Tea with the Queen

In-person vs virtual offerings: the great debate



In-person vs virtual offerings. As business owners especially over the last few years during the pandemic, we got used to running all our communities virtually. But is this the best way to build our networks?

What would be your preference?

You might be sitting there thinking, “Well hang on there are pros and cons to both of them. I want to show up in my pj bottoms and a top knot which is great for virtual, but in-person that may be frowned upon”. In-person is a lot more effort.

But maybe in-person is better because we feel more connected to the other humans in the room, and we can achieve better results.

You’re probably now more confused and for that, I’m not apologising. It’s a long-standing debate and one I’m eager to tackle for you. Let’s dive into the pros and cons of each approach for your business, and see where it leads.

In Person Communities:

Building a community in person offers a unique interpersonal connection that is hard to replicate in virtual settings. I run in-person events regularly for our Thriving Women community, and it does fuel my introverted soul. I enjoy seeing people in the flesh, but also need my space after the fact to recharge. The intimacy of face-to-face interactions, eye contact, and shared experiences in physical spaces can foster deep relationships and a sense of belonging.

Virtual Communities:

On the other hand, virtual communities provide accessibility and convenience that negate geographical boundaries. You are able to reach a larger audience, attend events from the comfort of your home (in your pj pants if you like) and it’s definitely more efficient. Virtual communities offer a diverse range of opportunities for humans to connect and engage with others, regardless of their location. This can be so helpful, especially if you’re running a business that can benefit a global audience.

Finding the Balance:

While both in-person and online communities have their strengths, the key lies in finding a balance that works for you as a business owner. Prior to the pandemic, I had never thought to run any of my 1:1 coaching sessions via Zoom. I would always fly to their location and run an in-person session, which was always a lot of fun. When the pandemic hit, it forced me to rethink my business offerings and to be honest, it was the shakeup that I needed.

I stopped spending so much time travelling and instead could focus on delivering high-quality sessions to my coaching clients at times when it was convenient for both parties. Though, of course, I still missed the in-person sessions and wanted the best of both worlds.

You Don’t Have To Commit to “Forever”

Experimenting with pilot programs can be a strategic approach to testing the waters before fully committing to in-person vs virtual communities. You’ve got to build something that you feel like you want to be apart of, and that you’re capable of running whether it’s in-person or online. So don’t be afraid to put a new offering out there, and know that you can treat it as a “pilot” to see how it feels. It doesn’t have to be forever.

Business isn’t the same as it was even five years ago, so I think it’s important to stay open to innovation and be ready to adapt. Whether you prefer the warmth of face-to-face interactions or the convenience of online connections, the essence of the community lies in creating meaningful relationships and fostering a sense of belonging. 

In my mind, I don’t see why you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Why not have an offering that is online-only, and in-person too where it feels more aligned? 

