Virtual Events Will Always Underperform Live Events

Virtual Events Will Always Underperform Live Events

Having just returned from the National Agri Marketers Association conference and tradeshow – my first live event in over a year – I firmly believe that virtual will never replace in person events. Yes, there will be more virtual events and many traditional live events will be a hybrid moving forward. Here is why virtual events will always underperform live events.

While you may think tradeshows and conference are primarily about new clients and selling products, you’d be wrong. These events are first about connecting with other attendees on neutral ground. Before you can sell anyone, you have to establish a connection with them.

When it comes to virtual events, there is one big problem. The location of the attendees. In Malcom Gladwell’s book, Talking to Strangers, he discusses “coupling theory”; how behaviors are “coupled” to the context in which they occur. In other words, your behaviors are associated with your location.

The Context of the Office

This is where you focus and get work done. You routinely say no to salespeople and other interruptions that take you away from focusing on deadlines and the responsibilities your job requires. The office is where you problem solve issues, plan and execute strategy and manage your people.

The Context of Live Events

We go to these events to connect with friends, meet new people, and get new ideas. You let colleagues and customer know you’ll be away from work. You likely say yes to lots of follow up meetings at these events – something you rarely do on a typical workday.

Why Virtual Events Will Never Match the Results of Live Events

Have you ever met someone at a live event you just clicked with and years later you still have a connection? If you are like me, many of your best customers and friends are people you’ve met at industry events. Think about how many people you’ve met virtually with whom you have a close connection? Be honest, it’s probably zero.

Your Behavior is Coupled to Your Location

With virtual events, your behavior is coupled to your location – most likely your work environment. You won’t be as open to new ideas sitting in your office as you will when that same idea is shared at an event. Plus, if your phone rings or an email comes in, you are going to deal with those things because your behaviors won’t change unless you change the context.

If you must attend virtual conferences, leave the office. It’s not a 100 percent solution, but a step in the right direction. Go to a place where you normally entertain guests. A conference room or waiting area in the office. Your kitchen or patio if you work from home. By leaving your office you’ll naturally be more inclined to listen to new ideas and more open to meeting new people.

While changing your physical location for virtual events will help you get more out of them, it won’t replace the face-to-face interaction of a live event. The shared experience of a meal, a drink and a laugh with others at live events connects you in ways a Zoom call or Microsoft Teams meeting can’t. Then there’s the occasional random-encounter turned lucrative-deal at a live event that would be a “virtual impossibility” in an online setting. It may take some time for events to resume full-strength, but they will because there is no equal to meeting face-to-face.

Need help getting more out of your events? Give us a call, we can help you stand out and earn more connections.

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