Virtual Events vs. Physical Events

by | Dec 2, 2020

Hosting virtual events has become the norm due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, physical events will not disappear thanks to governments loosening safe distancing restrictions over time as the spread of the virus weakens.

Unsure if you want your events to be conducted on the ground or over the screens? Let us lay down their pros and cons for you to consider:

Pros of Virtual Events

  • Can reach out to wider audience
  • Connect whenever or wherever you want
  • Can be recorded and viewed again for those who missed it
  • Dress code is not necessary
  • Insights are easier to acquire
  • Lower costs to maintain

With virtual events, event organizers do not need to worry about having too many event-goers in an event or controlling huge crowds that could be messy and chaotic to handle. As many as thousands of event-goers can be at the event, enjoying the same content at the same time.

As video conferencing apps are available on mobile and tablets too, virtual events are accessible anywhere, either you are outside or at home. Instead of taking a private car service down to the venue, all you have to do is to log in to the app, enter the correct code, and voila! You are in the event. And even if you are unable to make it for the event, event organizers can record the event and save the video for you so you won’t miss out on a thing from there.

Except for business or other professional events, choosing the right clothes for the event won’t be a factor to consider. Event-goers can wear whatever they want to wear when they are at a comfortable place to be themselves.

Video conferencing apps can collect data and insights from all participants of the video. With the data, event organizers and business partners can understand their target audiences better and host more virtual events that will resonate with them.

And lastly, virtual events are easier on the financial side of things. All you need are some recording equipment, some catering services, and entertaining hosts to preside the virtual event.

Cons of Virtual Events

  • Lack of face-to-face interactions/networking
  • Distractions
  • Less physical excitement
  • Higher rate of “no show” registrations

Despite the convenience and comfort virtual events have brought to us, several negative aspects could hinder networking opportunities and audience engagement.

Many would agree that it is better to create a network with someone in person rather than online. Not only is it more personal, but also both parties can easily access each other. When talking to individuals on a virtual platform, it may feel like there is a wall in between them that may hinder communications. Hence, some seasoned businessmen still prefer networking in person.

Distractions are another thing that may affect the quality of the virtual event. Is your kettle letting out steam? Are there kids playing in the background? Your family members calling you out while you are in a meeting? All these can be annoying to everyone in the event, especially if it is from the host’s end and he or she cannot mute his microphone because they have to speak to the rest of the event-goers.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 95% of event activities are physical. That is because human interactions and engagement are better delivered and received in person. And so, more companies still prefer physical events to digital ones.

Lastly, the privacy settings of virtual events have created a new problem: more participants not actively participating. Some participants would leverage the privacy settings by turning off their cameras and microphones and do something else while the presenter is speaking. One way to mitigate it is to enforce a “No turning off Camera” rule to encourage participation.


Pros of Physical Events

  • Easy merchandising distribution and sampling of products
  • More active participation
  • More interactivity
  • Stronger brand awareness

Ever since before the pandemic, most companies prefer to host physical events for their products so that their target audience has a better feel and understanding of whatever they are promoting. Although virtual events try to replicate that (such as allowing users to “try” on clothes using a virtual avatar or using 3D models of products), nothing beats seeing and touching the products with your senses.

Because the participants have to be present at the event, they are encouraged to be active and engaging with the event promoters or other participants. On a virtual event, participants can participate in the event even without saying a single word or showing their faces, which discourages networking and interactivity with others. Hence, physical events are more suitable for networking and activity than virtual ones.

When it comes to interactivity, there are more ways to host activities for physical events than virtual ones. Virtual events are limited to a screen and either a touchscreen or a keyboard and mouse. With physical events, companies can host activities that allow their participants to interact using their entire bodies.

With higher interactivity comes better brand awareness. Not only are you aware of what the brand is offering but also what kind of quality do they deliver and how do they satisfy their clients, something that virtual events could not do. Therefore, most companies still prefer physical ones.

Cons of Physical Events

  • Limited to region and districts
  • May risk breaking safe distancing laws
  • Dependent on weather conditions
  • Not ideal for busy individuals

Unfortunately, physical events are only available at either one place or a few selected places. And even then, no two physical events are alike. Virtual events allow anyone from anywhere around the world to participate. But physical ones only allow participants who are either near the area or can travel there to participate. Hence, the number of participants is limited.

As of now, safe distancing laws are still active. Any event company who will breach it will be penalized heavily and banned from hosting events in public spaces. Although an event organizer can hire part-time staff to facilitate the distance between participants in crowds, it can get hectic and messy if there are a lot of people in the vicinity, which may potentially attract the attention of safe distancing ambassadors.

Even before the pandemic, physical events faced a dilemma that has been plaguing them since the advent of events management: weather. Most outdoor events are affected by heavy rain or thunderstorm that could ruin the experience for the participants there. It is not just rain that everyone hates; hot weathers that make everyone sweat and stuffy can be an event killer, too.

Lastly, busy individuals have grown accustomed to the convenience of virtual events. You do not need to go down to the site to enjoy the event. On top of that, you can still participate in the event while working on something else. Physical events cannot provide such benefits to these busy individuals and may risk losing them when they are prioritizing their work or family lives over mere event participation.


Whether you opt for a virtual event or a physical one, it is essential to determine other factors. Are your target audience busy individuals or people who like outdoor activities? Is it necessary to host on-site? Or can it be done online to save costs? Anyone planning an event must consider them before deciding on which option to choose.

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