Lil Regie

A guide to pivoting from physical to online events

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Person attending and online conference

During the onset of Covid, many event organisers had to shift to hosting their events online, in order to account for the large number of people who were either isolating or working from home. While the technology at the time definitely had some wrinkles that needed ironing, we’ve all become more savvy about connecting and engaging with each other over the internet. These days the option of hosting an event online has become a perfectly valid–and in many cases preferred choice.

With more and more people still working from home, or attending from out of town, digital events are pretty much here to stay; and while technology failures, accidental pyjama exposure, and chaotic children are all still a possibility, there’s no reason why you can’t move to digital for your next event.

This guide will look at why event organisers need to understand the still-growing trend towards digital events; examine some of the main differences between physical and digital; and help you decide whether it’s feasible for you to consider an online or hybrid approach for your next event.

The advantages of going digital

There are many reasons why you might want to consider moving your event to digital; the main benefits include cost savings, increased accessibility, and flexibility for attendees.

Cost and emissions savings

The big advantage is of course, reduced venue and logistics expenses. Not having to rent a venue, arrange for travel and accommodation, organise food, a multimedia setup, and other physical accessibility considerations can represent significant budget savings. Not needing these will hugely reduce the carbon emissions of your event. 

Sure, there are other outlays involved with moving online, including hosting, streaming, digital branding and communication, and perhaps an extra emphasis on video production, but it’s likely many of these are already on your event’s marketing checklist.

Accessibility & flexibility

One of the great draw cards about an online event is that people from all over the world can attend, regardless of whether they’re working from home or on the go. And people who have particular accessibility requirements can make use of tools and equipment they are familiar with in their own home set-up, rather than having to make do in an auditorium.

Woman in wheelchair attending video conference from home

Hosting presentations online can also offer significant benefits to both attendees and speakers. Being able to watch at a time that’s convenient, with the ability to pause and rewind, caters for people who have smaller chunks of viewing time, and goes some way towards mitigating the demands on our attention when we’re online. In addition, speakers can provide supplementary information and offers, links to documents or other websites, or offer people options to register their interest in further networking or learning opportunities.

Some challenges

Of course, shifting to a new format will also bring with it other challenges and considerations. After all, there are some significant differences between a face-to-face event and an online one.

Engagement and connecting with others

While the benefits of putting physical logistics aside are considerable, you will need to address how you’ll make up for the shift from a more intimate, and immediate environment. While face-to-face potentially has better opportunities for networking and socialising, online engagement isn’t guaranteed. Neither is the attention of your attendees, who may very well be multitasking while watching your event.

Multi tasking

The way people consume your event’s content will be different. Providing the opportunity to watch later will be an important consideration, but with this comes decisions around storage, access (will attendees need to create an account to access past recordings?), as well as how to encourage engagement from viewers who are watching after the live event has finished.

Technology hurdles

Finally, another potential challenge will be with the technology itself. While odds are good the bulk of your audience will be tech-savvy, there will doubtless be a few who will need extra help to get online. As a result you may need to provide extra assistance in helping people to connect. Connectivity issues can also extend to your speakers; having a backup option if your speaker can’t get their presentation working, is a good idea.

The different online streaming platforms on offer will come with their own pros and cons, and slightly different features you’ll need to take the time to assess. For the live streaming, you’ll want to establish some house rules for etiquette and engagement, and even once those are established you may need another person to assist with moderation during the event.

Online vs. live presenting

It’s worth considering the differences between presenting on a stage, and presenting on a screen. Techniques for presentations that stand out in a darkened auditorium aren’t always the same for an online one. So make sure your speakers make the most of the multimedia options available to them to enhance the experience of your attendees.

Presenting from home

Strategies for mitigating issues

Fortunately most of these challenges can be addressed with some forward planning and a good mitigation strategy.

Methods for online engagement

For example, there are many ways to bring your attendees together outside of the scheduled presentations, including implementing breakout “rooms” for virtual networking, holding polls or live Q&A sessions. These will likely require some moderation or help to get the conversation started. And the humble hashtag is still an effective tool to help attendees collaborate and share their impressions, further adding to their sense of connection.

Test your tech set up

In terms of technology, consider holding a run-through of the pain “pinch points.” Can you recruit any non-techy volunteers to see whether they have any issues connecting to a test presentation? Do all of the integrations and links work? Can you run through a typical user’s experience from end to end? Try again from a speaker’s perspective, and then perhaps the perspective of an attendee who is connecting and viewing after the live event has concluded.

You may also want to consider any aspects where it makes sense to have a back up option. If one conferencing tool suddenly stops working for your speaker, do you have another that you can switch to? A pre-recorded presentation can be a good fallback option, if all else fails. Make sure your logins and authentication are sorted before the day.

It’s also a good idea to provide a person or team who can provide dedicated technical support during the event. Having a “fix-it” team will let you focus on the main programme, rather than splitting your time and attention across them.

Content that appeals to online audiences

In terms of content, consider the differences in the two mediums when thinking about how to create the most effective presentations. A digital format will be better served by visually-engaging slides, videos and graphics; but consider that viewers may be watching on a variety of screen sizes, and so tiny detail may be lost. Depending on the format and style of the presentation there may be a difference in the presentation’s pacing as well. There may be more immediate interaction with questions peppered throughout the presentation, which can also affect timings.

Tools and technologies

Many of the tools you’ll need to effectively run an online event will be the same that you’d use for a physical one. For instance, you’ll still need collaboration tools to communicate with your team, speakers, and participants. You’ll also want to make use of a good event management software, that allows you to manage your registrations, attendee details and employs robust payment processing tools.

On top of this, however, you’ll also want to consider:

  • video conferencing platforms, for hosting your live sessions, webinars and interactive discussions. These may be enough, or you might want to consider a dedicated virtual event platform if your requirements are more extensive.

  • presentation tools for your speakers to create engaging slides and videos for their presentations

  • live streaming platforms, to help you broadcast your sessions to a broader audience in real time

  • polling and survey tools, to get real-time feedback from attendees

  • analytics and reporting tools, to help track your event metrics and measure performance

  • interaction tools, to enable real-time chat and Q&A during sessions

  • content delivery platforms, to host pre-recorded content


Over the last few years people have become accustomed to attending events online, and now the benefits of these are certainly well-established. Done well, an online event can be just as engaging and memorable as a live one, and in addition can reach more attendees, and be more accessible for those who might otherwise not be able to attend.

While there are quite a few other considerations you’ll want to keep in mind, the pivot to digital can be the right decision for many event organisers, in terms of cost, audience reach, and availability.

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Lil Regie Team

Our passionate and experienced team loves to share insights on how to set up and execute exceptional events.