Online vs in-person events: which is best for your business?

Online vs in-person eventsIt’s been over four years since the world went online to wait out the Covid pandemic. Ask any training or events business and they’ll tell you it was a white-knuckle ride to reformat all their expertise, ready to serve up online.

Now that we’re largely “back to normal”, are businesses still largely delivering training and events online or has face-to-face made a comeback?

More importantly, if you’re considering holding any sort of event for your own small business, are you better off hosting this online or offline?

According to data shared by Statista, around 40% of events held by businesses in 2022 were held online – so there certainly wasn’t a wholesale rejection of online events once lockdown restrictions were lifted.

This tallies with our own experience at NSDesign, where we see consistent levels of interest and attendance to our webinars and online training sessions. 

For most businesses, there will be pros and cons to each format, so let’s take a look at them one at a time …

Online events

Webinars, ‘Lunch and Learns’ and spotlight sessions have all boomed in popularity since 2020. Here’s what you need to know:

Advantages

  • No geographical restrictions. You can promote your business to customers all over the world when you host your events online. You’ll likely find that you still attract mainly a ‘local’ audience (as people seek out more local/trusted trainers and events etc) but you’re certainly not limited to this. Lately we’ve been doing rather well in Texas for some reason! 🤣

  • Record and repeat. Recording your session not only gives absent people a chance to catch up (see point about no shows below!), but it also means you can run pre-recorded repeat sessions with no additional effort. Just make sure people know if they’re watching a recording, rather than a live session.

Things to think about

  • Higher “no show” rates. Around 35% of people failed to show up for online events held during the pandemic, and drop-out rates now are as high as 50% for free events. If you don’t want to charge for tickets, reduce your no show rate by sending reminders, and emphasising the benefits of attending live.

  • Screen fatigue. Many people are on screens all day long, and they can feel reluctant to volunteer their time to attend an online event. You will need to communicate the benefits of attending, and try to make the event itself as interactive as possible, but accept that those who do attend may choose to not engage with you, sitting quietly with mics and cameras off (which they are more than entitled to do).

New to hosting online events? Check out my best practice guide to running a webinar for all the practical tips you need to get your first online event up and running.


In-person events

Product-led businesses, as well as providers of high-ticket services, can benefit from hosting in-person events. Here’s what you need to know:

Advantages

  • Building strong connections. A real-world event offers you the chance to make personal connections with your guests and earn their loyalty. This is ideal if you run a community-based business such as a restaurant or shop. There’s also the additional benefits of bringing customers together, allowing them to network, spot collaborative opportunities, and share stories – hopefully positive ones about your business!  You’ll gain the kudos for that extra benefit as the host of the event.

  • Ease of facilitation. Sharing a physical space with your attendees makes it easier for you to pick up on their body language cues, and communicate effectively. It’s because of this that real-world training sessions are often tailored more (on the fly) to the audience – you’re literally ‘reading the room’ and adapting as you go; much easier when sharing the same space as them.

Things to think about

  • Cost. Thanks to the cost of living crisis, venue hire is now at least 15% more expensive than pre-pandemic, whereas running an online event is very low cost. Also, depending on the length and type of event, you might be expected to provide lunch (or at least refreshments) which will all impact your profits.

  • Lack of flexibility. Many event organisers are reporting stricter T&Cs from venues in recent years. These include tougher cancellation and deposit refund clauses, meaning you may have to make a decision about whether to proceed months before you know how many tickets you can expect to sell.

So, which type of event should I run?

The answer may well be both. If you want to attract a geographically diverse audience at a low cost to you, online events are ideal.

On the other hand, if you want to build a strong local audience, an in-person event could be the best way to do this.

 

For more help with your digital marketing, get booked onto one of our digital marketing webinars, buy the bestselling social media book, or talk to our team.

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