How Do Virtual Events Compare to Physical Events?

Many multi-sponsor marketing events are still physical events, and last week I had a chance to attend one. I flew from San Francisco to Denver to attend keynotes and breakouts, learn about new vendors, and network with other marketers. It was a solid event and worth my time, but it made me think about why people may want to attend physical events versus virtual events. Here are my top 3 reasons for each.

3 Great Things About Attending a Physical Event

Face-to-face interactions matter.

In a world where we spend so much time online, sitting in front of our laptops or staring down at our mobile phones, it’s nice look someone else in the eye when you say hello. Meeting people you’ve only spoken to on the phone or via email adds an important layer to the relationship, allowing for a different kind of communication. Yes, we love virtual events, but the world needs handshakes.

Everyone likes a change of scenery.

The daily grind is the daily grind, whether you work from home in your pajamas most days or fight the traffic for a daily two-hour commute. There’s something to be said for changing it up, getting on a plane or taking a different freeway to spend the day literally looking at a different scene. Not to mention the change in what you’re doing – most conferences aim to be educational, so hopefully you’re engaged in learning while enjoying the view.


I admit it, I still pick up the conference t-shirt and peruse booths for the best items to take home, even though the last thing I need is another water bottle That’s a fun part of in-person events, although when I think of packing that swag in my suitcase, I start to reconsider.


3 Awesome Things about Attending a Virtual Event

It doesn't disrupt my life.

Travel can be tough. Two hours from house to flight, then flight time and the drive to the hotel can be a lot of “dead” time where email piles up and calls get pushed—not to mention the time blocked off on the calendar for the conference itself. Hotels can be noisy, conference food not so good, and the daily fitness routine can go right out the window. When attending a virtual conference, most of that doesn’t apply. I'm more in control of how I use my time, and while multitasking can be challenging, jumping from a virtual keynote to my inbox might just keep me sane.

I can browse without pressure.

I’m generally interested in seeing what vendors have to offer. There are lots of tools out there we don’t use, and by chatting it up with booth reps, I can learn a lot about what’s new, what’s possible, and what I should consider for our needs. But I don’t want to chat with everyone. At a physical event, I often avoid eye contact or try to browse datasheets from the back of the booth. In a virtual summit, I can take my time, browse what I want when I want, easily ignoring chats from any overzealous sales reps—a much more relaxing experience.

It’s not just “one and done.”

Sure, a physical conference will provide access to the presentation decks after the fact and sometimes offer recorded sessions for later viewing. But in general, once it’s done, it’s done. Smart companies produce virtual conferences with the idea that I’ll come back again and again. Maybe there were too many great sessions playing at the same time, or I want to grab some collateral to share with my CEO; whatever the need, I can revisit the experience on my terms, increasing the conference’s value for me and its ROI for the summit producer.

Yes, we’re a bit biased, but we still see the value in physical events. Many of our clients offer a hybrid of the two, with live streaming, repeat days, or any number of the many options that add value for physical attendees while extending reach to virtual attendees. There’s a place for both in any marketing mix. When you’re ready to go virtual, give 6Connex a call.


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