As teleworking becomes more common and the benefits become more apparent, so too are online events such as conferences, trade shows, marketing fairs, team building, and more growing in frequency and effectiveness.
With coranavirus-slowing restrictions bringing traditional in-person business events to a virtual halt, there may already be an accelerated transition to online events, and, once the crisis is over, there is a strong likelihood that the trend will continue.
Managers and planners have to make decisions based on what is best for their companies, and understanding the pros and cons of online events is critical.
Reduced costs-- Without having to cover airfare, airport parking, hotel stays, and expenses such as meals, businesses can save a great deal of money through virtual events. On the planning/hosting end, lower overhead can translate into lower rates for speakers and other services, with those savings passed on to the attendees as reduced registration fees.
Easier planning and logistics-- Planners quite simply have less setup and less to manage. Attendees do not have to miss family events, work out travel arrangements, or spend numerous hours getting to and from the occasion.
Increased participation-- Because of the elimination of scheduling conflicts and logistical hurdles, more people can participate. In addition to more numbers of people participating, people can also “attend” more events, courses, etc. Quite often, two seminars one is interested in are at the same time and only offered at those times. Online events solve the tough decision that results from not being able to be in two places at once. Participants can usually set their own schedules, accessing the event anytime and anywhere as long as there is an Internet connection.
Extended access-- In-person conferences transpire over a set amount of time, and material covered generally is not available afterward. With online conferences and other events, material is usually accessible well after the event is officially over, sometimes for a year or more.
Less stress over appearance-- Do not underestimate the appeal of this one. Unless the online event requires face time with other participants, no one has to dress meticulously, shave that weekend stubble, put on makeup, etc.
Eco-friendliness-- An online event consumes dramatically less in terms of resources than an in-person one does. Think of the reductions in paper waste, emissions, and more.
Reduced personal connections and networking-- Among the principal benefits of an in-person conference or marketing fair are the personal connections that develop just through eye contact, handshakes, and spontaneous conversations. With them often come valuable innovating and brainstorming. Online events provide for little or none of that.
Motivational challenges-- Think about a gym membership. If you have one, you have a financial incentive to go work out. Sure, you can work out at home, and some do, but it’s easy not to. Similarly, once one has gone to the effort to travel to a conference, there is more of an incentive to attend speeches, seminars, and other events. (Plus, there may be a displeased employer if one doesn’t.) At home, though, one can feel less drive to sign in and participate in a virtual conference.
Distractions-- In addition to finding motivation to get started a challenge, one can have a hard time avoiding distractions and staying on task. Getting up to have a snack, going for a walk, working on a pet project, and so many other things can be so tempting. And that’s not even including all the distractions just one new tab away.
No “vacation” factor-- Many who attend in-person events look forward to doing so because it is a vacation of sorts in that they get to see new places and experience new things they otherwise might not. Sometimes those trips are performance-based awards and great morale boosters. Also, the attendees look forward to interacting with peers in their fields, seeing former colleagues, and making new connections. (And then there are all those miles they’re getting from the airlines!)
Some organizers are now arranging hybrid-type events that retain the benefits of online events while restoring some of the things that were lost. With creative thinking and increasingly sophisticated technology, it may be possible to have it all, or nearly all, at least when it comes to online events.