professional needs, and learning styles, allowing participants to maximize the value of their attendance.
The agenda serves as a roadmap, guiding attendees through the event and helping them navigate the multitude of offerings effectively. It also aids in managing expectations, providing a snapshot of what attendees can anticipate. Furthermore, a carefully planned agenda ensures the smooth running of the event, minimizing conflicts and overlaps. So, investing in thoughtful agenda planning will enhance attendee satisfaction, engagement, and overall event experience.
Get sponsors/exhibitors on board
Attracting sponsors and exhibitors to your in-person event can greatly enhance its overall experience and viability. Sponsors not only provide financial support but can also add credibility and marketing power to your event, while exhibitors offer valuable content, products, or services that enrich the attendee experience.
To secure these key stakeholders, it’s important to communicate the benefits they will gain, such as exposure to a targeted audience, opportunities for direct customer interaction, and the potential to increase brand awareness, all through your easy-to-use event app. Providing detailed information about your attendees that you gain from registration pages, such as demographics and interests, can also help prospective sponsors and exhibitors see the value in partnering with your event.
Remember, it’s not just about what they can do for your event, but what your event can do for them – a successful partnership should deliver mutual benefits.
Spread the word
Create promotional materials like a website, email campaigns, social media posts, blog articles, and ads to spread awareness about your event. Build excitement by giving attendees a taste of what’s to come. Send out event email templates offering special early bird rates or discounts to increase registration. Engage with your audience and address any questions or concerns. Strong promotion will ensure maximum attendance and participation.
Get 41 event promotion ideas in our latest blog post. Get more people to attend your events.
Prepare and practice
Review all logistical details and create a detailed schedule and event run of show for every part of your agenda. Meet with vendors and speakers to go over plans and expectations. Walk through the venue to determine setup and flow. Practice any presentations or performances. Prepare materials, handouts, signs, and staffing schedules. Do a final run-through the day before to work out any last-minute kinks. With thorough preparation, your event will go off without a hitch!
Post-event engagement is a key step in the in-person event lifecycle, and leveraging data from your event app can make this process more effective and insightful. The data gathered from the app, such as attendee behavior, session participation, and feedback, can guide your communication strategy, ensuring it is personalized and relevant. Plus, by acknowledging an attendee’s unique experience and interests shown during the event, you can deepen their connection with your brand or organization.
The insights gained can also inform the planning and execution of your future events, helping to continuously improve and tailor them to meet your audience’s needs and expectations. In essence, using event metrics from your app for follow-up communications not only strengthens relationships with your attendees (and customers!) but also contributes to ongoing event success and attendee satisfaction.
If you are looking for expert partners to help you run successful in-person events, consult our comprehensive lists of the top medical communications companies, top event production companies, or top event management agencies.
Using technology to power your in-person events
Event apps are a must for any modern in-person event. Why?
- They create a seamless in-person event journey from the moment people check in to your in-person event to even after they leave.
- They allow attendees to view schedules, connect with each other, participate in live polls and Q&As, and much more, all from their mobile device.
- They are an effortless all-in-one tool for sponsors/exhibitors that allow them to easily connect with your audience and build social capital.
- They give valuable insights into attendee behavior and engagement.
An event app may seem like an unnecessary investment, but it can significantly improve the attendee experience at your in-person event and provide you with valuable data and insights for planning future events, helping you to significantly increase event ROI. When leveraged properly, the right event app will make your event high-tech, highly engaging, and help you better understand your audience so you can drive your next best action.
If want to make the most of event technology and ensure your in-person events run as smoothly as possible, check out the professional event tech services we offer. From live production and coordination to a participant help desk and event app assistance, we have you covered.
What to look for in an in-person event app
In-person event apps are instrumental in creating a seamless, engaging, and interactive event experience for everyone involved in organizing and running an in-person event, as well as attendees, sponsors, and exhibitors. They streamline logistics, enhance networking opportunities, and offer real-time insights, all of which contribute to the overall success of the event.
Here are a few of the things you should look for when sourcing the ideal event app for your in-person events:
- Registration: Boost signups by breaking down barriers with a seamless registration process that matches your event setup. Build customized registration pages to create personalized journeys for each participant and track registrations on your in-person event app.
