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Physical vs. Virtual

Event Report

The world of events and gatherings has changed dramatically within the past few years, with a noticeable impact from the recent pandemic. As technology advances, two dominant event formats have emerged: virtual and in-person events.
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Overview of Physical vs Virtual

Each format has advantages and disadvantages, catering to attendees’ and organizers’ different preferences and needs. In this report from Chati, we explore the pros and cons of virtual and in-person events, considering factors such as demographics, cost considerations, and the rising role of hybrid events to help you identify the format that works best for you and plan your event.

Visual Guide: Chati's Physical vs Virtual Event Infographic

Dive deeper into the nuances of physical versus virtual events with Chati's engaging infographic. This visual tool contrasts the benefits and challenges of each format, offering a glance into how virtual events can maximize your reach and efficiency while minimizing costs.
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Virtual events have gained significant traction, offering benefits like:

Data Insights
Virtual events transcend geographical barriers, allowing attendees from across the globe to join without travel constraints.
Virtual events entail reduced venue rentals, travel, and accommodation expenses, making them more budget friendly.
Virtual events offer valuable data insights, enabling organizers to measure attendee engagement, behavior metrics, and preferences for improved event optimization.
The flexibility of virtual events accommodates diverse schedules and time zones, reducing time commitment and productivity loss, and ensuring broader participation and convenience for attendees.
However, challenges still exist, such as limited interpersonal interaction (i.e., networking constraints), potential technology issues, and the need for innovative engagement strategies.
In-person events are commonly praised for their immersive experiences and personal connections. The face-to-face interaction fosters genuine networking opportunities, sparking chance encounters and meaningful collaborations. The emotional impact of physical events and sensory experiences leaves lasting impressions on attendees that may be missed in virtual environments.
In-person events can also have downsides, such as:
  • Geographical constraints
  • Limited audience reach
  • Higher expenses associated with venue rentals, travel, and logistics
  • Difficulty gathering attendee experience data
Hybrid events have emerged as an option for the best of both worlds, offering a combination of virtual and in-person experiences. Hybrid events strive to provide accessibility to a global audience while retaining the interpersonal connections of in-person gatherings. Attendees can participate virtually or physically, enhancing flexibility and inclusivity.
Chati Highlight

ChatiConnect Video Chat

ChatiConnect is Chati’s dynamic video chat feature, transforming the virtual event experience by offering flexible and customizable chat rooms, seamless screen sharing, and secure conferencing. Whether for small group discussions, collaboration on projects, or enhancing learning through multimedia sharing, ChatiConnect empowers you to create unforgettable and engaging moments, fostering collaboration and networking in a secure and intuitive environment.


Some assumed the rising popularity of virtual events was a temporary result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, virtual and hybrid events are clearly here to stay. In a series of polls conducted by by American Express Global Business, Zippia, Statista, EventMB, and more, the numbers speak for themselves; what they show is a clear indication of the growing future of virtual events, meetings, and gatherings.
A staggering 96% of event professionals do not believe that virtual events can ever fully replace or replicate the experience of physical events; however, 93% plan to invest in the future of virtual events for several important reasons:
  • With approximately 80% of virtual registrations costing nothing to the attendee, virtual events are popular for those looking to cut costs. This also applies to the event hosts, with physical events costing 47.8% more than their virtual counterparts.
  • You can’t beat virtual events’ reach compared to physical events. About 80% of event organizers can reach broader audiences with virtual events, eliminating the problem of geographic constraints, an issue 41% of event organizers note when considering attendance.
  • In another poll, the popularity of events with virtual elements is clear, with about 77% of attendees preferring virtual events due to ease of access, and between 20-50% of those polled were interested in hosting events with some combination of virtual and physical elements.

Virtual Events by the Numbers:

  • The global events industry market is expected to increase by 13.48% by 2028, from $887 Billion in 2020 to $2.2 Trillion
  • 99% of companies utilizing virtual event platforms believe webinars are crucial to success
1% of 2022 events were projected to be hosted virtually
  • The global events industry market is expected to increase by 13.48% by 2028, from $887 Billion in 2020 to $2.2 Trillion by 2028
  • 99% of companies utilizing virtual event platforms believe webinars are crucial to success
1% of global tradeshows are going virtual
Chati Highlight

Fun Fact

Chati’s lead developer helped to create one of the first ever virtual event platforms. Chati is a result of decades of both virtual event dev and production experience. The Chati team has “seen it all” when it comes to online events and experiences, resulting in a robust, feature rich virtual event platform and builder.


Understanding virtual and in-person event attendees’ demographics, preferences, and behaviors is essential for event organizers to curate meaningful and engaging experiences in both environments. The different types of events serve as powerful platforms for networking, knowledge sharing, and community building in unique ways, making it crucial to delve into the characteristics and expectations of attendees’ preferences for each situation.

The preferences and behaviors of event attendees vary significantly between virtual and in person events. A review of the data can help provide a holistic interpretation of attendee experience, preference, and behavior concerning virtual, hybrid, and in-person events.

Networking is considered one of the most popular reasons for event attendance, second only to education.

