ONLINE vs IRL EVENTS:
Which is Better?
In the event industry, this argument has raged for millennia (actually, the first ever virtual event was 30 years ago in 1993, so we may be mildly exaggerating here for dramatic effect). Which has the greatest impact on a business, in-person, or online events? We sat down with Adam Shoemark, Kevin Windsor and Tim Jenner of our award-winning events team to get their thoughts on the matter…
KW: I think there’s space for both as I feel they serve a very different purpose. Obviously virtual is very good at creating reach but it can also support and then enhance physical activations.
TJ: Virtual events and digital content can be really important in the awareness phase of event activity, before delivery.
AS: A lot of immersive events that were previously physical went online during lockdown – rolling out live virtual versions of their previously IRL activity – and to a degree it worked! The one thing that was missing for me was – it’s very difficult to appreciate how other guests are experiencing the event, so you don’t get ‘caught in the moment’ in the same way.
TJ: I think a good example is probably the Secret Cinema: Guardians of the Galaxy event. There was a whole digital piece where you had to create your avatar and do some code cracking before you attended the live event, which was deeply immersive with tonnes of content generation points throughout the consumer journey, pre and post event. But if you didn’t have the central bit, the event itself, it would have just been like playing a video game!
“If you were there, YOU WERE THERE”
KW: A physical event feels like a better way to create currency in terms of FOMO – through things like merch drops or limited editions that are only available in one place that you must get down to. People always go on about the t-shirt that was a limited edition 1 of 1000 because, if you were there, YOU WERE THERE. It’s about being present at the right time and that’s so important these days.
TJ: True, physical events are very good for brands that need their audience to touch and feel to truly experience and appreciate their offering – whereas a virtual event can’t necessarily get that across in the same way. But that’s not to say that a physical event can’t also be virtual at the same time.
AS: That’s why we have the content-first approach – because we never just put on events for the people who are physically there. It’s always with the view of it being a content factory that generates digital outputs to enhance the experience – not just to the minority 1% of the target audience that attend the experience but to the 9% that will actively engage with campaign content as well as the 90% that hear about the event through PR, social and WOM. So, what we’re saying is that the ideal is a perfect balance of both…
TJ: I guess ultimately it is. Events are all about meaningful connections so, if you can emulate that across digital and irl, in doing so you’ll elevate the experience for the consumer and have a successful event.