Virtual, in-person, hybrid, or parallel events? Here’s how to choose

If you’re tired of hearing about Covid-19, this viral enemy that doesn’t seem to want to go away, you’re not the only one. This infectious disease keeps remodeling itself and taking another go, and has forced all of us to adapt to survive. If you’ve just about had enough and frankly, don’t even want to know about the newer variants, then you’re certainly not alone.


You and I, businesses, and the world in general have simply had to cope, from literally changing our behavior and hygiene practices to transitioning in the way we learn, work, and socialize. We have adapted to virtual meetings and all its advantages, we have tried to resume in-person gatherings, we have promoted hybrid meetings, and now, we’re just starting to learn about parallel events.


Considering that a post-covid era seems nowhere near on the horizon, let’s learn about what these different event models are, their advantages, disadvantages and how to choose the right type of events model for your business objectives.


Virtual Meetings


A virtual event is a meeting that uses technology, a personal device such as a laptop, the internet, and a video conferencing service. This meeting has the same structure like any other meeting; the key difference is that all participants attend virtually.



These are the main advantages of virtual meetings:

  • For the most part, it is cheaper to use a virtual events platform than to rent a place for an in-person event. Most rudimentary platforms come at a fraction of the cost it takes to use and prepare a physical venue.

  • Aside from being cost friendly, virtual events are also more convenient. Since they require no traveling time or expenses, this results in savings for both hosts and attendees.

  • They are safer. The main reason companies switched to virtual in the first place was to protect their workers from catching Covid-19. Aside from that, not having to leave your home also means you’re not exposed to other dangers, such as assault or street violence. This one is a major win.

  • With no geographical boundaries, they can even include a wider pool of international participants. Virtual events have made it possible to connect with people from all over the globe.

  • A virtual platform means that there are no spatial limitations, and any number of people can join.

  • Virtual events are more eco-friendly than their physical counterparts because they cut down on paper waste and help our planet by producing less carbon emissions.

  • They are mobility-disability friendly. Again, not having to leave your home means that an attendee that would have otherwise been physically unable to attend an in-person event can now enjoy the program hassle-free.

  • They can be virtually customized with a unique floor plan aimed at maximizing productivity and comfort. There are plenty of advanced platforms that allow for complete tailoring of the virtual arena, which in turn, will increase engagement and interactivity among attendees.

Given that virtual events have so many benefits, it’s hard to imagine that they garner so many negative reactions from naysayers. Some feel that they don’t generate the same emotional feel like an in-person event. Others simply want to go back to “normal.”


Although their advantages can’t be denied, they still come with a few drawbacks:

  • Virtual is a little more challenging on our more senior employees who may find the ever-evolving technology a bit more difficult to navigate. While for a young person, clicking on a link and logging on are not even a task, for someone less versed in technology, this may require physical help from a younger person.

  • Where are the coffee and doughnuts? Those little caloric perks of attending an in-person event basically disappear in a virtual setting.

  • In many cases, having to attend an event means we will put careful detail into our physical appearance, and show off those new shoes or diet results, whereas in a virtual setting, many forget that they are in an actual meeting.

  • Technological issues, such as your net deciding not to work or your laptop freezing are certainly unpleasant limitations.

To some, going virtual is giving up normalcy and allowing ourselves to be held hostage by a virus. In fact, these are the 100% promoters of in-person events.


In-person Gatherings


What exactly is an in-person gathering? Well, it is a meeting just like our lives were before Covid. All participants physically gather at a meeting venue, and have a productive meeting or discussion. In-person events are actually great for many business-related advancements. Think of taking a potential client to lunch, and the productive discussions you can have during a coffee chat, or maybe even a company retreat; these would likely not translate well to a virtual setting.



What are the advantages of in-person events?

  • The most engaging and enriching experience is one you can have in-person, because there are less distractions than when connected remotely. Your cat won’t sit on your keyboard at work, and that already means you will concentrate more.

  • Having to physically show up somewhere does wonders for our self-esteem, because apart from forcing us to stick to a schedule, it means we will try our best to look presentable and this is great for our personal image. Personal image translates to personal appreciation and feeling professional, which helps immensely to combat Covid’s feeling of languishing.

  • Our co-workers are basically our family away from home; the average person spends more time with co-workers than with family members, so we have formed connections and bonds with these individuals, and seeing them in-person is a gratifying experience.

What could be a negative effect of meeting in-person, you may ask? Let’s break it down:

  • As much as we may hate it, Covid is still very much a real threat. Taking measures to protect ourselves and those we care about is the most loving thing we can do at this moment, and that may mean not attending physical events if we risk exposing ourselves or our loved ones.