Recent polls show:

1% prefer in-person networking due to face-to-face interaction
1% are willing to network with anyone either virtually, in-person, or in a hybrid setting
1% of event marketers think virtual networking opportunities are more challenging to implement effectively
Chati Highlight

Analytics & Reporting

Chati’s analytics and reporting tools offer a powerful suite of data-driven insights that enable you to understand your audience, measure success, and refine your event strategies. From real-time dashboards and attendee behavior tracking to custom reporting and post-event analysis, Chati equips you with comprehensive and actionable information, ensuring that your virtual events are targeted, effective, and aligned with your goals.
Chati offers 1-on-1 or group video chat  to help make virtual experiences more realistic and personalized.

At physical events, attendees are moving, interacting, socializing, and otherwise ‘conferencing’ to keep themselves engaged in the event around them. On the other hand, maintaining attendee engagement with virtual event content is one of the biggest challenges cited by event professionals:
  • 61% cite lack of engagement as a significant obstacle in keeping people’s attention. However, some solutions are showing promise, namely, on-demand content and gamification.

  • Offering on-demand sessions during or after the event has proven valuable, as 75% of virtual event participants found them to be the most beneficial aspect of the virtual environment.

  • Interactive elements such as event polling, gamification, and videos play a crucial role in maintaining attendee engagement, with 71-81.8% of virtual event organizers using polling to enhance interaction.

  • Giveaways, randomly chosen or as the result of a gamification element, are also an area of potential improvement for attendee engagement; however, only 30% of event organizers utilize giveaways.


As of 2019, the cost of attending a physical, in-person event in the U.S. was between USD 570 and USD 706. Most in-person events carry some cost to the attendee; registration, membership fees, subscription fee, entry fee, travel costs, lost productivity, etc. Meanwhile, 80% of virtual events cost nothing to register for, and many carry zero cost to the attendee.

Here are the major cost differences that add up for virtual and in-person events:
Compare Event Costs:
Virtual EventsIn-Person Events

Virtual Event Costs

  • Venue - virtual events do not require physical venues, eliminating rental spaces, setup fees, on-site staff, and other associated expenses. Virtual event platforms are typically more affordable than renting physical spaces and equipment.
  • Travel - attendees, organizers, and other participants can engage from anywhere with a wifi connection, reducing or eliminating travel and accommodation costs.
  • Logistics - while technological logistics will come into play for virtual events, they will often have reduced or non-existent costs for event setup, shipping, and on-site management.

In-Person Event Costs

  • Venue - securing physical event space can be expensive, especially for large-scale events. The cost is also location-dependent, with premium locations adding to the already high price.
  • Travel - unless they live locally, attendees and organizers must travel to an in-person event, racking up travel, accommodation, food, and other associated expenses.
  • Logistics - physical events require on-site logistical management for shipping, booth setup/staffing, printed materials, equipment rental services, event coordination, attendee support, and catering.
Chati Highlight

Customizable Event Landing Pages

Create a dedicated event landing page or microsite, reflecting your unique branding and event essence. Tailor the landing page with essential details like agenda, speaker profiles, and more to not only provide a seamless registration process but also set the tone for your virtual event. By personalizing this gateway to your event, you’re enhancing engagement from the first interaction and building anticipation for a memorable experience.

Pros/Cons of Physical vs Virtual

It’s clear from the data that virtual and in-person events offer advantages and disadvantages unique to their respective formats. Here we break down the most significant pros and cons of each event type to simplify the decision-making process. Which type of event works best for you and your situation?
Chati Highlight

