We’re living in extraordinary times. No roadmap. No contingency plan. I think we can all agree that the changes are uncomfortable and have disrupted the natural flow of our everyday lives. For those of us in the events industry, this is more than a disruption — it’s an upheaval of our businesses and plans we’ve been working on for months. As we scramble to get creative and come up with new ideas to ensure success for our clients, we’re also wondering if this is this the new normal. Are live events going to be a thing of the past? I don’t think so; in fact, I think they will evolve into something even better than before.
Virtual components have been integrated into live meetings to some degree for many years. We’re now in a situation where we must hand the baton to the virtual arm completely. In doing so, we will expand and cultivate a whole new skill set. Virtual meetings will produce cost savings, efficiency, and broader audience reach. We will find creative ways to connect people — because connecting with others is important and hardwired into us. For now, we can stretch our sweatpants-clad legs and try out new ways of coming together virtually but the time will come when we can host live events again.
Here are four reasons why in-person events still reign supreme.
- They break us out of a routine.
When we physically remove ourselves from our routines to focus on learning and connecting with others, we’re more inclined to engage in the content and implement it when we return home. In a white paper published by The Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University, Mary Beth McEuen and Christine Duffy state that, “a new environment offers the opportunity to introduce novel experiences and situations to wake up our brains and open them to see things from a new perspective.”
- They help us create memories and retain information.
When our mind is fully engaged — allowing for both our conscious mind to receive verbal input and our unconscious mind to absorb non-verbal cues — we connect emotion and intent to the information presented, improving retention of the material. In fact, research conducted by Richard Mayer, Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, demonstrates that when people are engaged with information in multi-sensory environments, they are more likely to remember the information (compared to single-sense experiences) and creatively come up with solutions.
- They facilitate better networking.
In-person events allow for impromptu meetings over coffee, opportunities to bounce ideas off someone over drinks, and face-to-face brainstorming or negotiations. Physically meeting another person and putting a face to a name is an irreplaceable practice, building bridges that no amount of phone calls, emails, or Zoom meetings will ever achieve. An experiment done by researchers at the University of Chicago and Harvard found that negotiators who shook hands were more open and honest and reached better outcomes than those who didn’t. Shaking hands causes the centers of the brain associated with rewards to activate; you are literally conveying warmth.
- They produce higher ROI.
Research shows that the sales close rate for in-person meetings is 40%. Paul Axtell, author of the book Meetings Matter, states that while in-person meetings may be more expensive than technologically enabled versions, they are more cost-effective in the long run. This is primarily because face-to-face meetings allow relationships to be created and enhanced.
While nothing beats face-to-face interaction, we’re still living in a reality where that’s not possible right now. And that’s ok. When we come out on the other side of this pandemic, we’ll find that we can exponentially increase our effectiveness by using the best of both worlds: physical and virtual.