Staying connected to your community means everything these days.
As the world continues to grapple with new realities, people are leaning into their communities for support and motivation like never before.
For event planners, who over the last year and a half were thrown for a curve with the sudden, necessary adoption of digital venues and are now feeling a certain deja vu with variants and changing mandates, are now in a challenging position of deciding how their communities should gather. Should you go in-person, digital or hybrid?.
At the end of the day, there’s nothing like the face-to-face experience. Whether that be in office work environments or in-person annual events, we all miss a certain something when we gather in-person. When your community gets together and you can hug and compare session notes and meet for drinks, things feel... normal.
Let’s look at some pros and cons of a solely in-person event.
Emotion: Experiencing the 7 Senses
When people are face to face with each other, conversations are more dynamic. You can hear and feel the tone of each other's voice, smell the leftover lasagna in their recently re-heated Tupperware, and feel excitement together as a community when a big win comes knocking at the door.
During the event, the bass beat echoes throughout the body, and warm hugs from old colleagues fill the heart with joy; that just can’t be replaced. Humans rely on our seven senses every day, and experiencing the joys of being together with other people is difficult to recreate digitally.
Kara Krause, SVP of Event Marketing and Communications at E.J. Krause & Associates, believes personal experiences bring more emotional value: “during in-person meetings, people can better pick up on non-verbal cues and don’t have to deal with the frustration of audio or video cutting out. They can form a stronger emotional connection, network and engage more freely and establish a trust factor—and on top of that, the lead can tangibly see or try the product. All of these elements are crucial for making a sale. And not to mention, both parties are less likely to get distracted by a notification or a different browser tab.”
People Feel Part of Something Bigger
When we are in-person with our community working for a shared goal, experiencing those seven senses of the highs and lows together can be a rewarding experience.
According to the wellbeing people: “having a sense of community embraces spirit, character, image and pride and is a vital element of a healthy community. It is a feeling that people within the community matter to one another with a shared faith that their needs will be met through commitment and togetherness. Being a part of a community can make us feel as though we are a part of something greater than ourselves.”
Do you need an answer from your boss on this logo design? Just walk into their office. Quick, to the point, and you probably spent more time walking to their office than having a conversation with them. When we are meeting in-person, communication is constant, it gets to the point and there is no waiting around to troubleshoot challenging problems.
According to the Harvard Business Review: “it’s harder for institutional knowledge to make its way around in a remote environment. A lot of information sharing happens through short, informal conversations between people over the course of a normal workday. Working from home requires that every interaction be scheduled or take place over text. That extra effort can make people less likely to ask quick questions or share something they just learned informally than if everyone was working together.”
Communication is what drives business. When communication is flowing smoothly, the results can speak for themselves. Communication in a digital environment requires a bit more effort and more waiting around if it is asynchronous.
Attendees have limited time and money to attend your event, especially if it involves travel. Not everyone has the resources to travel, but these attendees still need to connect and learn to grow professionally. If someone can’t get to your in-person event, they will have to miss out on the whole experience altogether. They won’t learn or grow at all and may rethink their membership.
Attendees and organizations have to consider the total cost of attendance: registration, hotel stay, travel, meals. The cost to attend will always be an obstacle and if members can’t attend the event in-person, the only option is to not go. By offering digital experiences, there is always another option, and you can offer reduced or even free registrations.
From a 2019 Meeting Spend Report: “the average cost per attendee rose by 12 percent in the current report, when compared with two years ago (an average of $1,117 in 2017 vs. $1,252 this year).”
Potential Harm to Work-Life Balance
There are many pros and cons on whether work can stay at home, but some of the statistics jump out: “82% of remote workers report lower levels of stress compared to working in an office environment” and “83% of workers say working for a company that provides opportunities to work remotely would make them happier in their job.”
In-person events can also be very time consuming especially with travel. The more time people spend traveling and attending events, the less time they have to contribute to the community.
The in-person experience will always be irreplaceable, but as the future gets more tech savvy, having another option can help increase your reach and value. However you shape your community experience, make sure it fits the needs of your members for a better tomorrow. Next time we’ll discuss pros and cons of virtual only and hybrid. Stay tuned!