Updated: August 01, 2022

Pros & Cons of Virtual Conferences

This page includes a list of the pros and cons of virtual conferences.

Virtual conferences pros and cons are the considerations you make when planning an online gathering for a large group of people. For example, pros might include relatively low costs and high accessibility, while cons might include a lack of face-to-face interaction. The purpose of these pros and cons is to better understand your investment and potential.

These considerations are for virtual conference ideas and also apply to virtual team retreats.

Specifically, this list includes:

  • the benefits of virtual conferences
  • reasons to run a conference online
  • online conference pros and cons

So, here’s the list!

Virtual conference pros

There are many advantages of running conferences online. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Lower costs

Running conferences online isn’t free; but the price of a Zoom, Webex or other virtual meeting software license is substantially cheaper than renting a conference hall. You will, notably, likely still have speaker fees and other costs, and these will in part be reduced by not having associated travel fees.

If you were so inclined, you could likely run a virtual conference on a shoestring budget; in a way that competes with the most successful conferences in the world.

2. Wider reach

When you host a conference in a city like Las Vegas or Miami, you are requiring attendees to visit those cities. This travel has substantial costs, planning, effort and possible time away from family, work and BBQs.

A fully digital conference, in comparison, is an opportunity to reach worldwide audiences at both a fraction of the travel time and cost.

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3. No cap on attendees

Some of the world’s largest conferences attract tens of thousands of attendees. While these mega conferences are successful by any measure, they also have a known limitation; the city infrastructure needs to be able to support that influx of people and traffic.

Online, you don’t have these restrictions. You may need to upgrade your Zoom license or similar, but you could essentially serve a much larger audience with a much smaller staff and resources.

4. Unique sponsorship opportunities

As you start to explore the world of online conferences, you learn there are nearly countless sponsorship opportunities. For example, you can sell sponsored ad space on backgrounds, invites, websites, blog posts and similar. Since this sponsorship has a large potential reach, you may actually earn more than you would from localized equivalents.

5. No lines for the bathroom

“I like standing in the line for the bathroom” said literally no-one ever. With virtual events, nobody has to wait in a cosplay line to pee and instead can venture on over to their own private facilities. This one is a win-win for everybody.

Virtual conference cons

Not everything about remote conferences is sunshine and rainbows. For example, there are far fewer hugs. Here are some more disadvantages.

1. Less face time

For some conferences run online, you could also go this “no face time.” In some cases, these events are run asynchronously, via video recordings and similar. While these assets and resources can be valuable, none of it quite replaces live interactions with other attendees. You can somewhat counter this point by prioritizing smaller groups on video calls.

For more face time, use our conference agenda template.

2. Less accountability

When someone attends a real world conference, it may be a multi-thousand dollar investment between admission, accommodation, flights and similar. This high investment generally leads to high accountability, i.e, people show up.

With virtual conferences this accountability isn’t as organically present. You can cultivate a similar level of accountability by carefully crafting invites and relying on peer connections to encourage guest attendance.

3. Speaker preferences

For some keynote speakers, the thrill isn’t in a paycheck, it is in standing before a large audience and sharing what they know. Holding your conference online may give you access to a wider variety of speakers, and it may also preclude you from working with some of the best.

4. More competition

When you offer an experience, your competition is nearly everything. From Twitter to Netflix, and further beyond, people have a lot they can do online. To host a successful conference, you need to be ready to compete at a high level.

Final thoughts

You just read a starter list of pros and cons of virtual conferences. There are a lot more advantages and disadvantages of running conferences online too. Make sure you do your research and develop a strong plan. If you get the execution right, your online conference can be incredibly successful and perhaps even more so then an in-person equivalent.

Next, check out this list of fun virtual team building activities you can do at your conference.

We also have a list of the best songs for conference playlists, a list of conference entertainment ideas and a list of swag ideas for conferences.

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CEO at teambuilding.com.
I write about my experience working with and leading remote teams since 2010.

LinkedIn Michael Alexis

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