Event Management

Live vs virtual events: how to decide what’s best

Kathryn Humphries

December 7, 2022

11 min read

Live events vs virtual events

Live vs virtual events… How can you possibly decide between the two? 

Over the past few years, you may have heard that virtual events are the future. Of course, they offer many advantages over traditional, in-person events. 

But that doesn’t mean that live events are outdated. In fact, for many enterprises, they’re still the best option. Especially because participants are craving in-person events more than ever.

So how do you choose between live vs virtual events?

Let’s start by outlining their key differences.

Live vs virtual events: what’s the difference?

When it comes to events, there are two main types: live vs virtual events. 

Live events happen in person with attendees coming together in one physical space. Virtual events, on the other hand, take place online with participants logging in from all over the world.

So, what other differences are there? Well, a lot. 

For starters, live events are more personal. You get to see and interact with other attendees, which can create a more engaged and supportive community. Plus, there’s the whole “live” aspect that’s difficult to replicate online. From watching keynote speeches to networking with other attendees, there are plenty of opportunities to connect at a live event.

But virtual events do have their advantages too. They’re more affordable you don’t have to pay for travel or accommodation costs. They’re also more accessible, as anyone with an internet connection can join. And finally, they’re great for networking. You can connect with people from all over the world and make new connections that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

There is however another type of event that’s becoming more and more popular nowadays due to its numerous advantages… Hybrid events.

Looking for an event platform to help you run successful hybrid events in 2023? Check out our guide to the 15 best hybrid event platforms in 2023.

Live vs virtual events? But, what about hybrid events?

Hybrid events are a combination of live and virtual.

With a hybrid event, you could have 50% of your participants online and 50% of them in person. Or you could have a live event with some virtual elements like a mobile event app, for example. Or even a virtual event with some live elements that you then live stream to your virtual event platform.

With hybrid events, you no longer have the question of live vs virtual events because you can mix and match to get the best of both worlds.

According to Markletic, 63% of companies with 2000-5000 employees included hybrid events in their event portfolio. Hybrid events sure are on the rise.

So, now you understand the differences between the three types of events, what are the factors that can help you choose between live vs virtual events, or even hybrid?

Want a mobile event app to keep your attendees engaged at your events? Go to our guide on the 25 best conference and mobile event apps for 2023 and pick the one that’s right for you.

Live vs virtual events or hybrid events?

Live vs virtual events or hybrid: the deciding factors

Here are 5 things to consider when choosing between live vs virtual events or hybrid: 

#1 What’s your goal?

Before deciding between live vs virtual events or hybrid, you should think about what you want to achieve with your event.

Virtual events may be better if you’re looking to reach a larger audience or if you’re striving for a more interactive experience.

But, live events allow you to connect with attendees more intimately and directly. So, they may be the best choice if you’re looking for 1:1 engagement and discussion. For example, at an in-person event, you can have conversations with people that could lead to networking opportunities or other collaborations.

On the other hand, virtual events offer more options to engage with an audience and create an immersive experience. For example, you could use them to share content with a wide audience. You could also use live streaming to create an interactive environment that makes viewers feel like they’re attending the event in person.

Ultimately, you need to choose the best channel for your final objective. So, whichever option can help you achieve that goal should determine which type of event you choose: live vs virtual events or hybrid.

#2 Who are your attendees?

You’ll also want to think about who your attendees are when deciding between live vs virtual events or hybrid. Does your event need to be face-to-face to have the best effect on your audience?

Think about your audience’s:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Technical abilities
  • Preferences

For younger audiences, a virtual event can be easier to attend as they may be more tech-savvy and more familiar with the virtual event platform’s interface. An online event can also make it easier for attendees to ask questions and interact with one another. This is key when engaging with a younger demographic.

On the other hand, if you have an older audience or one from different social or cultural backgrounds, then a physical event may work best as they are likely to prefer it over an online one due to personal preferences. The physical presence of other people could help bring awareness to their opinions and create a deeper level of understanding.

If your target audience is a mixture, however, you may choose to run a hybrid event, so that participants can choose how they want to attend. This gives them more flexibility and makes them more likely to fit your event into their busy schedule.

You audience should always be top of mind when planning your event, so they should have a big influence on which kind of event you decide to run: live vs virtual events or hybrid.

Live vs virtual events - deciding factors

#3 What’s your budget?