- Check-in, badging & attendance tracking: Guarantee a smooth experience as soon your attendees set foot through the door. Check them in fast using QR codes on your in-person event app or printed badges. Track event/session attendance in real time.
- Interactive map: Provide a full map of your venue linking to your agenda and sponsor/exhibitor booths so attendees can drop a pin on the room and easily see where they need to be.
- Activity feed: Foster real-time engagement by providing a dynamic platform for attendees to share insights, updates, and interact with each other before, throughout, and after your in-person event.
- Custom branding: Enhance the recognition and consistency of your event’s identity, strengthening the connection between attendees and your brand or organization.
- Participant matching & networking: Collect lists of potential interests, fields, or skills and create personalized lists of people that automatically show top matches so you can match app users. Allow attendees to set up coffee meetings within the app to network with others.
- Targeted push notifications: Make sure your attendees never miss out on any important information. Send reminders about their upcoming sessions. Enable real-time updates and personalized engagement to enhance the attendee experience.
- Personalized agenda: Empower attendees to tailor their experience, fostering higher engagement by aligning the event activities with individual interests and needs.
- Meeting scheduler: Make meeting scheduling and lead capture simple and fast for your reps, sponsors, and exhibitors. Get rid of outdated spreadsheets and paper forms. Pre-schedule meetings, schedule 1:1 and group meetings, manage meeting locations, and capture leads easily.
- Technical support: Have someone on hand throughout your in-person event to help with any technical or logistical issues.
- Polls & Q&A: Provide attendees with an easy way to get involved in sessions through Q&A and polls on your event app and get valuable engagement data to help you understand attendee behavior better.
- Gamification: Make your event stand out by organizing quizzes/challenges with a visible leaderboard. Or set up a QR code treasure hunt that attendees can use to unlock new content.
- Analytics & reporting: Get invaluable insights into attendee behavior and engagement, enabling data-driven decision making to optimize current and future events. Avoid manual data collection by getting it automatically fed into your CRM.
- Integrations: Make sure your in-person event app fits into your event technology stack. For example, if you’re a life sciences or pharmaceutical company that uses Veeva CRM, ensure there is an deep native integration.
- Onsite services: Help participants make the most of your in-person event with a dedicated participant help desk. Or have a live coordinator or producer to make sure all event technology runs smoothly. Some event technology companies offer these services alongside their solutions.
To find the in-person event app that ticks all your boxes, download our comprehensive event RFP template to send to potential vendors and easily compare your options.
How to create an engaging in-person event experience
It can be hard to come up with ways to keep participants engaged at your in-person events. Here are some ideas that you can combine to make your events unforgettable:
Leverage your event app
Using your in-person event app to create an engaging in-person event experience is crucial to getting valuable insights from one of the only remaining sources of first-party data and driving your next best action with potential customers. Use the features listed above to increase audience engagement.
Engage the senses
To create an engaging in-person event experience, focus on engaging as many senses as possible. Play upbeat music to energize the space. Use spotlights or string lights to highlight focal points. Have snacks, drinks, or interactive food stations so people can taste and smell. Provide tactile elements like soft seating, interactive art installations, or swag bags with small gifts for people to touch and feel.
Share on social media
Encourage attendees to share photos and updates on social media during your in-person event using an event hashtag. This boosts excitement and FOMO (fear of missing out), drawing more interest for your next event. Offer photo ops with an engaging backdrop or focal point related to your brand or event theme. People love sharing stylized photos that make them look like influencers!
Keep people moving
Have multiple areas or rooms with different activities, entertainment, or interactive elements so people keep moving around and experiencing new things. For example, one room for checking in and mingling, one for presentations or entertainment, one for food and drinks, one for an interactive art installation, and one for swag or parting gifts. Keep the flow and energy up by avoiding long stretches where people remain stationary in one area.
Orchestrate shareable moments that people will remember and talk about after your in-person event. Things like surprise entertainment, gifts, reveals or interactive experiences. Create moments of delight, joy and wonder that get people engaged and talking.
Choosing an in-person event venue: 6 things to consider
Consider how many attendees you expect and make sure the venue can accommodate them comfortably. An overcrowded space won’t lead to a good in-person event experience for anyone. On the other hand, a venue that’s too large may seem empty and lack energy.
