Why planners should balance virtual and in-person event formats

Agency organisers delve into the benefits of both formats as extensions of brand engagement.

Agency organisers share how to strike a happy medium between virtual and in-person event formats.
Agency organisers share how to strike a happy medium between virtual and in-person event formats. Photo Credit: gettyimages/AlSimonov

In-person events are back, but there is still value in online meetings. Here’s how to reach a happy medium between the two.

Tay Ling, vice-president, TBA Hong Kong sees in-person and virtual events as extensions of a consumer journey that gives a brand constant touchpoints with its audience. The agency has brainstormed with its clients to create this kind of seamless transfer of content between in-person and virtual events. 

“We helped make the latest edition of Centrestage fashion show [hosted as a physical event in Hong Kong from 10-12 September last year] the first in Hong Kong to apply extended and augmented reality – XR and AR – onstage, on the runway,” says Tay. “The result was a new kind of visual experience – very impactful and immersive for the audience. The show was also live streamed, with additional AR effects for the online audience.”


A further example of this ‘virtual-in-person fusion’ was FB4Fans, which was hosted by Meta and created by Pico. It was an immersive mobile-first virtual platform for Asia Pacific, enabling Superfans to connect and interact with content creators. It also offered exclusive content in AR and various games.


For Fredrik Hermellin, senior global sales director at CWT Meetings & Events, using the two formats – virtual and in-person, can help brands address sustainability issues.


“Having a balanced strategy allows you to invest more in personal meetings and save the travel and accommodation costs where applicable,” he says. “Virtual events have been with us for many years, and long before the pandemic. It was only during the pandemic when in-person meetings disappeared entirely that virtual events became mainstream.”


If you have to choose between staging an event in-person or virtually, what are the best criteria to use? Each has its pros and cons, and it’s often not necessary to choose one or the other – you can capitalise on the strengths of both in a well-designed integrated event. But, says Pico’s Tay, if you have to choose just one format, use the channel that the audience ‘sits in’.

“In the same way as you wouldn’t use Facebook to reach out to Gen Z, each format attracts its own audience,” he says. “Don’t choose a format solely due to budget; choose one for its effectiveness in creating a brand experience for the audience.”


CWT’s Hermellin says the choice is entirely down to the objective of the event or meeting and points out how last year alone, CWT Meetings & Events connected 74,000 people through virtual, hybrid and live events.


“There is no right or wrong, but many times there is a need to get people out of their homes into an event space to connect, to listen, feel and taste,” he says. “The decision comes back to the objective, budget, policy and requirements.”