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Are we still going virtual?

Lunch is just coming to an end following an excellent morning session at the conference you have been attending. You have met some old colleagues, enjoyed some networking opportunities and thoroughly enjoyed the second lecture of the day.

Does all this sound a bit strange? It shouldn't, it's just what conferences were like in 2019, but it seems like an alien concept now, doesn’t it? Given the virtual format we have all become accustomed to over the past year.

Event Organisers have had to adapt to deliver their meetings and conferences in this period, with the only real way to move forward being to run events virtually. I think we are now all incredibly hopeful that normal life may soon be resuming, but this throws up two key questions for those thinking of organising a conference in 2021 and beyond:

'When can we go back to face-to-face events?'

'Do we need to still have a virtual element to our conference?'

If you are thinking about this, you are certainly not alone. Virtual events have become one of the main methods of mass information sharing since the pandemic began, for better or worse.

From our experience virtual events tend to polarise opinion. Some attendees love the flexibility of being able to access the content from the comfort of their own homes, whereas others miss the buzz and the atmosphere of attending conferences in person.

As we begin to emerge from the pandemic, you are probably entering that decision making phase where you weigh up the benefits of running a face to face or virtual event. As an event management company, we would advise turning to your regular attendees in the first instance to gain their thoughts. Finding the consensus of your target market is crucial in understanding exactly what your attendees want from your event, and from this, you can make data-driven decisions about the format of your conference.

Unfortunately, in this situation, the customer is not always right, or at least not completely. The leaders within your organisation or society also must consider the goals of your event and figure out if a virtual event will allow you to reach these aims in the long term. To help with this we have compiled a series of questions below that it may be worth asking yourself:

  1. What are the benefits of attending the conference virtually/in person?

  2. What elements of the conference are impossible to convey on a virtual platform?

  3. Can you charge the same amount for a virtual event as you can a face-to-face event?

  4. Does a virtual/in person event allow you to hit your sponsorship targets?

  5. Does running your event virtually have any potential long term positive or negative effects on your society? I.e. Does it lead to an increase or decrease in membership?

  6. Is your event primarily applicable to a domestic audience, or does it have global appeal?

There are likely many more questions that are specific to your event, and hopefully, this list may inspire you to expand the conversation.

So what should I do, virtual or face to face?

We understand that this blog may have led to more questions than answers, but the key to making your next event a roaring success, no matter the format, is understanding your attendee and how their needs may have changed over the last 18 months.

Our advice would be to plan smarter and consider adding hybrid elements to a face-to-face event to tick both boxes. Does your face-to-face event require a full virtual platform? Probably not, but you could in the very least stream the content online to reach a global audience while satisfying those delegates that want the physical exposure.

If you choose to run a hybrid event there will be many elements you may have to consider, from what to charge virtual delegates, how to make sure attending the face-to-face event worthwhile, and do you want to include post-event access.

If you feel you need help in this process, why not contact Event Management Direct? Over the last 18 months, we have transitioned many of our traditionally face to face events to a virtual or hybrid platform, and our clients have been very pleased with the results.

To read more about us please visit our website: or give us a call on 0114 2995922.

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