In these days we are seeing more and more virtual events happening, sometimes complementing and sometimes even replacing face-to-face events. In times of cost cutting companies see a big opportunity to save some cost.
Virtual events undoubted are a great tool. They are capable of reaching a big audience with relatively small budget, both for the event organizer and the attendee. You can save a lot on cost and time for travel, and most of the time it’s even possible to attend when it fits into your schedule, leveraging the on-demand nature of these virtual events. There are usually a load of possibilities to interact, mostly through chat-like interfaces.
If you need to get into a topic that’s new for you, or if you want to check out if offerings are in the range of what you are looking for, virtual events are a great tool for you as an attendee to learn a lot with minimal impact to your schedule and in a cost-effective way. Virtual events can help the organizer to reach a global audience, and, due to the benefits for the attendee, even reach more people than with face-to-face events. Virtual collaboration in general (virtual events being a special form of collaboration) makes collaboration more effective, and in many cases it makes meetings practical, which wouldn’t even be possible to do face-to-face, either due to cost or time restrictions.
But, like with everything, there are some drawbacks, which I am seeing with virtual events. For example, when you want to discuss things in detail, be it a problem you are trying to solve, or how an offering could fit exactly your (“your” as in “you”, not as in “the customer”) needs, I find it very difficult to do that via a chat-like interface. A face-to-face discussion at a “real” event is much more effective. Restricting communication to the written word makes it more difficult to listen and respond to your counterpart. In general, the personal contact is missing. It’s not the same to exchange contact details digitally, instead of meeting someone in person, shaking hands, doing a little small talk and exchanging business cards. Last but not least, people seem to behave differently in a virtual environment. Although it might in fact not be anonymous at all, some important parts of the human interaction are missing, leading to a kind of “anonymous behavior”.
I am practicing virtual collaboration on a day-by-day basis (yes, even in my private life) and I wouldn’t want to miss it, but there’s nothing like a face-to-face meeting. Maybe I’m kind of old-fashioned, but for me meeting someone in person is an important part in networking, that cannot be replaced by virtual meetings. Virtual meetings and events are a great tool to increase your collaboration effectiveness, to complement face-to-face meetings, but not to replace them completely.
I’d like to hear from you! What do you think about virtual vs. face-to-face? Please leave a comment.