Will your conference be more impactful if you host it virtually or if you shell out the money to rent a venue? What are the pros and cons of each option? Let's take a closer look at what you need to know about the benefits and drawbacks of holding an in-person event vs. a virtual conference.
Hosting a conference can be a great way to build brand recognition, foster a sense of community, generate revenue, fundraise, establish your organization as a leader and authority in your industry, and so much more.
When you're considering putting on an event with speakers, networking events, workshops, discussions, and other productive sessions, one major question that quickly pops up is whether or not to host the conference in person.
Will your conference be more impactful if you host it virtually or if you shell out the money to rent a venue? What are the pros and cons of each option?
Let's take a closer look at what you need to know about the benefits and drawbacks of holding an in-person event vs. a virtual conference.
The ability to host a remote conference has truly been a game changer.
Not only was it essential during the peak of the pandemic, but it also meant that putting on an event can be cheaper and less complex while also allowing you to reach a larger, global audience.
One of the major benefits of remote conferences is that they can be significantly less expensive to put on than renting a venue and holding an in-person conference.
Of course, some expenses will be associated with your conference even when you hold it online. For example, you will still likely incur speaker fees and the license for virtual conference software. That being said, it will almost certainly be cheaper than the cost of venue rental, travel fees, etc.
What this means is that you can put on a conference on a shoestring budget if you so choose. On the other hand, the money you would have spent renting a conference space can be allocated to marketing, virtual catering, getting an extra awesome (and pricey) speaker, swag for attendees, and much more.
Unless you, your speaker, and all of your attendees live in the same idyllic and highly walkable city, there's a good chance that hosting an in-person conference is going to require a significant travel budget. Beyond that, people that might be very interested in attending your conference might not be able to due to associated costs.
Not only does this cost money for your company and individual participants, but it's also a serious time cost. After all, attending a conference for many means flights, hotels, restaurant meals, and maybe even taking time off of work. When you host a virtual conference, the disruption to one's routine and life is minimal.
When you rent a venue, there's a limit to how many people can show up and attend your conference. Your audience can be substantially larger if you hold a virtual conference– the only limits are your marketing ability and the virtual conference platform's capabilities.
Since participants don't even have to leave their homes to attend, you'll find more people will pursue their interest in your conference. Individuals who would be on the fence about an in-person conference will be much more likely to check out your virtual event, as there's a lot less risk in it for them.
Putting on a remote conference rather than renting a venue won't just save you money; it will save you the ever-valuable commodity of time. Time won't be lost to making logistical arrangements and traveling– instead, you can stay centered preparing for what matters most– putting on the most awesome virtual conference your audience has ever attended.
Participants can also save a boatload of time when you put on a remote conference, as they can attend without disrupting their typical routine.
Does your company brand itself as a friend to the environment? If so, you might consider the environmental implications of the remote vs. in-person conference debate.
Remote conferences can have a significantly smaller carbon footprint thanks to reducing the amount of necessary travel. This could be another selling point if you're pushing your sustainability efforts.
Finally, a major perk of virtual conferences is that they are super convenient and highly accessible. Anyone who has an internet connection can join in.
This also means you can access a wider pool of potential speakers, helping ensure that this conference is as impactful and effective as possible.
Of course, there are two sides to every coin. Certain aspects of in-person conferences can be difficult to recreate virtually.
That being said, with careful planning and attention, it's possible to host an event online that is just as engaging, collaborative, and enriching as an immersive conference held at a physical venue.
One of the primary drawbacks of remote conferences is that it's hard to recreate the opportunities for face-to-face interaction that are inherent in in-person events. Though this is an obstacle, it isn't an impassable one.
In order to ensure that there are opportunities to build relationships and create meaningful connections, it's important to schedule virtual social events and create a sense of community within the conference.
While putting your conference on virtually makes attending much more convenient for more people, it can also make it harder for your conference to create a complete, all-encompassing environment that participants jump into. This means that there can be a lot more distractions in the immediate environment of those attending, whether it's work-related tasks, pets, spouses, or that TV show they've been binging this weekend.
Again, this isn't a deal breaker. It does mean, though, that successful virtual conferences require extra attention when it comes to encouraging focus and engagement throughout the sessions.
Finally, another downside of remote conferences is that there is always the potential for technical problems. These issues can occur both on the side of the hosts and on the side of the attendees, including audio/video problems, poor internet connection, and compatibility issues between devices.
Luckily, there are things you can do to avoid this unfortunate outcome. One of the most important steps you'll want to take is doing a few dry runs before the day of the event. This way, you can work out whether any hiccups need to be ironed out as the day approaches.
After reading the list of benefits of remote conferences, you might wonder why anyone would bother with the cost, stress, and complexity of putting on an in-person event.