Budget is a key factor when it comes to deciding between live vs virtual events or hybrid. 

Live events can get expensive very quickly. So bear that in mind, especially with recent budget cuts affecting event professionals worldwide. 

Here are some of the costs to think about when deciding on whether to run live events:

  • Venue
  • Catering
  • Equipment
  • Travel
  • Accommodation

On the other hand, virtual events allow for much more cost control and customization to fit within your budget. They also offer a wider audience reach as you can invite people from all over the world without having to consider travel and accommodation expenses.

A lot of event organizers think that hybrid events cost double the amount because they are a mix of live and virtual. But this is not necessarily the case. There are ways to optimize your hybrid event budget. Of course, a lot of your budget will go toward technology, but that amount may end up being a fraction of the cost of a huge live event.

To find out more about reducing event costs in 2023, check out our article: 11 top tips on how to optimize your virtual event budget.

#4 What’s your timeline?

Are you dealing with a tight timeline? If so, the choice between live vs virtual events or hybrid is simple.

Virtual events are much easier to put together since they don’t require as many logistics or planning. There’s no need to source a venue or cater for guests, for example. Plus, if you’re running an event with multiple guest speakers from different places, it’s much more convenient if it’s online.

But if you have several months or even a year to plan your event and you believe a live event is more likely to help you achieve your goals, you can go with that option.

Like live events, hybrid events also take longer to plan, as there are so many different elements to think about. But we think you can plan a hybrid event in 6 months. Check out our article about hybrid event planning: an executive guide and 6-month practical plan to give you a helping hand.

#5 What are your KPIs?

The first thing to consider when choosing between live vs virtual events or hybrid is your event goal. But what about your KPIs?

Define your KPIs to understand how you want to measure the success of your event from the very beginning. Then, use them to decide which type of event will ensure you meet your objectives.

Your KPIs could include:

  • Attendance rate
  • Returning participants
  • Engagement rate
  • Event app adoption rate
  • NPS

Depending on what you’re measuring, gathering these metrics may require different tactics. If you’re hosting a live event, you may use surveys or ask for feedback from attendees. On the other hand, if you’re hosting a virtual event, then you can use analytics tools to help measure engagement and event app adoption.

At a hybrid event, you get the best of both worlds. By using an event app at your live event, for example, you can get all kinds of statistics that you wouldn’t get from a live event with no technology.

Remember that clearly defining and carefully monitoring your KPIs is essential to understanding how successful your event was. And it helps you decide between live vs virtual events or hybrid in the future!

To find out more about which KPIs to measure at your events, read 19 virtual event success metrics you should be measuring.

Live vs virtual events: pros & cons

Live vs virtual events or hybrid: pros & cons

Now you’ve seen what you should take into account when choosing between live vs virtual events or hybrid, let’s look at the pros and cons to help you decide.

Live events: pros & cons

Pros

  • Nothing beats the energy of a face-to-face interaction. Especially with participants craving more in-person networking nowadays.
  • Live events are the best option if you have hands-on activities, for example at trade shows where attendees can test out products and services.
  • It’s easier to create a memorable attendee experience and leave a lasting impression with a live event due to all the emotions you create.

Cons

  • You have a limited audience as the physical venue can only hold a certain number of people. Plus, participants may not be able to travel from far and wide. 
  • Live events are more expensive. From venue and equipment hire to catering, accommodation, and travel costs.
  • So much unnecessary waste is created from in-person events as well as pollution from transport to and from the venue.
  • Live events take a long time to plan. There are so many logistics to consider that it can take months or event years to organize!
Live events: pros & cons

Virtual events: pros & cons

Pros

  • Virtual events are more cost-effective than any other type of event. No need to spend any of your budget on travel, accommodation or venue.
  • You can reach a huge audience worldwide who would never have attended your event otherwise. This helps boost brand awareness on a global scale.
  • Virtual event platforms provide you with numerous analytics during and after your event, so you can easily see if you’ve hit your targets and tailor your future events based on real statistics.
  • Virtual events have a low carbon footprint. The main reason being that there’s no traveling involved and no risk of wasted materials.
  • You can plan a virtual event in a matter of weeks. As long as you find the right event platform vendor using an event management RFP template
  • It’s possible to turn your event into on-demand content that your audience can access whenever and wherever they are. This helps you reach those who couldn’t attend on the day.

Looking for a gated platform where you can instantly upload your virtual event content? Check out our on-demand content hub.

