While the world slowly but surely makes arrangements to return to normal, a common theme in conversation is that, from here on out, nothing will be the same.
Countless businesses have had to make many changes in order to adapt and continue to operate. Within the events industry, pivoting to virtual has been crucial given the circumstance, and because of it, many event organizers have avoided the need to cancel. Additionally, it’s become apparent there are several benefits to a virtual conference; for example, there is no need to travel, they take less time to plan, and they are less expensive to produce.
While events have understandably needed to recently evolve, more than ever we must reflect on the many advantages that come from face-to-face events. More importantly, simply because virtual has been a viable alternative during these times doesn’t mean every event in the future can adopt a virtual format and still adequately achieve your objectives. In this article, we discuss with you a few reasons why face to face is not over.
People Need Face-to-Face Interactions
You may have heard this one before, but people need face-to-face interactions. Today, even a brief outing to the grocery store can be something to look forward to. We as humans crave socialization and networking with new individuals. Not only are face-to-face events fun to go to, but they provide countless opportunities to connect with others in a way that cannot be achieved online. To better understand this, take a moment to consider the many invaluable professional relationships that have been established by a simple handshake at an in-person meeting or event.
You Can Keep Your Audience Engaged
Chances are that if you are still working remotely, many of us may be itching to get back to the office by now. While working from home can be more comfortable and convenient, one’s ability to focus is greatly reduced by the many distractions that surround us at home. When it comes to virtual events, it becomes increasingly difficult to capture and occupy your audience’s attention through their computers vs. if they were with you in person— physically surrounded by others who are paying attention and learning alongside them. Therefore, it comes as no surprise when event professionals mention that audience engagement is the largest challenge when it comes to virtual events.
They Offer Richer Exchanges
In general, people communicate not just with words, but in many different ways. More often than not, people can convey themselves and their information much more clearly and accurately in person than online. When an exchange takes place in person, one’s ability to progress the conversation more organically and pick up on crucial body language cues is increased. Moreover, when face-to-face with someone, it is much easier to see how passionate and animated one is about what they’re speaking on, and in turn, become more invested in the conversation; not to mention, one person rarely talks over the other unintentionally as often happens in virtual exchanges.
It Is Easier to Improvise
Technology, while incredibly useful, can often be bound to certain constraints and unforeseen circumstances which in-person events can more easily adapt to. Event coordinators mention the biggest annoyance of virtual events is a bad connection and the second largest frustration comes from bad microphones. If either of these instances occur at any point during an in-person event, though it may be inconvenient, it’s possible to improvise. Conversely, when they happen during a virtual event, it becomes much more difficult to successfully carry out your event. Simply put, a face-to-face event does not entirely depend upon wireless connectivity or digital capacities the way a virtual event does.
In-Person is An Experience
They call it the attendee experience, and as an event professional, you may know that few things are more important. As soon as you walk into a venue, face-to-face events play upon a number of your senses: sight, touch, even smell. From the moment of check-in to the moment one leaves, entire teams are dedicated towards ensuring the journey in between is smooth. Additionally, there is nothing quite like physically walking into an event, seeing its set up abound with possibilities, and inevitably getting excited for what the event has to offer and what is to come.
To conclude, like any type of gathering, face-to-face events will be required to adapt to the many impacts left in the wake of the pandemic. Even with increased safety procedures, such as frequent surface sanitation, face coverings, and social distancing practices, it may be a while before everyone can be entirely comfortable being among a crowd of people. Given this, online events will inevitably continue to play a role within the industry. However, think about virtual events as a complement to—rather than replacement of—in-person events. Independent from the many pros and cons of virtual events, these past few months have made event organizers aware of the significantly overlooked opportunities that a virtual component can bring to an in-person event and helped consider how we can make them work together. More likely than not, a number of future events will take place in a hybrid format; that is, a combination of a face-to-face and virtual event. That said, it is certain that face-to-face events cannot and will not be replaced.