Content Templates & 3D Spaces

Content Templates, or “inline templates,” are designed to be easily populated by anyone, cutting custom costs and eliminating cross-team bottlenecks, allowing for a smooth and responsive presentation on screen. Meanwhile, Chati’s 3D Spaces offer everything from virtual auditoriums with stages and seats to exhibit halls with booths and banners, all created using the latest technologies to captivate attendees. Even more, templates can be copied from event to event, making hosting multiple events with Chati easy and efficient.
In-Person/Physical Events
Virtual Events
Pros Cons
Networking: In-person events are thought to be the most effective for networking due to the formation of spontaneous and genuine connections that happen face-to-face. Cost: The cost of in-person events often vastly exceeds that of virtual events for both the host and the attendee.
Immersive Experience: Attendees are able to engage with sensory experiences and move through event spaces. Geographical Limitations: Travel requirements may limit accessibility for attendees. This limits not only attendance but overall reach.
Personalized Impact: In-Person events allow direct engagement with speakers and exhibitors. Lack of Data and Analytics: collecting data on attendee behavior and measuring event success can be more difficult than with virtual events.
Emotional Impact: Physical events can create emotional impacts and lasting memories. Environmental Impact: In-person events generate a larger carbon footprint compared to virtual events.
Pros Cons Chati Solutions
Networking – Often viewed as more challenging in virtual events, virtual event networking has both pros and cons. A pro is that attendees are able to network in their own time with no pressure. It can be more efficient in terms of sales as attendees can focus on booths, they are interested in rather than wander around. Networking – on the other hand, limited interaction presents a problem for networking. The lack of face-to-face interactions can make it difficult to create meaningful connections. Some platforms, like Chati, seek to improve on this with video options within their networking system to allow for that face-to-face connection. ChatiConnect enhances the art of virtual networking, offering interactive 1:1 and group video chats. Our matchmaking capabilities ensure you connect with individuals of interest, making each interaction personal and engaging.
Cost – the cost of virtual events is inherently less for both event planners/hosts and attendees. There are no venue expenses, logistics are less complicated, and a lack of travel make virtual events not only more affordable, but more accessible. Technological Issues – to attend a virtual event, attendees must have reliable internet access. Technological issues on the side of the host and attendee can create problems in virtual environments. Having a dedicated support team is a must for virtual events to overcome this issue. Chati streamlines the event experience with responsive, mobile browser-based templates, removing the need for app installations. This ensures that participants, irrespective of their device, can easily join in.
On-Demand Content – unlike with in-person events, the content you, sponsors, and speakers create for a virtual event can be used after the event ends. On-demand content is a popular feature of virtual events that allows attendees to engage with content in their own timetable. Engagement – one of the most cited challenges of a virtual event experience is engagement. While attendees have more flexibility within a virtual event, this can backfire without impactful engagement tactics. Chati enhances attendee engagement through gamification, interactive polls, dynamic ChatiConnect video sessions, and speed networking. Plus, the flexibility to catch up on missed segments ensures a more comprehensive content experience than in-person events.
Data & Analytics – virtual events can track and analyze attendee behavior in a way that in-person events cannot, helping organizers and marketers understand what attendees are looking for and how they engage with their virtual environments.   Dive into Chati’s immersive 3D environments paired with responsive content templates. Beyond visuals, we delve deep into data, offering a window into user behaviors and facilitating custom reports enriched with expansive cross-filtering tools.
Accessibility & Reach – virtual events offer increased reach at a global level as opposed to geographically constrained in-person events. They also allow attendees to experience the event in accessible formats.   Experience the versatility of Chati with branded microsites, impactful event marketing campaigns, and the ability to handle simultaneous registrations across different languages and time zones.
Environmental Impact – virtual events offer a more sustainable, greener, solution to meetings. Without travel for attendees, or the use of large event spaces, the carbon footprint of virtual events is less than in-person events.   Large or small with no environmental impact, Chati’s platform is tailored to accommodate events and businesses of all sizes, ensuring scalability as your needs evolve.

What Role Do Hybrid Events Play?

Hybrid events are a combination of events that feature both in-person and virtual elements that are growing in popularity among event organizers and attendees. 

Hybrid events offer:
  • Increased Reach

  • Flexibility

  • Enhanced Networking for virtual and in-person attendees

  • Accessibility

  • In-depth data & analytics compared to solely in-person events

On the other hand, they also present a few challenges for event planners, like:
  • More complicated planning
  • Potential technical difficulties
  • Increased cost
  • Engagement balance
  • Virtual vs in-person attendee experience disparities.
Chati Highlight

Hybrid Events

By adding a virtual component to your physical event through Chati, you benefit from the best of both worlds. Customizable virtual spaces allow the recreation of physical event environments online. Chati’s easy-to-use content templates facilitate populating your event with relevant information efficiently, while live chat and video networking enable real-time connection and interaction. Hybrid events with Chati provide the convenience and scalability of virtual platforms alongside the personal touch and networking potentials of in-person gatherings, resulting in impactful marketing outcomes and a true boost in growth.
Despite the challenges, the value of hybrid events is not lost on event planners, with 68% of event professionals actively searching for hybrid event technologies that can create the perfect experience.

Some platforms have already reported a marked increase in hybrid events:
  • Up to a 12% increase in planned hybrid events throughout 2023

0% of all events now offer a hybrid experience.
Hybrid events offer a unique opportunity for event organizers to present content to two audiences simultaneously in different formats. But twice the content might mean twice the work for organizers, presenting logistical challenges to support the virtual and physical formats simultaneously.
0% of event marketers do not have experience hosting hybrid events, so they need to hire outside management firms.
Overall, it is clear that event organizers and attendees appreciate the flexibility and accessibility of hybrid event options. The hybrid event platform landscape is only expected to grow in the coming years.


The world of events and gatherings has significantly changed in recent years, influenced mainly by the COVID-19 pandemic. As technology advances, two dominant event formats have emerged: virtual and in-person events. Both formats present unique advantages and challenges, catering to attendees’ and organizers’ diverse preferences and needs. In this report from Chati, we have explored the pros and cons of virtual and in-person events, considering factors such as:
  • Demographics

  • Cost considerations

  • Pros and Cons

  • The emerging role of hybrid events

Overall, understanding the benefits and drawbacks of virtual and in-person events is essential for event organizers to create meaningful and engaging experiences. The data presented in this report offers valuable insights to help organizers curate successful events that align with their objectives and resonate with their target audience. As the events landscape evolves, hybrid events will likely play a growing role, balancing accessibility and in-person experiences.

Ready to give virtual or hybrid events a try?

Request a Chati Demo today and see how Chati can make your next event come to life!
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