Virtual Events vs Live Events: How to Make the Right Choice

It’s time to put on another company event and the big question gets asked: Are we going to hold our event live or virtually?

It’s not always an easy choice to make. Let’s face it, live events have been serving us well for decades. And until relatively recently, live events were our only option.

But over the past few decades, virtual events have really started to take off.

Here are a few stats to prove it:

  • In 2020, the global virtual event market was valued at 75.21 billion dollars. By 2027 that number is predicted to rise to to 366.5 billion.
  • According to a recent study, only 18.9% of all events were hybrid or virtual pre-pandemic. And now? That number is 59.5%.

On one hand, just because virtual events are seeing an uptick in popularity doesn’t mean you have to jump on the bandwagon. On the other hand, it’d be silly to ignore the reason for the change.

So how do you make the right choice? We’ll weigh the pros and cons of both and give you an honest assessment to determine which event will serve you the best.

First, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page.

Know Your Options

When it comes to events, you’ve got three basic options.

Live: This is an event held solely in person. It’s the only type of meeting our grandparents have ever heard of. Live events are a tried and true way of getting people together, where all attendees are physically present.

Virtual: In contrast, in a virtual event, all attendees join virtually by means of a virtual event platform, from remote locations. No one is in person.

Hybrid: A hybrid event combines live and virtual events. Many attend physically, but others can tie in remotely. It’s a little bit of a ‘have your cake and eat it too’ situation.

All three event types can be powerful. But which one best suits your needs? We’re going to discuss three major factors and how each event type stands up to them.


A simple fact of life is money talks. And it’s no exception with event planning. Budget is a HUGE factor when choosing an event type. How do these events compare?

Live Events

As a general rule, live events are going to be the most expensive. Why? It’s simply a matter of overhead. To pull off a professional live event, you’re undoubtedly going to need a lot of things, including:

Venue: You can’t have an in-person event without a space for everyone to come together. This will likely include a rental cost, which can often be quite hefty.

Food and Drink: It’s in “poor taste” to put on a live event without providing any refreshments. (sorry for the pun). A live event requires some sort of food service, even if it’s just coffee and donuts. Multiply this by X number of attendees and the cost quickly adds up.

Equipment: Will you need chairs? Tables? A stage? What about AV? Speakers? And a quality sound system? All of this rental equipment comes at a heavy price.

These are just a few costs that inevitably make live events more pricey. Not to mention staffing the event, accommodation for keynote speakers and VIPs, and any other travel costs that might be necessary.

How do virtual and hybrid events stand up in the budget category?

Virtual Events

It goes without saying, your biggest expense with virtual events is technology related. You don’t need a physical venue and attendees can make their own coffee at home. But you will need an event platform.

The price to host a virtual event will vary depending on the platform you choose (think Zoom, SpotME, Microsoft Teams).

But one thing is for sure, the lack of overhead means you will undoubtedly spend less on a quality virtual event than a quality live one.

Hybrid Events

Hybrid events can get a little sticky when it comes to budget. When combining the power of live and virtual events, you have costs coming from both avenues.

At the same time, because many attendees will be joining remotely, a smaller venue, fewer snacks, and less equipment is needed.


The flexibility of a virtual event can not be overstated.

What do we mean? Imagine these scenarios:

  • In order to increase branding and reach more people, you’d like to invite a large number of attendees from various areas, even globally, to attend.

More people equals a larger in person venue. And international attendees likely won’t be too keen on taking a long flight to attend your event. This all goes away with virtual events. Going virtually means people can attend from anywhere.

  • At the last minute a keynote speaker gets sick.

Finding a replacement to hop on virtually is a lot more feasible than getting them there in person, not to mention the travel expenses.

  • You’ve rented chairs and catered food for 300 people, but because of bad weather only 200 will be able to make it.

If it’s a virtual event, everyone would still be able to attend. Weather is no factor. And what if for some reason you do need to cut down the guest list? Scaling back digitally is MUCH easier than switching to a smaller venue and cutting event staff last minute.

Virtual events win in the flexibility department, no contest.

The flexibility of hybrid events follow a similar pattern to virtual events, just with a little less give. How so? The in person aspect of hybrid events (even if it’s only a small part of the event) means fixed aspects such as venue, staff, and equipment are in place.


Nobody wants to host an event that everyone sleeps through. Not only is that embarrassing, but it defeats the purpose. You’ve spent a lot of time preparing the material for your event. You want to make sure people are engaged.

Which event type will do that? They each bring something to the table.

Live Events

  • Provide a better environment for personal networking.
  • Require attendees to travel, which sometimes can be fun (some might view it as a mini vacation).
  • They are, as the name suggests, LIVE. Just like a good concert, a live event tends to build more excitement.

Virtual Events

  • People join from the comfort of their home.
  • The focus is on your event content, not on the venue, what other people are wearing, or how good (or bad) the finger food is.
  • Tools, such as gamification, can be used to make the event fun and engaging.
  • Virtual events require no travel time or expense (other than your ticket cost), something many attendees will appreciate and possibly prefer.

Hybrid Events

As you’ve likely guessed, engagement levels for hybrid events come from combining the powers of both live and virtual events. They provide the excitement of a live event, with the convenience of joining from home.

The Verdict

Live, virtual, and hybrid events all have their place in the world. When executed properly, you can make a success out of any event type. What can help you decide?

  • Take an honest look at your budget.
  • Determine how important flexibility is to you.
  • Analyze which type of event will provide the best engagement for your content.

Still need some help? For over 15 years, our team at Virtual Velocity has made virtual event production our life’s work. We have seen everything there is to see in the event production space.

How can that help you choose which kind of event you need? Our experience means that we know the ins and outs of every event type and which one will offer the best experience for you.

Ready to take the next step? Give us a call for a FREE consultation to discuss how to make your next event a success.