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Posted on March 3, 2023

Live vs In-Person Events: 7 Main Differences to Consider in 2023

If there’s one industry out there that the pandemic has changed forever, it’s the event industry. Lockdowns made in-person events impossible for months if not years, and new digital event formats came to the surface. 

The good news is, we are now over the hump, and in-person events are back in business. In fact, The State of Events 2023 report suggests that 63% of marketers are planning to host in-person events within the next 1-2 years. At the same time, 57.4% of respondents think that virtual live events will continue to grow.

So how can you choose the best event format for your business? Is one better than the other (spoiler: no)? Let’s take a closer look at the 7 major differences between live and in-person events you should consider in 2023. 

Live Events 101

Live Events 101

Pre-pandemic, live events were actually synonymous with in-person events. However, now live events are those events that happen in real-time, involving streaming technology. These are such virtual events as: 

  • webinars;
  • virtual conferences;
  • live webcasts;
  • live virtual training, etc.;

And yes, an in-person event can also go live! More and more companies implement live streaming into physical events to maximize reach. Marketers refer to them as hybrid events

In-person Events 101

In-person events are just that – attendees gather at a physical location. In-person events normally place limits on the number of attendees and require a lot of logistics to organize. 

The main types of in-person events are:

  • conferences;
  • workshops;
  • corporate events;
  • fundraisers;
  • charity events;
  • expos and trade shows;
  • panels and seminars, etc.  

Major Differences between In-Person and Live Events: 2023 Trends 

2023 event trends
  1. In-person events still offer a more profound attendee experience

Modern technology is getting more advanced and offering more opportunities for virtual engagement during live events. Yet, in-person events are still the best choice for fostering fruitful business communication. In-person events provide:

  • real-life communication;
  • a sense of exclusivity for the attendees;
  • sensorial experiences (music, the interior design of the venue, finger foods, etc.)

Besides, in-person events are more than a lead-generation tool. They now cover the entire customer journey from brand discovery to building brand advocacy. Event organizers can leverage every stage of the sales funnel within an in-person event. For example: 

  • You can run brand presentations and exclusive demos for brand discovery;
  • Hold conferences and product launch events for brand engagement;
  • Organize customer meetups to drive brand loyalty. 

Bottom line: in-person events boast a greater format variety, which makes them more effective at boosting customer experiences with your brand. 

Event attendee experience

2. In-person and live events offer increasingly different kinds of networking

Networking is the key aspect of any business event. Both live events and in-person events offer ample opportunities for thriving networking. But bear in mind: these are not the same types of networking. 

When it comes to virtual live events, here’s the kind of networking they foster: 

  • attendees can make faster connections with a larger number of people;
  • live virtual networking eliminates geographical limitations;
  • it is less time-consuming and more convenient;
  • live events guarantee multiple networking channels for virtual attendees, including group chats, virtual hangout areas, etc.
Event networking

In-person events are about a more old-school (yet time-tested) kind of networking:

  • attendees connect with fewer people on a more profound level;
  • people leverage word-of-mouth marketing through communication;
  • it is easier for organizers, speakers, and event leaders to create an emotional connection with the public.

3. Live events are typically more budget-friendly than in-person events

Virtual live events are a more affordable format than in-person events – both for organizers and attendees. If you decide to run a live event, you can reduce the total cost by saving on:

  • venue and staff;
  • travel costs;
  • preparation, etc.

In fact, taking a live event to a digital space can save you up to 75% of the budget compared to in-person events. The only big expense you need to consider for live events is the cost of the virtual platform setup where you want to hold the gathering. 

Pro-tip: it doesn’t mean you can’t organize an in-person event on a budget. You can optimize in-person event expenses by: 

  • partnering with local businesses and media for promotion; 
  • organizing an open call for speakers. Many industry professionals will be happy to partake for free;
  • choosing multi-purpose venues. They are usually cheaper than, say, conference-only venues.

Assaf Cohen, founder of Solitaire Bliss, talks about the accessibility of virtual events. “We don’t have the budget to send our employees to conferences. It’s a significant cost for a small gaming business like ours. Virtual events, however, are great for our team as costs are minimal and it’s easily accessible.”

4. Live and in-person events require different sets of technical support 

Technology can make or break your event. And that’s the case with both virtual live and in-person events. 

Naturally, the technical aspect is the deciding success factor for live events. Here’s what you should keep in mind if you want things to run smoothly: 

  • quality streaming software (YouTube Live, Periscope, Livestream, etc.). It allows virtual attendees to access your event agenda and track the event progress in real-time;
  • webinar/conference software (Zoom, ClickMeeting, etc.). If you’re planning to hold discussions or interactive events, a good webinar platform is a must;
  • digital video equipment. Choose a high-quality camera to capture and stream your event. Having a blurry or lagging image can be a deal-breaker for many attendees;
  • swift Internet connection. This one might seem obvious, but pay extra attention to your Internet connection quality before you launch your virtual live event. 
Event technical support

In-person events can also rely on technology especially if you want to enhance attendees’ event experience:

  • event registration and accreditation software (Zoho, Eventbrite, etc.). It helps you avoid crowds at the entrance and filter attendees into categories;
  • digital venue plan/map. Having a convenient, interactive event map is a great way to assist attendees in navigating the venue and quickly finding what they’re looking for.

