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Online vs. In-Person Events: Pros and Cons

Insights, Lifestyle

woman drinking coffee and looking at a laptop with a smile on her face

Online events offer convenience, lower costs, and greater accessibility, enabling wider participation and increasing revenue for organizers. However, the digital format may result in less engagement and transformation for attendees. In contrast, in-person events provide real-time interaction and sensory engagement that aids memory and builds trust. With the rise of AI, authenticity online is challenging. Hybrid event planning bridges the gap, combining the strengths of both formats and fostering lasting relationships and transformation despite potential inconveniences.

What are the pros and cons of online vs. in-person events? Are online events, from meetings to conferences to retreats, going to replace in-person events? Is hybrid event planning a workable alternative?

Can the digital world replicate and replace the warmth of a handshake or hug at a live event? Should it?

With the rise of AI (Artificial Intelligence), an ever-widening world of digitally produced events is available to a wider audience. We have almost infinite opportunities for exposure to content, education, expertise, and more online acquaintances.

Yet, studies show we are more lonely and disconnected than ever. We crave human interaction. Trust is built differently online than in person.


Online vs. in-person events are more accessible

The main advantage of online events is accessibility and convenience. You can log in from anywhere and participate in events you could not otherwise attend. This lowers the cost for both the attendees and the organizers.

The attendee has no travel expenses and the organizers have less overhead. The organizers often will allow for more attendees in an online event than they would in person increasing their revenue and profits. The commitment level for the attendees is much lower.

If this is the goal of the organizers, then the online format is to their advantage. Event outcomes are based on revenue rather than the personal growth of each attendee. It requires less staff and lower touchpoints. It also likely results in less transformation for the participants.

Even a smaller group gathering can quickly cross into the type of event where the attendees have bought a ticket to spectate instead of participate. How often will attendees ask, “Will there be a replay?” We limit our investment and commitment to the price of the ticket and want to consume our purchase on our terms.

Hosts often add, “Please have your camera on”, to their instructions. Camera off can be interpreted by others that you are multitasking or not giving your full attention. It’s like having an in-person conversation with someone who is looking at their phone or distracted by what’s going on around them. It may not be the case, but without the in-person queues, we can only guess why you are not engaging with us.

Group of 4 women on a couch having an in-person business meeting

In-person conversations and interaction in real-time help our brains process information. Our impressions about a person’s authenticity are more quickly formed when we can fully experience their persona in real life.

The advantage of online access to seemingly unlimited information- workshops, summits, courses, memberships- can also be the biggest disadvantage. Choice overload leads to overwhelm which leads to decision fatigue. How many courses, downloads, and replays are sitting in your digital graveyard unused?

Would a hybrid event plan with an in-person co-working day motivate you to complete them?


AI (Artificial Intelligence) and trust online

In both online and in-person events it’s vitally important to consider the “know ➡ like ➡ trust” factor. With the accessibility of advanced AI, it’s possible online to be more fake than a celebrity in a wax museum.

We tend to know, like, and trust people we have met in real life. There is something about someone being able to edit out what they don’t want people to see online vs. in person that makes us uneasy. Think about social media and the curated feeds, and online conversations and comments that would be different if you were face-to-face.

AI is a great online tool that should be viewed with caution and responsibility. The possibility of someone taking advantage of you is always present online or in person, but the in-person connection helps you read the person you are interacting with at a different level.


Event outcomes and engagement

In-person events -meetings, workshops, retreats- have the distinct advantage of engaging your 5-senses. It happens by default. Your body is experiencing not only what you see and hear, but also what you smell, taste, and touch, and your mind is drawing conclusions.

For example: A woman attending a 2-day workshop on identifying her dream to pursue in the next season of life will have a different experience participating online rather than in person. The information may be the same, but getting outside your 4 walls puts you in a different mindset.

A skilled in-person event planner will set up the environment with music, scents, and snacks to relieve your mind clutter and release creativity before any information is presented. All of this physical interaction contributes to stronger memory formation and enjoyment.

We crave face-to-face human interactions and extended conversations with all of the body language and eye contact that goes with it.


Bridging the gap: Hybrid Event Planning

When it comes to online vs. in-person events, it’s not either/or.

It’s both/ and.

You probably have many online “friends” that you have never met in person. I don’t say you have never met “in real life” because the new normal for real life is meeting online! I am connected with women in online groups that I know as much about (or maybe even more) than my in-person friends who I meet with for coffee locally.

The funny thing is, this group knows I plan in-person retreats for women and we all wish we could plan one to meet and hang out in person! And the sentiment is the same for several other groups I have invested in.

view of a woman on city street pulling a suitcase to an in-person meetup with online friends

This seems to be the best of both worlds. Online courses, groups, and cohorts that get to know, like, and trust each other and are longing to meet in person despite the cost and inconvenience. The trade-off is worth it and the transformation is lasting.

Conversely, attendees who met at an in-person event continue the friendship and collaboration when they return home and can stay connected to each other online.

It’s a digital 2-way street. Online vs. in-person events can become online and in-person connections!

The new normal may be a dual outcome, planned from the start. Intertwine the hybrid event planning from digital to an add-on in-person event, and from in-person gatherings to an intentional, ongoing, online connection.

Make an effort to invest in yourself by considering an in-person event that you would like to attend instead of finding the information online.

Read more here about the benefits of in-person retreats whether for a day or an extended stay.

It can be a local workshop, a 2-day mini-conference, or a multi-day retreat. You can get on the waitlist for my next retreat here.

If you want to learn how to be the host/ planner of an in-person event, you can register for my next 90-minute workshop here. (Yes, it is an online workshop on how to host in-person events)! 🙄


➡ I’d love to hear about the next in-person event you are hosting or attending! ⬅

⬇ My contact info is below ⬇

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hey there, I'm valerie

Let’s help you find your voice so you can step into your next chapter with confidence.

about me



How To

Real Women


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