• Aleksandra Panyukhina

Virtual Dilemma: live vs pre-recorded sessions?

Updated: Nov 18, 2020



It all started with the LinkedIn post. Who knew that a simple question on what is better for virtual events: live or pre-recorded sessions, would spark such an amazing discussion!

The topic is clearly in high demand as event planners all over the world are trying to develop the winning formula for digital gatherings.


Not to keep you waiting, the majority of event professionals who took part in the discussion were in favor of live-streamed sessions. “Live all the way” they would say. However, if the answer was that simple - this article would have never been written.


Each option: live and pre-recorded have their pros & cons, just like anything else in this world. What gives you a competitive advantage and allows to create a better attendee experience, is using them correctly and involving


Let’s deep dive into the “must-haves” of each format and learn to maximize the efficiency.


Live Sessions


An absolute favorite for virtual events. Live sessions bring the serendipity of physical meetings and unique unpolished moments that would never make the cut otherwise.

Just like watching that “Saturday Night Show” live along with millions of people, you get the feeling of belonging and experiencing something together.

This is exactly what you as an organizer have to capitalize on when opting for live sessions!


It means you should not:

  • Try to script every single moment of your live stream. Give the storyline but let your speakers and moderators go with the flow.

  • Pretend you are somewhere else, but where you are now. Virtual events look cool when produced at a professional studio, but if they are not - go with it! Use real-life backgrounds including a cat or a dog mingling for a few seconds in front of the screen.

  • Control every single question or message in the chat. Overly moderated Q&As have never made anyone happy. If your speaker is not prepared for a live unfiltered Q&A - may it be you should consider another format?

What you should be doing is:

  • Breaking the ice with games, engagement, and simply genuine conversations in the event chat. It can be an amazing source of energy not only for the attendees but for the speakers as well! Let the speakers see how their sessions spark conversations, ideas, and gratitude.

  • Reinforcing the collective experience your attendees are going through. Find ways to create a micro-community these people will feel a part of!

  • Including attendees into the conversation. Create value and benefit from gathering all the brains online at the same time. The magic that can happen when the right people meet together at the right time is beyond words!

Extra bonuses got to the organizers who will:

  • Add live captions to the live sessions to increase the accessibility of content

  • Do live sessions without the main speaker, but encouraging your attendees to be speakers and event co-creators

  • Ask speakers to follow up on questions they could not answer live due to the lack of time

Choosing a live session just because” everyone does so” will not make your event stand out. Think beyond the technical difficulties it might cause and explore the ways it maximizes the value of an event as a whole.


Pre-recorded sessions


Even though pre-recorded sessions are not the “hottest guy in town” when it comes to virtual events, they can be a huge asset when done right.


The key to getting the most out of them is production quality. Apart from high-quality video, good light, and sound (which by the way should be a standard for live as well), you have a unique chance to upgrade the viewer experience and elevate educational value by post-production.


Make the recording visually appealing and easy to digest by:

  • Adding captions (even in different languages if you have an international audience!)

  • Adding overlays or animations with key points

  • Building transitions, sound, and visual effects

Think “Apple Style” when going for pre-recorded content. It’s not just a way to avoid technical difficulties - it’s a way to have a high-quality product delivered to people who trusted you with their time.

Few rules to follow if you choose this path:

  • Never ever pretend the session is live if it is pre-recorded. The secret will be out sooner than you know and people will be disappointed. Inform attendees in advance and highlight the benefits of this format for them!

  • Have a pre-recorded version, but still consider the speaker doing the presentation live if possible or do at least a live Q&A

  • Invest more in the production quality than if you would in a live session. It’s simply a must here.

Pre-recorded sessions allow for more flexibility with the event timing and speaker selection - imagine you have to deliver a live presentation to an Australian audience with a speaker based in NYC. Things get complicated. Whereas with pre-recorded content you will be able to play the content in every time zone as desired.


So what's the right answer?


To sum it up, the format is not the guarantee of success. Envisioning the ideal outcome of the event, understanding the audience, and being creative in your approaches is. Both formats have their tremendous value when implemented right. Unlocking this value is a matter of your skills!


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