Choosing the best event formats – live or remote

Remote events such as webinars offer new options for reaching out to and educating buyers, while live events offer opportunities for group discussion.

In the old days (remember them?), building a relationship with a prospect meant getting in your car or on a plane, or picking up the phone.


Now, of course, technology has changed all that. “Remote” events such as webinars offer new options for reaching out to and educating buyers. The advantages of these high-tech formats are many: they can be cheaper, more convenient for both host and attendee, and less time-consuming.

Yet there are instances in which in-person events such as “lunch-and-learn” seminars make more sense—when group discussion is important, for example.

Your choice to go live or remote will hinge on several factors, including the time needed to present the information, the needs of the customers or prospects you’re targeting, and the physical locations of attendees. Keep in mind these pros and cons when deciding how best to reach your audience.

Live events

Can include

  • Executive briefings
  • Breakfast meetings
  • Lunch-and-learns
  • Seminars


  • You can hold your audience’s attention longer. Unlike remote events, which should last no more than an hour, a live seminar or briefing allows you to cover topics in more depth. They work especially well for users or technical decision makers who want to dive deep into the details of your solution. They’re also effective for prospective buyers who are further along in their purchase cycle—they want to make good decisions, so they’re more willing to commit the time to attend.
  • You can show attendees more. Live events enable you to offer plant tours and show how your product is made or how services are provided. If your facilities are impressive, attendees see tangible signs of your company’s success. Alternatively, you can invite prospects to events at your customer’s site to see your products or services in action.
  • Your audience can meet you and your team, and vice versa. A live event gives prospects a chance to meet and make a personal connection with you, and to vet you and your staff.
  • Attendees can interact with your happy customers. You can invite satisfied customers to your live event and have them mingle with hot prospects. These customers often act as your ambassadors and help sell the prospect on the benefits of selecting your products or services.
  • You can gauge audience reaction. Are attendees’ eyes glazing over? If so, you’re either confusing your audience or covering the material too slowly. Are they nodding, smiling, and engaged? Great—you’re connecting with them. At one seminar I gave recently, I saw two attendees whispering and nodding to one another when I made a key point. When I caught their eye, they told me that they understood the value of the recommendation but didn’t know how to “get there from here.” This allowed me to elaborate on implementation strategies and tactics, and it created the opportunity to talk later about how my services could help.
  • Your venue can be a draw. If you’re holding an event at an attractive facility—at a casino or on a yacht, for example—attendance may be higher simply because the venue itself is a lure.


  • Live events can be more costly. Expenses for travel, meeting rooms, audiovisual equipment, attendee meals, and parking can add up quickly. You’ll also need personnel to staff registration tables, meet and greet guests, and oversee event logistics.
  • They require a larger time commitment. Unless the event is being held at your site or your customer’s, you’ll both spend additional time traveling to and from the venue.

Remote events

Can include

  • Webinars
  • Videoconferences
  • Teleconferences


  • They require less time: It’s easier to get on attendees’ calendars if you’re asking for only an hour out of their schedules.
  • Travel is eliminated: Your audience and presenters can participate from their desks or home offices. For prospects that are geographically diffuse, this is a big plus.
  • They’re usually less costly. Webinars can cost less than 25 cents per minute or $15 per hour per participant. Compare that to the cost of flying in presenters, renting meeting space and equipment, and providing refreshments.
  • Participants can invite others to attend: Because of the shorter time commitment and the convenience of attending from their offices, participants are more likely to invite colleagues to watch and listen. Several people can easily huddle around a PC or view the webinar on the big flat-panel monitor in the conference room.
  • You can record the event. Often people sign up for an event but don’t show up because of a last-minute office or client emergency. Webinars and teleconferences give you a second chance to reach these no-shows. You can send them the recorded event on a CD or follow up by email and direct them to a website where the event can be replayed at their convenience.
  • You can do live, interactive demos over the Web. You can use web conferencing software or services to demonstrate your software right on participants’ own computers. They can follow along as you click through each step, or you can let them manipulate their own mouse and keyboard.
  • It’s easier to attract guest speakers. Invited speakers can participate from the convenience of their own homes or offices, rather than having to travel to the event. And professional speakers usually charge significantly less for their services if no travel time is required.


  • Participants need the right equipment. Most people, but not all, have the high-speed internet connection needed to easily view a webinar. And videoconferencing requires that both ends have compatible equipment.
  • You may not have participants’ undivided attention. It’s easy for attendees to be interrupted by colleagues or staff, or to get distracted by phones or email while your webinar or teleconference is going on.
  • Time is limited. Webinars should last no longer than an hour. If your material requires more time, opt for a longer, live event instead.

The upshot

Which event format should you choose? Live? Remote? Your decision will ultimately depend on several factors, including the amount of time needed and the available resources.

But the most important criterion should be your attendees’ preferences. Busy C-level and senior executives will likely prefer the convenience of a quick, one-hour webinar, whereas a user group may prefer the interaction of a live event such as a lunch-and-learn seminar. Be sure to deliver your information in the way your audience wants to receive it—you’ll increase the likelihood your message will be heard, retained, and acted on.

Contact Mac for a Free Decision Maker Kit

M. H. "Mac" McIntosh is described by many as one of America's leading business-to-business sales and marketing consultants and marketing speakers. He is president of Mac McIntosh Incorporated, a marketing consulting firm specializing in helping companies get more high-quality sales leads and turn them into sales. More about Mac...

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