As all event planners know, one of the biggest headaches involved in planning an event is accessibility. Depending on the size of your event, be it a small workshop or larger conference, you can potentially be faced with any number of last-minute cancellations as a result of transport disruptions or inclement weather. Lengthy journeys may even put some prospective participants off registering altogether.
In many ways, the perfect solution is to get rid of the physical event altogether and embrace webcasting - conducting virtual events online to deliver presentations, share slideshows and support discussions with extra technology such as file-sharing. But this also means losing out on the spontaneous debates and networking opportunities that grow out of meeting fellow delegates in person, and could even harm the quality of the discussion by allowing distractions to creep in.
Since it is clear that webcasting can never be a complete substitute for physical events, using both channels simultaneously is an increasingly common choice among event planners. But is webcasting the right choice for you?
Widen your reach
The biggest benefit of webcasting your event is that space is no longer a limitation. High numbers of participants from all over the world can communicate in real time without leaving their office or their home. This makes it a great alternative for those who are unable to attend the event in person, whether due to transport issues or other problems. In addition, because the online broadcast is likely to carry lower running costs than the physical event, you could offer less expensive tickets for those who do not plan to travel, mitigating the damage caused by delegates’ financial constraints.
Because all of your delegates are already online, it’s also much easier to encourage them to connect with you on social networks and share information about the event with their own friends and colleagues. This makes it more likely you and the participants will stay in touch in the future, fostering valuable relationships and contributing to your long-term marketing strategy.
There are ways to speed up the process of getting delegates through the doors. For example, if you use an event registration system that sends an automated email to delegates just when they have made the booking, attendees can show the confirmation on their smartphone and get into the event more quickly. Still, it will never be quite as fast as the process of logging into a website with login details provided at the point of registration, which is a less stressful experience for many participants. Neither does it involve the level of planning required for the physical event - if you have a room from which to broadcast, you don’t need to spend money on a large venue.
The biggest drawback: discouraging attendance
In spite of all the advantages that webcasting offers, the fact remains it will never be a total and effective substitute for the act of going to an event and engaging both with the subject matter and fellow delegates. By webcasting, you run the risk of discouraging attendees from making the effort to attend, which could negatively impact on the atmosphere in the room.
If attendance figures are particularly low individual delegates will feel more exposed and may become less likely to interact with others, lowering the quality of the discussion and creating an unsatisfying experience. Webcast viewers also enjoy fewer opportunities for networking and spontaneous discussion, limiting the value they can gain from the event as well.
Best of both worlds
To get around these problems, it’s always a good idea to incentivise physical attendance by limiting the availability of the event online. Perhaps in exchange for a lower ticket price you could offer access to live streams of only the keynote speakers, or even choose not to make some content available until a couple of days after attendees have gone home. This would help to balance the needs of those who are unable to attend in person with the importance of physical participation.
Similarly, as part of their ticket price delegates that attend in person should be given access to all the sessions that you record so they can go back and review them in the future, allowing them to get maximum value out of the experience.