Pro-tip: don’t forget about the crucial tool that optimizes event organization for live, hybrid, and in-person events alike. It is event management software. A swift event management platform is a scalable solution that automates many processes to save organizers time and money. 
Event management tools like InEvent provide top features to perfectly execute both live and in-person events. The features include digital check-ins, live streaming, badge printing, an event app for networking, and more.

5. Live events are more accessible than in-person events

Event accessibility

If you want to democratize your event and bring it to wider audiences, virtual live events are a better choice for several reasons: 

  • anyone with a stable Internet connection can access virtual event platforms and join live events;
  • live event fees are usually lower than in-person event fees;
  • modern interactive features make it possible for virtual attendees to take an active part in live events;
  • if a person can’t access a live event, the content is still available in the recorded format post-event.

So if your goal is to attract as many attendees as possible and democratize your event, opt for virtual live events. Save in-person events for smaller-scale, more targeted purposes. 

6. In-person events are more valuable for B2B brands than live events

Person-to-person business interaction is especially valuable for B2B brands. In fact, as much as 87% of B2B marketers say in-person events are a key component of a brand’s success. If you’re a B2B business, you might want to prioritize in-person events for several reasons:

  • in-person events allow your B2B brand to closely connect with current and prospective clients, partners, and investors;
  • in-person events help you establish a stronger presence within your business niche;
  • they are more effective at building a positive brand image;
  • they provide instant feedback on your product/service and operations;
  • they drive quality B2B lead generation. 

Even more importantly, hosting in-person B2B events literally gives attendees face time with your brand and humanizes your company. It is crucial for building strong strategic partnerships and boosting customer retention. 

In other words, make sure to invest in in-person B2B events once in a while even if you’re used to virtual communication channels. Don’t forget to organize team meetings and create SharePoint calendar to effectively discuss how to make successful B2B events. 

7. Live events and in-person events allow you to collect different types of data 

One more significant difference factor between live and in-person events is data collection and metric tracking. The more you know about your event, the better you can analyze and learn from these insights. That’s why it’s beneficial to track as many event metrics as possible, such as attendees’ demographic, engagement, behaviors, registration numbers, etc.

Here’s where in-person and live events offer very different opportunities for data collection and analysis. 

Live Events Metrics 

Virtual live events allow for a slick, fully automated data collection process thanks to modern software. You can track such metrics as: 

  • number of virtual check-ins; 
  • attendee engagements and interactions;
  • time spent in-event per attendee;
  • on-demand content views and impressions;
  • click-through rates and conversions, etc. 

Pro-tip: you can also run live polls and surveys to track attendees’ experiences with your live event at every stage. 

In-person event metrics

When it comes to in-person events you can use event management software to track such metrics as: 

  • number of registrations and de facto attendees;
  • event website visits;
  • number of meetings, etc. 

Post-event, be sure to pay attention to the following metrics:

  • lead and customer acquisition rates;
  • brand awareness;
  • event ROI.

Pro-tip: run post-event surveys and polls to collect more valuable data about your event and spot the points of improvement. Use email as the primary communication channel to generate more responses.

Choosing between live events and in-person events for your brand

As you can see, both virtual live events and in-person events are great marketing and business tools. Yet, one can be more effective than the other depending on what results you’re after. 

To make the right decision regarding the format of your next business event, focus on the following factors: 

  • event goals. What do you want to achieve with your event? Are you interested in boosting brand awareness? Promoting your new product? Educating your audience? Align your goals with the pros and cons of both types of events to pick the best option. Don’t forget to establish key event KPIs, too;
  • event budget and technical possibilities. Remember that virtual live events are more budget-friendly but require technical preparations. On the other hand, in-person events are very dependent on a good venue and other collateral expenses;
  • target audience. If you’re targeting B2B clients, an in-person event is often a preferable choice. Virtual live events are the top pick for B2C audiences;
  • event timeline. If you’re short on time, you may prefer virtual live events. They take less time and resources to organize. 

Conclusion  

Holding a business event is a sure way to engage your customer community, attract investors, or gain new partnerships. Thanks to technological progress, we can now choose between real-life in-person events and virtual live gatherings. Both types have their pros and cons so choose wisely. 

And if you want the best of both worlds, you can also explore the hybrid event format. It combines the interaction and engagement of in-person events with digital features such as on-demand replay and remote access. 

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