Cons

  • It can be challenging to keep remote attendees engaged. Screens are such a huge part of our lives that we get bored easily, especially at long virtual events. It’s also easier for attendees to get distracted by other things at online events.
  • To run a virtual event successfully, you need to have a certain level of technical skills in case any issues arise. Luckily some virtual platforms have excellent customer support to help out in these situations.
  • It’s not as easy for participants to network at virtual events. Of course, you can create breakout rooms but the networking isn’t as natural as it would be at a live event.

Here are 20 virtual event engagement ideas to boost interactivity at your next virtual event.

Virtual events: pros & cons

Hybrid events: pros & cons

Pros

  • Hybrid events give you the biggest possible audience because you allow people to choose whether they want to attend in-person or remotely.
  • Inclusivity is easy with hybrid events. By giving people different ways to participate, anyone can attend from anywhere. 
  • You get the best of both worlds. Get high engagement from the live elements of your event and detailed analytics from the event tech you use for the virtual aspects.
  • There’s so much flexibility with a hybrid event. You can pick and choose exactly how you want your event to be to ensure you meet your objectives. You can choose how much to run in-person and how much to run remotely. 

Cons

  • Like with virtual events, technical issues may come up and you need to know how to deal with them. Fortunately, there are some great hybrid production companies to help with this.
  • It’s very difficult to give both live and virtual audiences the same experience. But is this really a bad thing? Audiences usually don’t expect the same experience. Make sure you set the right expectations from the start and this shouldn’t be an issue.
  • There’s a lot to think about because you’re managing two different kinds of event in one. This can be a challenge at times.
Hybrid events: pros & cons

Live vs virtual events: do you really have to choose?

Still not sure how to choose between live vs virtual events? You may not have to!

Instead of planning a fully in-person or fully remote event, why not mix and match?

SpotMe is an enterprise event platform and app that can help you achieve your goals with any type of event: in-person, virtual, or hybrid. The flawless user experience for both event planners and participants is the reason it is loved by 10,000,000+ users and business leaders from Fortune 500 companies.

See how our event platform can help you reach new heights with your enterprise events in 2023. Book a free 1:1 demo today.

author image

Kathryn Humphries

Head of Content Marketing

Live vs virtual events… How can you possibly decide between the two? 

Over the past few years, you may have heard that virtual events are the future. Of course, they offer many advantages over traditional, in-person events. 

But that doesn’t mean that live events are outdated. In fact, for many enterprises, they’re still the best option. Especially because participants are craving in-person events more than ever.

So how do you choose between live vs virtual events?

Let’s start by outlining their key differences.

Live vs virtual events: what’s the difference?

When it comes to events, there are two main types: live vs virtual events. 

Live events happen in person with attendees coming together in one physical space. Virtual events, on the other hand, take place online with participants logging in from all over the world.

So, what other differences are there? Well, a lot. 

For starters, live events are more personal. You get to see and interact with other attendees, which can create a more engaged and supportive community. Plus, there’s the whole “live” aspect that’s difficult to replicate online. From watching keynote speeches to networking with other attendees, there are plenty of opportunities to connect at a live event.

But virtual events do have their advantages too. They’re more affordable you don’t have to pay for travel or accommodation costs. They’re also more accessible, as anyone with an internet connection can join. And finally, they’re great for networking. You can connect with people from all over the world and make new connections that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

There is however another type of event that’s becoming more and more popular nowadays due to its numerous advantages… Hybrid events.

Looking for an event platform to help you run successful hybrid events in 2023? Check out our guide to the 15 best hybrid event platforms in 2023.

Live vs virtual events? But, what about hybrid events?

Hybrid events are a combination of live and virtual.

With a hybrid event, you could have 50% of your participants online and 50% of them in person. Or you could have a live event with some virtual elements like a mobile event app, for example. Or even a virtual event with some live elements that you then live stream to your virtual event platform.

With hybrid events, you no longer have the question of live vs virtual events because you can mix and match to get the best of both worlds.

According to Markletic, 63% of companies with 2000-5000 employees included hybrid events in their event portfolio. Hybrid events sure are on the rise.

So, now you understand the differences between the three types of events, what are the factors that can help you choose between live vs virtual events, or even hybrid?

Want a mobile event app to keep your attendees engaged at your events? Go to our guide on the 25 best conference and mobile event apps for 2023 and pick the one that’s right for you.