Read The Full Transcript

[00:00:00] Emma: Do you think building a community in person is better than building a community online? I had a client who All they did was run in person events She was a total extrovert. She loved people. She loved getting belly to belly with people and she knew the great things happened in the room. And she was nervous about changing to some kind of virtual environment.
[00:00:45] I'll tell you a little bit more about that later. I guess you need to think about what is it that makes virtual so good as opposed to in person. I think the pros and the cons need to be done. I think when you have a virtual environment, It's really easy to reach many more clients or customers, either from Australia, around Australia or around the globe.
[00:01:08] And I think that's really important for people, especially when you have diversity in your programs. It's easy to do it in the comfort of your own home with your slippers underneath or your shorts on and it's party at the top and, uh. No, no, it's party at the bottom, business at the top, party at the bottom.
[00:01:24] And I think that that makes it a bit easier for people to feel comfortable around jumping on a virtual or an online kind of setting. And I think the flexibility provides us as busy business owners. We don't have to travel anywhere. We don't actually need to, prepare very much, or we can prepare in the privacy of our own home.
[00:01:45] When COVID hit. Serena, who is my business manager and my sister, she's in Western Australia. We had to change what we were doing quite dramatically. So as you know, I do one on one coaching and I would travel to meet people face [00:02:00] to face for one on one coaching. And when COVID hit. Serena said to me, all right, how long are we going to change this for? I'm like, I think this is the crisis that we need. It stops me traveling. It means I can see more clients. And actually I'd really want to test out whether we get more done via Zoom than we do face to face. And so we moved all of our clients onto Zoom and we haven't looked back.
[00:02:22] It was a bit of a silver lining for us. The interesting thing for me is that on Zoom we get so much more done. People have their, paper in front of them, their pens in front of them. They're ready for a conversation. You're not faffing, ordering coffees or lunch or whatever. You get straight into it.
[00:02:39] I think there are some things about virtual online that are tricky. I think the lack of, for me personally, the lack of belly to belly, eye to eye contact that you would find in a room, I think that is tricky. I think also not everyone has access or easy access to internet all of the time. I recently realized that by having a power outage for four days and boy, oh, boy, do we have to work hard to work out what we do next?
[00:03:05] And dare I say pivot? I hate that word. Just saying. I also think that sometimes when people are on virtual, I think there's more of a chance of overwhelm and burnout. And I am on the faculty of a business school and we do three days online and it's exhausting. And I think also what we haven't done is now that we're, out of that space, we haven't gone back and gone, all right, what works now and what doesn't work.
[00:03:32] I myself have a few different communities. We've got Thriving Women in Melbourne. That is all face to face and that is workshops and dinners and retreats, and hot seats. You name it, we do it face to face. And I love that. I am a raging introvert. So for me to get out and see people and hang out with people and engage with people one on one.
[00:03:51] Just fills my bucket, but I do need to manage my energy in that. I think the other thing is though, a lot of people have said to me, can you make thriving human Australia [00:04:00] wide so that other people can join in? And so we have created and curated some events that people can join online so that they still get the benefit of a community.
[00:04:10] And while we were in COVID, I. decided that we all needed a bit of a pep up. And so for anyone that wanted to come, they could jump in and have a zoom call with a number of us on a Thursday for an hour. It was basically just a coffee break. Everyone's experiencing the same thing, practically across Australia, definitely in Melbourne.
[00:04:30] Um, and so we started building a community online and I didn't mean to build the community. I was just like, what do people need? And all of a sudden that's what happened. So I think it's important to have a look in the market and see where the gap is for either building a community, joining a community, whatever it is that you need to do.
[00:04:48] When I first rolled Thriving Women out five years ago, When I scratched the bones of Thriving Women Out and the inclusions, I sat back and went, do I love it? Do I want to be a part of this community? And I actually created the community that I felt was missing. And so I feel like I'm really convicted about that community.
[00:05:05] And we're five years in now, which is amazing. And yes, it's evolved and yes, it's tweaked, but people still love. The dinners, they still love retreats. They still love hanging out one on one with each other. And I think that's never going to change. It's kind of like when you know that being in a room with like minded women will get you more results, better results, better conversations, and more diversity, that's what you want.
[00:05:30] So I would encourage you, if you're thinking about, do I build an online community or do I build a face to face community, why can't you do both? I mean, depending on your circumstances will depend on the practicality of that really. and I think one of the things that we really realized is that people still want.
[00:05:48] community. They don't love the word networking, but they still want the community. And, going back to our earlier story, one of my clients was like, what do I do? [00:06:00] Because they had been running face to face events, kind of like us. And I just said to her, you know what, you can just start slow. You can just start small and you can start to build your community virtually and keep your face to face community.
[00:06:11] There's no problems with that. also we use the word pilot. And I think sometimes when you're trying something new, you don't wanna commit to it forever. , you wanna commit to it as a, in a pilot in a season in time. And that's what she did. And she actually found greater value in the virtual community.
[00:06:30] And since then she has wiped all of her face-to-face programs. And now she literally just does virtual community because that suits her lifestyle. It suits her family arrangements. And it suits her clients. So I guess my question for you is, are you building up both of those? Are you building up a face to face community of some sort, or are you building up a virtual community of some sort and are you doing it in a way that will work for you as the business owner?
[00:06:59] Are you part of face to face communities that are awesome? Are you part of virtual communities that are amazing? I would love to also hear from you if you're in that category. So today we've talked about virtual communities versus face to face communities. Now you know where I sit with both of those things.
[00:07:18] I think you can have both. and I hope that you take some tips out of this and start thinking about actually how can I create a community that suits me and my lifestyle.