Should we be Encouraging Return of In-Person Audiences?
Encouraging the return of in-person audiences is open for debate. While there are still many concerns about gathering large numbers of people from one organisation in the room, there is an argument that businesses need face-to-face meetings to further develop and grow.
For two years virtual events have been a reliable means of addressing large audiences. At The Production People, we have produced our own fair share of virtual conferences, concerts, and AGMs, but as restrictions ease – certainly in the UK – should we be inviting audiences back in the room?
Early Research Suggest We Should!
A survey conducted by Promoleaf during the early stages of the pandemic revealed that 72% of conference delegates preferred in-person conferences to virtual events.
Nearly two years on, we address these questions; since the acceleration of virtual events, have the audience changed their minds? And should we be encouraging return of in-person audiences?
When the Promoleaf survey was undertaken, it was at the beginning of the first wave of global lockdowns. At this time events had disappeared and virtual event production was still quite limited. However, things have changed; development of virtual event platforms have enabled a more engaging online conference experience, which you can read about in our Guide to Producing a Virtual Event.
So the question still stands, should we be encouraging the return of in-person audiences, or are virtual events enough?
Lack of Face-to-Face Events Has Affected Multiple Industries, not Just the Events Sector
Virtual events have seen the event industry through the toughest two years ever! Before Covid was unleashed to the world, the event industry that was worth £19 billion in the UK alone. But our thriving industry was brought to its knees almost overnight. The effects of the pandemic have been catastrophic across the industry with unprecedented redundancies and closures.
From pharmaceutical to finance, hospitality to healthcare, travel to communications; all these sectors and more relied on events to gather steak-holders, teams, and professionals to operate efficiently. Whether that was for sales and training purposes, marketing or to deliver vital information. Without live events, the business world had to change tac.
Throughout the pandemic, virtual events have given all industries a platform to communicate key messages to a global audience. They have even been developed to engage audiences with gamification features, such as polls, surveys, quizzes, and games. Q&A functions have also enabled better two-way conversation with the audience and the panel.
Over the last two years, a lot more virtual features and solutions have enabled conferences worldwide to proceed, but will they be the answer for future events, or is there a desire to get back in the room?
Will Businesses be Encouraging In-Person Audiences as Covid Restrictions Ease? We Talk Human Interaction
Here in the UK, Covid restrictions are easing rapidly thanks to the national vaccine roll-out. As a result, global travel for UK residents is about to become more accessible.
There will always be controversy about restrictions easing and what that means to the spread of new variants of Covid-19. That’s not for us to pass comment on, however, we can tell you why businesses are likely to start encouraging in-person audiences back to the room as restrictions ease.
No matter how we adapt to new technology and virtual gatherings, nothing replaces human contact. We don’t need a psychology degree to know that seeing a friend for a coffee is far better than having a phone call with them. Yes, time can sometimes get in the way, but meeting a person face-to face has many benefits, which is equally important in business meetings and conferences, as it is in a social environment. For example:
- Putting a face to a name is more impactful that viewing their name and photo on a screen. You will always recall a face-to-face conversation, but a phone call or email can be easily forgotten.
- Body language and facial expressions can convey a person’s character and thoughts, allowing for better communication.
- In-person meetings over a longer period give you the chance to ask/answer questions and open a conversation that might not occur in a virtual environment.
- Overhearing conversations and welcoming others into a discussion helps to explore new topics and solutions to problems. On a virtual platform there a bigger fear of getting involved.
- Building relationships is a big focus for many businesses. A team of people are far more effective than one individual. To build relationships, you need to engage in face-to-face conversation.
- Chit chat and informal conversation also helps to build relationships. This much harder to achieve upon a virtual meeting.
Why In-Person Conferences are Vital to Business Growth?
Conferences are held for all sorts of reasons across all industries. Essentially, they all have the same aim: to engage a large audience in information that needs to be absorbed in order to see progress and growth.
The difference between engagement of virtual event and an in-person event is distractions and security.
Virtual events often mean the viewer is at home or in an office surrounded by people who are not participating in the event.
Whether you are at home or in an office, there are bound to be more distractions than there are in a conference room with the speaker and panel right there in front of you.
By encouraging return of in-person audiences back to the conference room businesses can commandeer the attention of the audience through Q&As, general audience participation, and wider discussions between the experts and delegates.
Security for in-person events is less of an issue too. When your conference includes delicate or confidential information, you need to know that it is being viewed by the audience in the room, not others that can overhear this information in the office or at home.
In essence, in-person conferences are vital to growth because they offer more opportunities for the audience and expert panel interact. Opportune moments for interaction include:
- Q&A time at the conference
- Meeting fellow delegates that the table
- Coffee breaks
- Evening meals
- Breakout sessions
We ask: Could the UK Become the Hub of Conference Production?
With the UK as one of the leaders in the vaccine roll out, restrictions are easing far quicker than in other countries. Our nation’s impending freedom to travel and host events means the UK could become the hub of conference production for global organisations.
UK technical event production is renowned for being the best in the world. Take ourselves as an example; TPP has been a preferred supplier of technical event production for international events for 20+ years. We have travelled the world supporting conferences, exhibitions, live events, PR launches and road shows.
So, if the UK event production industry is internationally renowned and our borders are open, what’s stopping the UK from being the world hub for conference production? The are many amazing conference venues in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and nationwide that can accommodate conferences for international delegates.
As a technical production company, we watch this space with eager anticipation.
What are the Options for Welcoming Audiences Back to the Conference Room?
Returning to in-person events is not just a matter of encouragement. We can’t ignore that he way we work has changed and travel is still restricted for other nations. Therefore, the practicalities of hosting events with a purely in-person audiences are very unlikely, and unnecessary. It’s more reasonable to suggest hybrid event production will be a flexible and practical solution for business conferences, meetings and training events.
The Hybrid event caters to audiences and businesses that enjoy the best of both; in-person audiences, and virtual audiences. Hybrid is certainly the immediate solution for welcoming audiences back to the conference room.
What are your Thoughts on Encouraging Return of In-Person Audiences?
Are you thinking about hosting an in-person conference, or a hybrid event? If so, we would love to hear help you create an engaging event. Please email us at email@example.com, or call on 01264 889 934.