Live vs virtual events or hybrid events?

Live vs virtual events or hybrid: the deciding factors

Here are 5 things to consider when choosing between live vs virtual events or hybrid: 

#1 What’s your goal?

Before deciding between live vs virtual events or hybrid, you should think about what you want to achieve with your event.

Virtual events may be better if you’re looking to reach a larger audience or if you’re striving for a more interactive experience.

But, live events allow you to connect with attendees more intimately and directly. So, they may be the best choice if you’re looking for 1:1 engagement and discussion. For example, at an in-person event, you can have conversations with people that could lead to networking opportunities or other collaborations.

On the other hand, virtual events offer more options to engage with an audience and create an immersive experience. For example, you could use them to share content with a wide audience. You could also use live streaming to create an interactive environment that makes viewers feel like they’re attending the event in person.

Ultimately, you need to choose the best channel for your final objective. So, whichever option can help you achieve that goal should determine which type of event you choose: live vs virtual events or hybrid.

#2 Who are your attendees?

You’ll also want to think about who your attendees are when deciding between live vs virtual events or hybrid. Does your event need to be face-to-face to have the best effect on your audience?

Think about your audience’s:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Technical abilities
  • Preferences

For younger audiences, a virtual event can be easier to attend as they may be more tech-savvy and more familiar with the virtual event platform’s interface. An online event can also make it easier for attendees to ask questions and interact with one another. This is key when engaging with a younger demographic.

On the other hand, if you have an older audience or one from different social or cultural backgrounds, then a physical event may work best as they are likely to prefer it over an online one due to personal preferences. The physical presence of other people could help bring awareness to their opinions and create a deeper level of understanding.

If your target audience is a mixture, however, you may choose to run a hybrid event, so that participants can choose how they want to attend. This gives them more flexibility and makes them more likely to fit your event into their busy schedule.

You audience should always be top of mind when planning your event, so they should have a big influence on which kind of event you decide to run: live vs virtual events or hybrid.

Live vs virtual events - deciding factors

#3 What’s your budget?

Budget is a key factor when it comes to deciding between live vs virtual events or hybrid. 

Live events can get expensive very quickly. So bear that in mind, especially with recent budget cuts affecting event professionals worldwide. 

Here are some of the costs to think about when deciding on whether to run live events:

  • Venue
  • Catering
  • Equipment
  • Travel
  • Accommodation

On the other hand, virtual events allow for much more cost control and customization to fit within your budget. They also offer a wider audience reach as you can invite people from all over the world without having to consider travel and accommodation expenses.

A lot of event organizers think that hybrid events cost double the amount because they are a mix of live and virtual. But this is not necessarily the case. There are ways to optimize your hybrid event budget. Of course, a lot of your budget will go toward technology, but that amount may end up being a fraction of the cost of a huge live event.

To find out more about reducing event costs in 2023, check out our article: 11 top tips on how to optimize your virtual event budget.

#4 What’s your timeline?

Are you dealing with a tight timeline? If so, the choice between live vs virtual events or hybrid is simple.

Virtual events are much easier to put together since they don’t require as many logistics or planning. There’s no need to source a venue or cater for guests, for example. Plus, if you’re running an event with multiple guest speakers from different places, it’s much more convenient if it’s online.

But if you have several months or even a year to plan your event and you believe a live event is more likely to help you achieve your goals, you can go with that option.

Like live events, hybrid events also take longer to plan, as there are so many different elements to think about. But we think you can plan a hybrid event in 6 months. Check out our article about hybrid event planning: an executive guide and 6-month practical plan to give you a helping hand.

#5 What are your KPIs?

The first thing to consider when choosing between live vs virtual events or hybrid is your event goal. But what about your KPIs?

Define your KPIs to understand how you want to measure the success of your event from the very beginning. Then, use them to decide which type of event will ensure you meet your objectives.

Your KPIs could include:

  • Attendance rate
  • Returning participants
  • Engagement rate
  • Event app adoption rate
  • NPS

Depending on what you’re measuring, gathering these metrics may require different tactics. If you’re hosting a live event, you may use surveys or ask for feedback from attendees. On the other hand, if you’re hosting a virtual event, then you can use analytics tools to help measure engagement and event app adoption.

At a hybrid event, you get the best of both worlds. By using an event app at your live event, for example, you can get all kinds of statistics that you wouldn’t get from a live event with no technology.

