Being in the event planning industry, salespeople are constantly trying to sell me the newest virtual technologies to make events more easily accessible from a wider audience.
One memorable experience I will always remember is when a salesman came into my office to pitch his virtual event product and at the end of the meeting I asked, “If this product is so great, why are you sitting here in person?” After a few moments of silence, he said, “It’s more effective to sell in-person than through a computer.”
According to a recent Meeting Professional International survey, virtual attendance is projected to grow at twice the rate of live attendance. This rise is the biggest change in how meetings are run since the introduction of PowerPoint.
However, while I believe that virtual meetings can be useful in certain circumstances (when time is short or distance is too far), there are many reasons why in-person events are more effective for businesses, large and small.
Here are five:
1.Reduced distractionsHow many times have you attended a virtual meeting only to be sidetracked by incoming emails from your colleagues or boss? I am guilty; we all are. It is simply unavoidable.
A recent InterCall survey found that of the 340 marketers surveyed, only 62 percent said they would log on from their office. Yet, more than a quarter of respondents were attending from bed (14 percent), their car (9 percent) or from the beach or swimming pool (5 percent)!
When attending an in-person event those innate virtual distractions are removed for participants. Also, it may sound odd, but the peer pressure of the other attendees in the room helps to keep attention on speakers.
2.Beyond the content
When event-goers pony up cash, invest time and take a flight to attend; they’re committed. And these attendees are more likely to take part in breakout sessions, post-event dinners and other networking events, leading to a more involved and complete experience.
Related: These 5 Mistakes Make Meetings a Huge Time Waste
When meetings are held in-person, there is a unique opportunity to get creative and leave a lasting impression about your brand and company culture. A live experience means that attendees can engage multiple senses that just cannot be duplicated with a computer.
3.Comfort zone eliminatedThere is something invigorating about being in a room full of people who are as excited to talk about the same topic as you are. It can renew attendees’ excitement and focus about the topic of discussion.
Attendees are physically in a room with others that have the same learning goal but different backgrounds. This allows for meaningful relationships to grow beyond their industries.
4. Networking hurdles removedBehind the screen is a not an effective place to meet people. The hurried nature of online events may help attendees “meet” a larger number of people, but the virtual world allows for less quality time to interact with others.
An article, which recently appeared in Psychology Today, suggests that too much time behind a screen could hinder people’s ability to recognize emotions -- a vital tool for building successful social relationships.
5. Let’s keep this 'off the record'When attending an in-person event, there is an opportunity to speak more freely in one-on-one situations. There is also a heightened sense of trust when meeting with someone in person vs. just speaking online -- and less of a chance something will be taken out of context.
The next time you consider whether there is enough room on the budget to meet in person, consider these points. While the time and cost is a greater investment, it is worth exploring to reach the goals your organization is looking to achieve.