Perhaps the most persuasive reasons have to do with the potential for increased engagement and the networking opportunities that can result from in-person interaction.
Let's face it– there's something special about face-to-face interaction that can't fully be recreated virtually. Participants can mingle and interact directly without any pesky technology acting as an intermediary.
This can help facilitate exchanging ideas, relationship building, and networking.
Anyone who has ever attended an in-person conference knows that it can feel like being in a world all its own. The environment is immersive and focused, filled with other people with similar interests. On top of that, participants have likely taken the weekend to travel to the conference, making it much more of an "event" as opposed to logging on to their computer at home to listen to a speaker virtually.
If you've ever attended a virtual meeting or conference, you're likely aware of the potential for distractions that pull you away from the focus of the event. In-person events, when well organized and orchestrated, can help center attention on the main themes, speakers, and ideas that brought everyone together in the first place. Participants can also feel more involved as they are able to interact with each other face to face and pick up on nonverbal cues like body language, which is much more difficult to do virtually.
There are many more organic collaboration opportunities when you rent a physical venue for your conference. At the same time, this doesn't mean that you have to write off team-building experiences and collaborative activities when you host a virtual conference.
Instead, you simply have to create deliberate opportunities for people to work together. For example, having smaller groups engage in virtual escape rooms together or enjoy a rowdy game of live trivia can be a great way to tap into the power of collaborative effort.
Renting a venue to put on your conference can create a highly professional setting for your event.
This can help to boost your brand image, as your ability to put on such a high-class event helps to create a favorable impression.
Though it's certainly an advantage of virtual conferences that you can have as many participants as your conferencing platform will allow, it's worth noting that the limited number of attendees at a rented venue can help create a more intimate environment.
What this means is that there can end up being more opportunities for panelists to host in-depth Q&A sessions when you rent a venue and hold an in-person conference than is always possible with virtual events. Of course, this isn't necessarily the case in every instance, as you can host smaller, more immersive remote conferences.
Now, let's take a look at why you might be swayed away from renting a physical venue for your conference.
The big ones include the significant expenses, logistical implications, and audience limitations.
One of the most obvious drawbacks of renting a venue for a conference is the cost. A long list of factors will influence how you should budget for this large expense– including location, length of time, number of participants, amount of space you intend to rent, and so on.
When it comes to the location, you'll find places like San Diego, Chicago, D.C., and other major American cities will have significantly higher rental prices than smaller cities.
Of course, the type of venue you're looking for will have an impact as well. Luxury hotels are going to demand a much higher price tag. Your total cost will also be substantially influenced by the number of rooms you need to rent and for how long.
Some venues will bundle the cost of wait staff and catering into the price. This will mean that venue rental costs are more expensive, but it eliminates the necessity of finding a caterer and coordinating with them.
You also have to consider the rental cost of tables, chairs, and linens if the venue doesn't provide them. Add in the cost of printing branded elements, paid advertising, A/V equipment and staff, travel expenses and hotel accommodations, and speakers and presenters; it's not hard to imagine how the bill could start stacking up quickly.
Hosting an in-person conference also means contending with a number of logistical and travel challenges. If your speakers, presenters, and attendees are flying in from elsewhere, you have to factor in the possibility of travel setbacks and scheduling problems.
On the other hand, when you host a virtual conference, you don't have to worry about flight delays or weather. You won't have to deal with the inevitable panic when the caterer is fifteen minutes late or when the A/V guy is a no-show. Don't worry; if you're putting on a remote conference, that doesn't mean your attendees will have to supply their own munchies and treats. We specialize in catering remote events, so whether you want to send pizza or cocktails to your participants, we've got you covered.
While renting a venue for your conference can certainly offer some benefits, it does limit how many people can attend.
Traveling to a physical location is certainly going to mean that some otherwise interested parties will stay home, meaning the entire event is capped in its potential impact.
In-person events can have a pretty big carbon footprint, with dozens - if not hundreds - of people traveling to one location.
If you're aiming to reduce your environmental impact as an organization, this in itself can be a compelling reason to consider a virtual conference.
Depending on the purpose of your conference and your organizational goals, it's possible that there's a clear winner in the remote conference vs. venue rental debate. Though in-person conferences could make sense for some brands for some purposes, online conferences are much more cost-effective and accessible while also having the potential for a broader reach.
If you find yourself firmly in the virtual event camp, you'll be glad to know that we specialize in providing catering and experiences for remote conferences, meetings, and teams.
Are you interested in incorporating some fun, team-building activities into your next conference? How about a coffee chat, virtual happy hour, or lunch event? No matter what you're looking for, we're here to help. If you're planning out your next remote conference, you can start your order with us today.