Remember that clearly defining and carefully monitoring your KPIs is essential to understanding how successful your event was. And it helps you decide between live vs virtual events or hybrid in the future!

To find out more about which KPIs to measure at your events, read 19 virtual event success metrics you should be measuring.

Live vs virtual events: pros & cons

Live vs virtual events or hybrid: pros & cons

Now you’ve seen what you should take into account when choosing between live vs virtual events or hybrid, let’s look at the pros and cons to help you decide.

Live events: pros & cons

Pros

  • Nothing beats the energy of a face-to-face interaction. Especially with participants craving more in-person networking nowadays.
  • Live events are the best option if you have hands-on activities, for example at trade shows where attendees can test out products and services.
  • It’s easier to create a memorable attendee experience and leave a lasting impression with a live event due to all the emotions you create.

Cons

  • You have a limited audience as the physical venue can only hold a certain number of people. Plus, participants may not be able to travel from far and wide. 
  • Live events are more expensive. From venue and equipment hire to catering, accommodation, and travel costs.
  • So much unnecessary waste is created from in-person events as well as pollution from transport to and from the venue.
  • Live events take a long time to plan. There are so many logistics to consider that it can take months or event years to organize!
Live events: pros & cons

Virtual events: pros & cons

Pros

  • Virtual events are more cost-effective than any other type of event. No need to spend any of your budget on travel, accommodation or venue.
  • You can reach a huge audience worldwide who would never have attended your event otherwise. This helps boost brand awareness on a global scale.
  • Virtual event platforms provide you with numerous analytics during and after your event, so you can easily see if you’ve hit your targets and tailor your future events based on real statistics.
  • Virtual events have a low carbon footprint. The main reason being that there’s no traveling involved and no risk of wasted materials.
  • You can plan a virtual event in a matter of weeks. As long as you find the right event platform vendor using an event management RFP template
  • It’s possible to turn your event into on-demand content that your audience can access whenever and wherever they are. This helps you reach those who couldn’t attend on the day.

Looking for a gated platform where you can instantly upload your virtual event content? Check out our on-demand content hub.

Cons

  • It can be challenging to keep remote attendees engaged. Screens are such a huge part of our lives that we get bored easily, especially at long virtual events. It’s also easier for attendees to get distracted by other things at online events.
  • To run a virtual event successfully, you need to have a certain level of technical skills in case any issues arise. Luckily some virtual platforms have excellent customer support to help out in these situations.
  • It’s not as easy for participants to network at virtual events. Of course, you can create breakout rooms but the networking isn’t as natural as it would be at a live event.

Here are 20 virtual event engagement ideas to boost interactivity at your next virtual event.

Virtual events: pros & cons

Hybrid events: pros & cons

Pros

  • Hybrid events give you the biggest possible audience because you allow people to choose whether they want to attend in-person or remotely.
  • Inclusivity is easy with hybrid events. By giving people different ways to participate, anyone can attend from anywhere. 
  • You get the best of both worlds. Get high engagement from the live elements of your event and detailed analytics from the event tech you use for the virtual aspects.
  • There’s so much flexibility with a hybrid event. You can pick and choose exactly how you want your event to be to ensure you meet your objectives. You can choose how much to run in-person and how much to run remotely. 

Cons

  • Like with virtual events, technical issues may come up and you need to know how to deal with them. Fortunately, there are some great hybrid production companies to help with this.
  • It’s very difficult to give both live and virtual audiences the same experience. But is this really a bad thing? Audiences usually don’t expect the same experience. Make sure you set the right expectations from the start and this shouldn’t be an issue.
  • There’s a lot to think about because you’re managing two different kinds of event in one. This can be a challenge at times.
Hybrid events: pros & cons

Live vs virtual events: do you really have to choose?

Still not sure how to choose between live vs virtual events? You may not have to!

Instead of planning a fully in-person or fully remote event, why not mix and match?

SpotMe is an enterprise event platform and app that can help you achieve your goals with any type of event: in-person, virtual, or hybrid. The flawless user experience for both event planners and participants is the reason it is loved by 10,000,000+ users and business leaders from Fortune 500 companies.

See how our event platform can help you reach new heights with your enterprise events in 2023. Book a free 1:1 demo today.

author image

Kathryn Humphries

Head of Content Marketing

paper plane image

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