There’s a lot that’s different between in-person and virtual events. Of course, the most obvious difference is that one involves the physical presence of the attendees (in-person) and other uses a form of technology to connect everyone (virtual). But how does that affect the event itself? And, more importantly for event planners, how does that affect the event budget? In this post, we’ll explore some of the major differences between in-person and virtual event budgets, so you can see what line items can be removed and what ones you’ll have to keep—but rename.

If you’ve spent any time Googling information on virtual event budgeting, you’ve likely stumbled across statics like the one from Aventri, stating that virtual events are approximately 75% cheaper than in-person events. And while we’re not going to dispute their data, it is worth understanding why virtual event budgets are so different. But we’ll also explore the areas that can be more expensive for a virtual event—especially for your first event.

It isn’t necessarily cheaper to host a virtual event instead, especially if it’s your first time with a large-scale virtual event. As with any new event, up front costs may be high. But there are some distinct differences between in-person and virtual event budgets that we can explore.

The Venue

The Short Answer: You probably won’t need a venue for your virtual event, which can be a huge money saver. But you may need some of that money for tech and equipment costs.

For an In-Person Event

For an in-person event, your venue is the star of the show. It’s usually the first thing that you book, and it will determine so many elements of your event. For example, if your venue offers catering services, you won’t need to source food and drink on your own time. It’s typically less expensive to bundle with your venue, too. In addition, the venue location will determine whether or not you need to offer a shuttle or ride share service. And of course, the venue will affect your decoration and signage choice. All of those items add to your bottom line. But if you’re not hosting an in-person event, you won’t need any of that.

For a Virtual Event

Venue space—and all that comes with it—is one of the biggest differences between in-person and virtual event budgets. A virtual event doesn’t usually need food. (Of course, at-home tastings are an exception.) Virtual events don’t need decorations or parking spaces, either. So you’re saving on both a venue and everything that comes with it. In some cases, however, you may need to rent a studio or quiet space to virtually host your online event. Depending on your tech needs, this may use up a portion of your previously allocated venue budget. But you still won’t need any of those on-site amenities.

The Signage & Materials

differences between in-person and virtual event budgets in signage and materials

The Short Answer: You won’t need to update signage from past events or print anything, but you may still need to update handouts. Plus, your virtual event might require new graphics or engagement activities.

For an In-Person Event

Signage and branding are important at any in-person event. Attendees will be roaming the venue, looking at their surroundings. So well-placed signs and marketing materials can be crucial to your event’s success. It’s usually worth the cost, but you’ll still have to print and ship anything that you can’t use from last year. And you may need to pay a designer to update the materials, too. From a budget perspective, it’s best to re-use what you can, but we know that that isn’t always possible.

For a Virtual Event

Typically, you won’t need signage for your virtual event. If you’re hosting on video, you should brand your background. But you can use a virtual background for that instead of new signage. Keep in mind, though, that you may need to pay a designer to make any changes to old materials. And although your attendees will be printing any handouts at home, you may still need to update those, too. But overall, the costs to update your materials are low, and shipment costs are virtually non-existent.

The Equipment & Production

differences between in-person and virtual event budgets in technology

The Short Answer: The money you save on a venue will most likely be re-routed to equipment (and tech support!) for the event.

For an In-Person Event

When you book a venue for an in-person event, those venues typically provide the AV equipment you’ll need to run your event. If you have unique or specific needs, you’ll probably have to provide your own equipment. But for the most part, your venue has you covered. But if you don’t have a venue, then you don’t have their equipment, either. Instead, you’ll have to borrow that equipment from someone else—or maybe even buy it outright. Either way, you’ll have to budget for these new costs.

For a Virtual Event

Yes, you may need to invest in equipment specifically for your event. But you may also need to hire a crew to test the equipment, set it up ahead of time, manage it during the event, and even pack it all up after, too. In some cases, you’ll already have what you need. (Not every virtual event requires a camera crew.) But large-scale events with high visibility often demand more help.

Bonus Tip: Don’t forget to test a few days or a week ahead of time!

If you plan to re-use your recording, you’ll need someone to work on production as well. Most virtual platforms let you easily record your event and download the recording afterward. But you might want to add an intro or include a Call to Action for viewers. You might even want to extract short clips from the recording to use in emails and on social media. If you don’t have someone in-house who can do that, you’ll have to budget for that help.

Swag Bags

The Short Answer: If you want to hand out swag bags, you’ll have to mail them ahead of time—so budget for shipping costs.

For an In-Person Event

Admittedly, the process for swag bags doesn’t change a whole lot between in-person and live events. But the extra cost during a virtual event can sneak up on you! At an in-person event, you choose what items you’ll hand out and package them at your office or event-planning home base. From there, you just have to get them to the venue for attendees to snag.

For a Virtual Event

When you’re creating swag bags for a virtual event, however, you have to add the extra time and costs for shipping each item directly to the attendee. The overall process remains the same, but now it’s your responsibility to get the swag to the attendee, instead of letting them grab it.

Bonus Tip: For local attendees, offer a local pick-up the day before to save on postage costs.

Of course, this costs more with larger or heavier items, so you can choose goodies that are mail friendly. But it will still be an extra cost. And a big one at that, if you plan on having a large guest list.


There are some pretty obvious differences between in-person and virtual event budgets, like venue cost. But there are smaller, sneakier costs, too, like shipping swag bags and editing the event recording for future use. Overall, virtual events can certainly be less expensive than in-person events. Just make sure to get some quotes for any equipment ahead of time, so you can accurately plan your budget.

What are some other budget differences? In your experience, is planning a virtual event less expensive?