Events are a great way to connect with your audience and strengthen the community surrounding your area of interest or expertise. In essence, an event is a gathering of like-minded people coming together to reach a shared or individual goal. Your event format should be reflective of this goal and should aim to complement the event objectives set out, creating a shared learning experience for your attendees. However, it takes work to select the suitable event format and there are a lot of variables you need to consider when making your decision. In this article, we will compare and contrast the three main event formats: In-person, Hybrid and Virtual. As well as that, we will provide tips and best practices on selecting the right format for your event.
Different event formats:
Your goals and objectives should be at the core of all of your decisions. Picking your event format is no exception. The goals you identify in the beginning of the process will help you decide based on the benefits of each structure.
Once you have your objectives, you can look at the three main formats: In-person, Hybrid and Virtual.
In-person events are events that take place in a physical location, such as a hotel, conference centre, or office. In-person events require attendees, speakers, and organisers to travel and meet face-to-face. Examples of in-person events are trade shows, seminars, workshops, and networking events. Since COVID-19 in-person events have made a return and are not going anywhere, it is clear from industry trends that people still enjoy that classic human connection.
Hybrid events are events that combine in-person and virtual elements, meaning that some people meet in a physical location while others join via a video stream. Hybrid events require a hybrid event platform and a physical venue, as well as audiovisual technology and video conferencing software. Examples of hybrid events are conferences, product launches, award ceremonies, and roundtables. They are the best of both worlds and are a viable option for you and your team.
Virtual events are gatherings conducted entirely online, incorporating virtual attendees, speakers, and organisers. These events can range, from straightforward webinars conducted in your office to the utilisation of a broadcast studio for live streaming to your audience. Recording a virtual event from a studio offers increased versatility in production, lending a polished and professional look to your event. It is important to have a strong understanding on how virtual events are coordinated.
Things to consider when choosing your event format:
#1 Objectives: Before you do anything you need to ask yourself these questions. What is the purpose of your event? Do you want to educate, entertain, or inspire your audience? What are the outcomes that you want to achieve with your event? Do you want to increase awareness, generate leads, boost sales, or build loyalty? Having answers to these questions will help you when making important decisions and will make sure that you are consistent and stay on track.
#2 Target Audience: To understand the needs and expectations of your target audience, you first need to have a clear understanding of your ideal customer. What are their demographics, interests, and pain points? What are their needs and expectations from your event? How would they prefer to consume and interact with your event? You can collect this information by creating target market segments with the relevant information. To get a more in-depth analysis of your target audience, we suggest that you make target market profiles. These profiles are specific examples of your customers. Hubspot has a great guide on how to create your profile.
#3 Budget: No matter your budget, you always want the best return on your investment. By estimating how much you are willing to spend, you can effectively allocate funds based on what activities will help you reach your objectives.
#4 Risks and Challenges: As event managers, we constantly seek ways to mitigate risk. Concerning the event format we look at how we can ensure the quality, security, and accessibility of the event. To do this, you should make a comprehensive list of the possible risks and challenges you might encounter. This list identifies whether certain formats reduce or eliminate these risks and challenges.
#5 Number and Location of participants: You should have a rough idea of the volume of attendees you expect to attract to your event. Using formats like virtual and hybrid will allow you to increase the number of participants for maximum outreach. It is also essential to consider where your attendees are mostly coming from. They might be less likely to attend if they need to travel overseas. You want to make sure that your event is as accessible to the right people to ensure the event is a success.
Pros and Cons of each event format:
Each event format has its own advantages and disadvantages, depending on your goals, audience, budget, and other factors. We have compiled a list of the pros and cons of each format:
In – person:
Offer unique and personal experience to attendees.
Requires extensive budget
Participants can network and forge new connections.
Can alienate attendees who cannot travel
Inspires collaboration and collective problem solving.
Confined to the time period of the event without creating evergreen content.
Sponsorship opportunities, vendors are able to talk to their consumer and present their product or service.
Attendees generally have better satisfaction
Combine the in-person engagement and unique experience of in-person events with the online reach and ease of virtual events.
May require substantial planning and strategic effort beforehand to execute across multiple platforms and channels.
Can be developed for more people across different buyer or attendee profiles (aka local and remote attendees).
Rely heavily on technology and third-party platforms to execute flawlessly.
Allows you to collect attendee data which you can analyse and use to improve future events.
May create a sense of inequality or exclusion between on-site and online attendees.
Can be expensive with the additional cost of AV technicians and online platforms.
Large scope for attendees. You can build a larger audience of people.
Challenging to maintain engagement throughout the event.
Cheaper to execute.
Make it easy for registrants to not attend or leave early with little control.
Organically build evergreen content through video, social, and other platforms.
Heavily depends on the platform and internet connection.
Make it easy to collect attendee data and background information.
Tips and best practices for your event
Regardless of the event format that you choose, there are some tips and best practices that are universal across all formats:
Define your goals and objectives, make sure they are clear and SMART, and align them with your event format, content, and strategy.
Know your target audience well, and tailor your event to their needs, expectations, and preferences.
Choose a reliable and user-friendly event platform that suits your event format, size, and features.
Plan and prepare your event in advance, and test your technology, equipment, and software before the event.
Promote and market your event effectively, and use various channels, tools, and incentives to attract and retain your audience.
Engage and interact with your audience before, during and after the event, and use various methods, such as polls, Q&A, chat, or surveys, to collect feedback and data.
Measure and evaluate your event performance, and use various metrics, such as attendance, engagement, satisfaction, or revenue, to track and improve your event.
After defining your objectives and deciding what event format you are going to use your next steps will depend on your format choice. For in-person events you will need to start looking for your ideal event space, it is crucial that you start your search early as the rest of your event decisions will follow. For hybrid events, you will need to search for an online platform, AV technicians and a venue which is used to accommodating hybrid events. Virtual events will only require the event platform; however, the size of your event will determine the platform you should use.
Choosing the right event format for your goals, audience, and budget is not an easy task, but it is a crucial one. Now you understand the different event formats, their pros and cons, and their best practices, you can make an informed and strategic decision that will help you create a successful and memorable event. At Go West we understand how stressful and time consuming this process can be, we’ve been in the industry for 28 years! Let us help you organise your next event, book a call with one of our event team and we can take care of everything.
We know how hard it can be to understand what event format is right for you. To help we have created an event format quiz to give you a better idea on what event format is right for you based on your specific objectives. Click the link below to take the quiz and find our whether you need an in-person, hybrid or virtual event.