Virtual or In-Person Recruitment Events: Which is best?

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Knowing which type of event is best for your recruitment strategy can be tough. It’s a process that should be thought about carefully and incorporate the most effective tactics to reach your objectives. If you want to develop a successful recruitment strategy through events, check out the benefits and disadvantages of virtual and in-person events to determine which is most suitable for your organisation, as shared by the experts in Amberjack’s Attraction Team

Virtual vs In Person – What is the difference?  

Just as it says on the tin, virtual events are hosted on digital platforms. 

There is a large range of virtual platforms on which you can host events, and this can be through an established provider such as JobTeaser, Bright Network, or LinkedIn. Alternatively, you can host virtual events through your own digital platforms using Microsoft Teams and Zoom. 

In-person events give companies the opportunity to engage with students face-to-face or physically, this could be a careers fair, company presentation, a panel event, skills workshop or drop-in session. 

For either event format, it is vital that you ensure you have company representatives that understand your recruitment process and are prepared to answer any questions students may have – whether put to them virtually or in person, face-to-face.   

Before you make any decisions, it is important that you have a clear idea of your hiring numbers, budget, and timeframes – as when choosing any type of event, these three factors will be key factors in any decisions you make.  

Now that we have established the key differences between each event format, what are the pros and cons of each one, and how can you figure out which one is best for your early careers recruitment strategy? 

What are the pros and cons of a virtual event? 

Given we’ve all become so used to attending events online these days, the main online ‘event’ platforms are familiar to most, ensuring your organisation has no technical or security restrictions to access the platform of your choosing will be key to getting started.    

Audience sign-up & attendance 

With virtual events being hosted online, this takes away any barriers to physical presence (no travel) and allows a wider audience to participate. Being online, as long as the audience has access to a device (computer or smartphone), webcam, microphone and internet, means that anyone from anywhere in the world can attend. Providing the advantage of a limitless audience. 

The drawback of a virtual event is the relative ease with which students can sign up, but also withdraw before the event. Dropouts in this format can be anywhere between 30-50% of registered students. 

On top of that, with the advantage of being online, comes minding that technology can have its faults, and attendees may have connection difficulties. Therefore, it is advised to record any online events for attendees to be able to follow up with afterwards and ensure they haven’t missed any vital information (it’s also another good reason to stay in touch with potential candidates|).  

Keep that audience engaged 

Given that virtual events provide a great opportunity to reach a large-scale audience, there is the challenge of keeping all those attendees engaged when you’re not in the same room. 

According to Forrester (2021), 61% of event professionals believe keeping virtual attendees engaged is their biggest challenge and 71% of event decision makers say that it’s difficult to make virtual events accurately mimic the in real life experience (BlueJeans and Forrester, 2021).  

If a virtual event format is best suited for your strategy, you’ll want to ensure that the content you provide your audience is something they will not be able to find elsewhere. Why would people attend your event if they can find the information on your website?  

Interacting with the audience is essential when you’re missing that face-to-face interaction as Bizzabo (2020) found that 52.9% of event marketers believe it is more difficult to create unique and memorable experiences for virtual attendees. 

A way of creating exciting and memorable interaction is more than just leaving a Q&A at the end. Perhaps you could ask attendees to prepare a small introduction of themselves and why they’re interested in your roles (this is where pre- and post-communication is vital, but we’ll get to that later). Create a discussion with your audience about what industry trends they’re enjoying at the moment, and what trends they think might die out. This can make a real difference between getting your audience involved and the event being radio silent.  

Data Access & Communication  

When students sign up for your event, they’re probably providing you with their details which you can use in the pre- and post- event marketing. Instead of asking attendees to fill out any forms during the event, all the data collection is done beforehand, making it easier for both you and the attendees. 

When collecting any data from students, you must ensure you are compliant with GDPR regulations. Students must know why you are taking their data and why and how you will be using it.  

Communication can be a powerful tool pre- and post- recruitment event. Once students have registered for your event, you can send reminders to them about the event, provide insight about the agenda, anything for them to bring with them in preparation and more details about your company’s purpose. It also gives you a good feel for how many attendees you might expect on the day. 

After the event, you can then follow up, reminding students about your current job roles, the application process, and registering their interest for future opportunities.  

At Amberjack, we have developed our candidate registration event portal as an ‘all in one’ area for employers and students to source key information about upcoming events. This platform is a useful tool to build a bridge between employer and student with all-things-communication at the forefront. When students sign up to this platform, they are complying with your own privacy policy so you can make contact within the parameters laid out therein. 

Minimal Cost 

For both the employer and attendee, virtual events are often low-cost. When researching which platform to host your event on, it is important to consider the cost of hosting, if any.  

