Changing From Face-to-Face to Virtual

I’ve heard a few stories lately about organizations changing an upcoming event from a face-to-face meeting to a virtual meeting online. Here’s the thing to keep in mind when contemplating this kind of change:

Changing a face-to-face event to an online-only event is like an athlete changing from running shoes to diving flippers.

You can still go fast but you better be jumping into water right after you put those flippers on. If not, you will do a face plant within seconds.

Virtual events have many strengths but they are fundamentally different kinds of activities than in person meetings. The hallway goes away. The random connections go away. The sense of place is very different. Commitment to being present during the proceedings is much lower.

Sure, social media can help some but it is not the same. Why do you think so many social media people just went to the SXSW conference?

The question to ask is if you can still achieve the same goals of your face-to-face event with an online event? In many cases, you cannot. You’d be better off trying to achieve something completely different online if your in person meeting has to be canceled.

4 thoughts on “Changing From Face-to-Face to Virtual

  1. Awesome point about social media people and SXSW and awesome post in general.

    I think that, given both the state of the economy and the availability of social media and virtual meeting tools, it might be too easy to just say “let’s just switch the conference to an online conference” and think of it as the same event, but just online. I think that people tend to look at it just that way–that we could save X dollars and X amount of carbon footprint by moving this event online. I suspect there’s going to be a lot of what you’re describing going on this year: organizations deciding to move their events online, assuming it’s the same thing as just moving an outdoor party indoors because it’s raining.

  2. Pingback: Going virtual with a conference? | Face2Face

  3. You’re right – you can’t completely replace a face-to-face event with a virtual one. They are two different entities each with unique benefits and drawbacks. Sometimes you have no choice, however, and your post should caution anyone undertaking this process to enlist the help of a production partner who understand events AND virtual events. Many companies are trying to go it alone or with the help of a platform provider that makes technology but has no idea how to make good event. It would be the equivalent of hiring a venue with no production, F&B, or A/V.

    Virtual events also make great companions to face-to-face ones. I wrote a bit about that here: (be sure not to miss the sidebar.)

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