The layout and flow of the space is key. Look for a venue with separate areas for registration, sessions, breaks, networking, sponsor/exhibitor booths, and group or 1:1 sales rep/meet-the-expert meetings. Multiple entrances and exits are ideal, and check that any stages or seating are visible and audible from all points in the room.
A/V and Wi-Fi
Ensure the venue can provide high-quality audio/visual equipment, strong Wi-Fi, and technical support. Most events today are highly technology-dependent, so this is a must. Especially if some of your attendees/speakers will be participating remotely. Test the Wi-Fi strength and speed to confirm it can handle many connections at once.
If providing food and drinks, choose a venue that allows outside catering or has preferred caterers you can select from. Make sure there are adequate facilities for catering set-up and clean-up. Consider any dietary requirements and allergies your attendees may have.
Location and parking
Look for a location close to public transit and with ample nearby parking. Out-of-the-way spots may be cheaper but reduce attendance. Check if the venue offers discounted or validated parking for your event.
Compare the venue rental fees, catering charges, parking rates, and any additional costs to find an option that fits your budget. Some venues may be willing to negotiate, especially for off-peak days. Look for any available discounts for non-profits or multiple-day events.
Make running better in-person events easy with the right technology
With this planning and technology guide, you’ll be on your way to running better in-person events. Why not go further with SpotMe – the branded and compliant in-person event platform tailored to high-touch industries like life sciences and pharmaceuticals.
With all the essential in-person event platform features you need, it’s easy to give your attendees a personalized and engaging experience from pre- to post-event. From customized registration pages, fast check-in, badge printing and attendance tracking to engagement tools such as activity feeds, networking, moderated Q&A, polls, gamification, customizable agendas, a meeting scheduler. Plus, everything you need to follow up with attendees after your event, including surveys and targeted emails.
Thanks to easy-to-use templates and deep CRM integrations, including Veeva and IQVIA, get consistent first-party data insights that flow into your CRM and help you drive your next best action. And with 24/7 instant support and white-glove onsite services and production services, hosting in-person events as part of the omnichannel experience has never been easier.
Join our global customers from 10 out of the top 20 life science and pharma companies and the Big Four professional services networks by starting to use our fully integrated in-person event platform that has been keeping audiences engaged at events for over 20 years.
To see SpotMe in action, request a demo now.
SpotMe named a Leader in The Forrester Wave™: B2B Event Management Technology, Q1 2023. Find out more in your complimentary copy of the report.
What is the meaning of in-person events?
In-person events are vital in fostering human connection, particularly within the pharmaceutical and professional services industries. These events offer a platform for networking, learning, and sharing experiences. The types of in-person events can vary widely, from congresses and speaker training to partner/customer conferences and sales kickoffs. Despite the rise of remote interactions facilitated by technology, in-person gatherings offer unique benefits, such as the ability to engage through eye contact, body language, and direct interaction. They can foster spontaneous, organic conversations, build relationships, and even facilitate deal-making. Therefore, for life science businesses and professional services organizations seeking to build meaningful relationships, incorporating in-person events into their outreach and engagement strategy is essential.
Learn more in the section ‘What is the meaning of in-person events?’
How do you run an in-person event?
1. Plan ahead
2. Create a budget
3. Find the perfect venue
4. Find the right event app
5. Source your speakers
6. Plan out the agenda
7. Get sponsors/exhibitors on board
8. Spread the word
9. Follow up
Learn more in the section ‘How do you run an in-person event?’
How do I choose a venue?
Consider the following when choosing the perfect event venue:
1. Event goals
2. Target audience
6. A/V and Wi-Fi
8. Location and parking
Learn more in the section ‘Choosing an in-person event venue’
How do I market my event?
Create a marketing plan that includes social media, email campaigns, advertising, media coverage, and word-of-mouth. Start promoting at least 2-3 months before the event date.
What technology do I need for an in-person event?
Essential technology for an in-person event includes:
1. A website
2. Registration software
3. Mobile event app
4. Social media
5. Live streaming equipment
6. A CRM to collect event data
Make sure any tech you use is mobile-friendly.
In-person event experts who contributed to this article
Disclaimer: To get the links to the statistics and insights shared in this article, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.