If you are on a lower budget, you may opt for hosting on your own platform and marketing the event organically on your website or through your social platforms.  

If you have the budget to use an established platform, many offer packages to market the event. This can include hierarchy on dashboards and targeted emails. If you are participating in a pre-organised event by a third party, they will already have a database filled with potential talent that they will be targeting to attend the event.  

For attendees, there is usually no cost involved and the convenience of being able to access employers without leaving your student bedroom is high! 

What are the pros and cons of in-person events? 

Interaction and engagement 

With 2 in 3 (67%) of event professionals feeling it’s difficult to articulate a brand narrative through virtual events (BlueJeans and Forrester, 2021), in-person events provide the opportunity to build rapport and humanise your company with students.   

Meeting the face behind the brand can create a more personalised experience for students when engaging with employers. If you’re looking to build brand awareness into the Gen Z space, an in-person event is more likely to help you achieve that goal.   

A variety of in-person events can increase engagement with students so they can experience different ways of interacting with potential employers and get to know your brand narrative. 

Popular in-person event formats include career fairs, panels, presentations, and skill workshops. Not only that, but all these formats allow for the opportunity to make a memorable impact on talent. 

How can you do that? 

  • Collateral – this is all the free stuff students love such as pens, water bottles, bags, and flyers. This is what they’ll take home with them and remind them of your company. It’s important you consider making this eco-friendly, and a gift with purpose – not simply highly branded cheap items that will end up in the bin by the end of your event. Food and drinks are always a popular choice! 
  • Stand out from the crowd – you won’t be the only employer seeking potential talent at recruitment events. Fill your booth, presentation or workshop with intriguing information – but be sure you aren’t boring students with what they’ve heard before. This is your chance to give them a ‘one time chance’ to gain valuable insight into what you offer.   

However, creating high interaction and memorability can come at a high cost. Here are some important things to consider with in-person events. 

  • The cost of producing, shipping and storing equipment and giveaways. 
  • Travel, accommodation & subsistence cost for staff members. 
  • Staff taking time away from the office can impact the work back there. 

Networking 

There are usually few boundaries to networking when using virtual events, but it can be very hard to beat that in-person interaction with others. With no barriers to hide behind such as webcams, in-person events are more likely to provide stronger and easier networking opportunities.  

With 78% of in-person attendees preferring to network with other in-person attendees (Bizzabo, 2021), the connections made at in-person events can be hard to challenge. Such as students being able to hear first-hand experiences from Alumni. Relating to someone who was in a similar position to them can allow the students to feel more at ease and comfortable to ask any questions and take the next step. 

Nevertheless, for in-person events to work, students must be able to attend in-person, and we all know how sometimes things don’t always go to plan. 

Individually organised events such as presentations or workshops, can have a higher-dropout rate due to factors such as students having to physically attend the presentation at a certain time. Weather, transport disruption and other things on and off campus could affect the student’s attendance.  

We are seeing more feedback from students to suggest that cost of living can impact – this might be the cost of them attending in person when they wouldn’t ordinarily be on campus, or it occurs on a day when they have allocated time to study or work. 

How to decide which event is best for you? 

  • Take a look at your desired talent pool. Are you looking for international talent? Are there specific universities that have the ideal students you are looking for? Clearly thinking about what students you want to target will help you devise whether an online or in-person event is best for your strategy. At Amberjack, our experts have lots of experience working with universities and understanding their student collectives.  
     
  • Consider your budget for events. Do you have the budget for equipment and giveaways? Can you cover the cost of travel and accommodation to host workshops at universities? Is it more cost-efficient for your company to host an online event to reach students on the other side of the world? 

Check out our quick pros and cons table for each event format to reflect on when making those critical choices for your recruitment strategy!  

Virtual Events  

Pros Cons 
Limitless Audience Easy access to data and communication Minimal cost   Ease of signing up = ease of withdrawing Audience engagement can be more of a challenge  Potential Technical difficulties  

In-Person Events  

Pros Cons 
Face-to-face interaction is more likely to create a personalised experience  More option for a variety of in-person formats Easier networking opportunities  Higher overall cost and use of time  External factors can cause disruption is physical attendance  No preregistration = less guilt of not attending  

For either event format, it is essential to ensure you have given yourself a good amount of time to promote your events, as neither will be successful if no one knows about them. There is a challenge to balancing the promotion of your events far enough in advance to build up an interested pool and not too far in advance to avoid students forgetting (remember they are only young adults and recruitment events are only a small part of many things on their mind). 

Our Attraction team have over 15 years’ experience in the early-careers market and have substantial experience in in recommending, organising and managing recruitment events. 

Speak to us about your goals and budget and we can develop a plan to increase your graduate, internship or apprentice applications through student events.    

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