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Can Virtual Events Replace An In-Person Experience?

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Empty red chairs in a speaking hall at a corporate event.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual events have been increasing in popularity. Now, it’s common to hear heated debates about whether virtual sessions can replace in-person experiences. Well, we did plenty of research and came across some pretty interesting findings.

Can Virtual Events Replace An In-Person Experience?

It is unlikely that virtual events will replace in-person experience any time soon. While virtual events have become very popular over the last two years, most people still prefer the personal touch and connection that comes with in-person events.

In fact, according to a report by Apparel Resources, face to face events and trade shows might make a considerable comeback this year. However, online events will continue to be popular as more people are warming up to attending conferences behind a screen.

Why Are Virtual Events So Popular?

To better understand whether online events can replace face to face ones or not, we need to first understand where the whole debate stems from; the recent popularity of virtual events.

There are many reasons why more people are opting to hold events online. These include the fact that they are:

  • Less expensive
  • Easy to organize
  • Better at collecting attendee feedback

Less Expensive

Compared to in-person gatherings, events held online are less capital-intensive. In-person events carry expenses such as:

  • Venue charges
  • Accommodation
  • Logistics
  • On-site staff and crew payments
  • Travel costs
  • Meal costs

Easier to Organize

Planning a in-person event takes a lot of time and energy. Big events, especially, can take more than a year to organize. There are many things in-between that you are required to do to make the event a success.

You have to liaise with production companies, suppliers, vendors, and venue managers and then hold frequent client meetings. A virtual event, on the other hand, may take less time to organize.

Better Attendee Feedback and Analytics

You can measure the success of an in-person gathering based on the number of attendees. However, it might be hard to qualify audience satisfaction due to limited feedback and data. Online meetings and events allow for more accessible feedback collection and analysis.

You can quickly tell whether or not your audience was satisfied and identify areas you can improve on for your next event.

Even with all these benefits, it will still be difficult for virtual events to supplant in-person ones. Let’s look at some of the reasons why we think so.

Why Online Events Can’t Replace In-Person Events

Let’s admit it; virtual events have curved out a plausible niche and revolutionized the events industry. Many people still prefer them over in-person alternatives. However, saying they can replace in-person experiences would be an overstatement.

There are several reasons why we think so:

  • People still prefer in-person interactions
  • It’s hard to engage a virtual audience
  • In-person events allow for improvisation

People Still Prefer In-Person Interactions

Even with the convenience and flexibility of online meetings, most people still prefer to attend events in-person. For instance, Microsoft Ignite attracts up to 30,000 people annually, even though most of the content at the event is available for free online.

These kinds of events are usually expensive to attend in-person. There are high ticket costs, traveling, and accommodations, yet people still choose to go.

Why is that? Because most people crave in-person experiences. It is just easier to build connections and meaningful business relationships this way.

It’s Hard to Engage a Virtual Audience

This is especially hard for entertainment and music events. We have all seen during the pandemic how most DJs resorted to holding sessions online. How many people stood up to dance and enjoy the music? Probably very few.

The same goes for other events like lectures, public speaking, and product launches. It is easy for the audience to get bored and drift away from the event activities. There are so many distractions, and it would be hard to concentrate for more than 30 minutes.

Most event planners admit that the most significant challenge virtual sessions face is a lack of engagement.

In-Person Events Allow For Improvisation

One thing we love about in-person events is that it is really easy to improvise. When the microphone fails, or there is a blackout, you can simply find a strategic position and raise your voice. Video camera misbehaving? No problem, you still have your audience.

It is a bit different for virtual sessions. There are so many things that could go wrong, and you would have little control over them. These include lousy internet connections, audio issues, and power blackouts. It would be hard to circumvent these issues during a virtual meeting.

The Solution: Hybrid Events

The issue should not be to decide which is better between virtual and in-person events. It should be to find a good balance between the two. That is where hybrid events come in. A hybrid event combines both virtual and in-person events.

This gives people the freedom to choose whether they want to attend the event in-person or follow it online. As a result, you cater to a broader audience and expand your reach since everyone is taken care of.

For the best experience, you can work with event experts like Vario, who understand what it takes to place and execute a hybrid event.

Related Questions

Are Virtual Events Better Than In-Person Events?

Both virtual and in-person events have their pros and cons. While online events offer better convenience, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness, in-person events allow for more engagement, networking, and easy improvisation.

How Does a Hybrid Event Work?

A hybrid event merges in-person and virtual conferences to reach a wider audience. This allows event planners to enjoy an even higher engagement, networking opportunities, and return on investment.


It is undeniable that virtual conferences have gotten quite a footing in the events industry. People don’t go to events to solely listen to speeches and lectures. They go there to interact, network, and meet new people. That is why we think it would be difficult for online functions to overshadow the in-person alternative.

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