  • To have a safe event, we must factor in the use of pesky masks and enough space for 6 feet of physical distancing between participants, which translates into having to rent a big enough space for those allocations, so it will be more expensive.

  • Keep in mind that with the physical distance, in order for everyone to be able to hear and see participants and charts, it still requires technology, like adapted microphones and giant screens, which means that in-person meetings are far from simple; they still require tech assistance.

  • In-person events limit international participants, which also limits great talent, at least not without expensive travel.

In-person events, as great as they seem, are really one of the main reasons we haven’t given Covid a real fight, because we keep promoting what are known as super-spreaders. Maybe what will really work best for everyone is a hybrid event.


Hybrid Events


What are hybrid events? The word ‘hybrid’ indicates a cross between two distinct species. A similar concept applies to a hybrid event. It is a conference made up of both in-person participants and online guests. Perhaps your first experience with a hybrid meeting was in a spy movie - Dr. Evil negotiating his price with government officials. That is basically what it is - some participants will engage in-person and some will be remotely connected through a video conferencing service.



Why are a lot of companies leaning towards hybrid events?

  • Hybrid events are highly accommodating. Attendees who wish to participate virtually have the option to work remotely, and those craving a personal connection can participate in-person.

  • This unique catering to our preferences has allowed companies to expand their hiring pool and better weather the Covid storm.

  • Some schools use this mixture of face-to-face and distance learning as their effort to mitigate the spread of the virus, and the students are rotated to create a fair system.

Hybrid events do present some hiccups, though.

  • For instance, while online participation will be more cost effective, you will still require a good video conferencing service, and for in-person participants, you will need to rent a place big enough to be able to implement Covid safety protocols; these meetings will be a higher cost because you are accommodating two groups.

  • Something that has come up in this hybrid setting is that presenters have a hard time splitting their attention between participants. A presentation like a religious service, for instance, might not present this issue, but one that requires participation will.

  • More attention might be directed at in-person attendees than those connected remotely, and technical assistance would be required to simultaneously share a screen with online participants.

Essentially, many hybrid events lead to audiences comparing their experiences in a negative light, resulting in the at-home audience not being adequately cared for and engaged. For this reason, leaders in the events industry have recently coined a term for a new model of events: parallel events.


Parallel events


Parallel events refer to a new event model that combines physical events and virtual events, by creating two different experiences for the in-person and at-home audiences and tying them in with the sharing of key sessions. Seeing that a major disadvantage of hybrid events is that the at-home audience almost always ends up feeling like an after-thought, event specialists saw the need to come up with a new way of catering to both audiences.



Needless to say, this event type has the same advantages of a hybrid event, along with a host of other benefits:

  • Since the agendas differ for both components, parallel events cater to both audiences equally, without having the at-home audience feel like lesser participants.

  • They also grant hosts the freedom to create different content and cater to all audiences, allowing guests to share their experiences.

  • This type of events model has better feedback from attendees in terms of what works and what doesn't. This valuable feedback means that event planners can create new strategies to keep improving the quality of their events.

Since parallel events are the ideal events model, you may wonder if it has any disadvantages? Here are a few:

  • These types of events require tedious organization to make sure those connected remotely are not ignored and the in-person attendees are adequately engaged.

  • Some companies simply don’t have the resources to create two different programs, and may need to keep relying on hybrid events for wider reach and accessibility.


How to choose the right event model


Choosing the right type of event will depend entirely on your goals and budget. If your objective is to gain maximum brand exposure with a limited budget, virtual can be a very efficient solution. If your budget is higher and you want to foster deeper connections among staff or people living in the same area, in-person might be a great option.


If you want your event to be highly accessible, but you have limited time and resources, a hybrid event might help you fulfill your objective. Finally, if you want to offer convenience and accessibility, and you have the time and resources available, a parallel event would be able to attract attendees locally and internationally, while keeping everyone engaged.


Conclusion


All types of event models have their benefits and drawbacks. It’s understandable why some might favor a certain event type, but it’s unreasonable to close your doors to any of the above mentioned. Since governments have lifted restrictions, many people believe that virtual events will become a thing of the past. However, the reality is that they have become an asset that we can’t live without.


Are you still unsure of which event type is the best option for your company's needs? Schedule a demo and brainstorming session with us and we can guide you to make the best choice, according to your goal and budget. With our wide range of services, we are the people you need in your corner for a successful event.