It's safe to say that the future of marketing is online. The popularity of online events and the ongoing sanitary crisis has led many to believe that in-person events are becoming obsolete. But face-to-face interactions with your audience, prospects, and clients can never be replaced by digital content.
Sure, there are lots of benefits to an online event such as ease of attendance for those who might not have the time or energy to attend an in-person one but don't overlook some additional aspects that are difficult or impossible to replicate digitally. For instance, you can't get that feeling of excitement and enthusiasm when walking into a room full of people with a common goal. You miss out on all the jokes and laughter from your peers while catching up before getting down to business. And that’s not all. The awe, the engagement, and the surprise one will experience during in-person events are less intense and joyful during online interactions. Here’s why:
Nonverbal communication plays a significant role in our lives, as it can improve a person's ability to relate, engage, and establish meaningful interactions in everyday life. Nonverbal cues are stimuli that provide information without using words or speech. This is different from body language which relies on gestures and movements of the body rather than just facial expressions. Research has found that nonverbal cues such as posture and eye contact can influence how people perceive others' personality traits such as competence.
According to Chris Voss, author and former FBI lead hostage negotiator, nonverbal communication is conditioned by the 7-38-55. As Voss notes, “The rule states that 7 percent of meaning is communicated through spoken word, 38 percent through tone of voice, and 55 percent through body language.”
The lack of non-verbal communication in online events can be a major obstacle for some people. In contrast to face-to-face interactions, when there is no body language or tone of voice available to assist with understanding, the context and meaning behind words must often be inferred based on prior knowledge and experience. This makes it difficult for individuals who may have trouble reading cues such as sarcasm, humour, or anger in someone's facial expression or tone of voice.
To create long-lasting memories, you have to engage your attendees’ senses. For example, you can:
- Use floral or light venue decorations for sight;
- Play soft music during the meal for hearing;
- Serve finger foods like olive tapenade and hummus for touch;
- Incorporate scents into your atmosphere for smell;
- Prepare a delicious dessert for taste.
Combining all these sensorial experiences will help you enchant your attendees, making sure they’ll remember your event. But that’s something you won’t be able to reproduce digitally.
Keeping attendees' attention during virtual events can be difficult. Research suggests that in normal circumstances, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for someone to start daydreaming or become disengaged. Online events make disengagement easier, considering the number of tabs an attendee will open during a session. The internet provides virtually unlimited resources for entertainment, which creates a lack of interest in what is happening at the session on stage. At least during an in-person event, you can address this problem by redirecting people’s attention from their screens to the stage.
There’s nothing like the experience of being at an event where you're surrounded by people who share your passions and interests as well as connecting with new people. In-person networking events have shown to give a higher likelihood of closing deals than virtual ones do. Networking is a key element to the experience at any event. Attendees who mingle and network will have more opportunities to find new connections, discover potential customers or business partners, and build relationships with fellow enthusiasts of their passions and interests.
The surprise factor
The surprise element is what makes in-person events so intriguing; the element of not knowing what to expect can be thrilling and inspiring. People love it when they're surprised by something, whether it's with a reward or an unexpected light show.
As event professional Kevin Van der Straeten explains, "In order to really get through to your audience, you need to provide them with a genuine experience, an experience that will linger long in their memory. If you are able to engage people’s emotions in this manner, you will be better able to build up long-term, sustainable relations and they will be quicker to pick up and accept your message. The art of creating this kind of experience consists in the development of a total concept with a high WOW!-factor.” However, achieving the “WOW” feeling is much harder during online events.
Traveling to new locations
You can obviously travel during online events … from the kitchen table to the living room sofa. But, let’s not forget that in-person events are an excellent way to explore new places and even experience a new culture. They allow for exploration, learning, and networking in a new environment. No matter how digitised our society becomes, people are always going to be interested in the physical aspect of cities. They want to experience new destinations, interact with other cultures, and try the local cuisine. Travelling is an experience like no other and online events won’t replace it.
Considering the extraordinary circumstances, we’re relying heavily on running and attending online events as a way of learning and connecting with others. But these online experiences are missing some of the important aspects of in-person interaction such as body language and facial expressions. This is why many see offline events as being more important than virtual ones because they provide an opportunity for both parties to be present, interact with one another physically, and share their thoughts without fear of judgment or misinterpretation.