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Virtual Events: To Pre-Record or Go Live?

By Abby Wolfe

To pre-record or go live? That is the question. In times of COVID-19 and social distancing, we are all becoming our own versions of virtual event experts. BUT, the real virtual experts on our team have recommendations on when to go live and when to pre-record. 

The truth is most of the virtual events you are attending already ARE pre-recorded. It doesn’t make sense for all situations, but it certainly does for a lot of virtual event formats. 

The type of virtual events we are talking about are online versions of live events that include presentations, panel discussions, product reveals, breakout sessions, performances, auctions, and more. 

Going Live 

First, let’s break down the pros and cons of going live for virtual events. There is an organic and immediate feeling of excitement around live feeds in a virtual environment. A small part of the draw for an audience is the potential for things to go arry, but the biggest draw of a live online event is the ability to engage with that audience in real time. 

Where does this make the most sense? This is great for telethons and Q&A formats. Some fundraisers could benefit from live fundraising updates to their audience beyond graphic tickers and other methods of counting. This is also prime time for events heavily centered around social media engagement of attendees. 

A great example of this method was the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma’s recent 40th anniversary fundraising event where live updates were represented on screen as well as verbally throughout the event. 

The cons to going fully live is that sometimes transitions and interactions can be delayed or even awkward. There is also always potential for things to go wrong– maybe someone misses an important line in the script, or they aren’t sure what camera to look at, or even the dreaded scenario of internet connection creates a distraction. 


Whether it feels counterintuitive or not, we are conditioned to watch pre-recorded content. We see it every day on social media and television. Nevertheless, it might feel counterintuitive to log into a Zoom meeting to watch pre-recorded content. Here’s a secret… most of it is done before the link is ever sent to attendees. 

Why? Pre-recording content provides reliability and allows for editing. It doesn’t have the time restrictions or the “talent” restrictions of a live shot. This is particularly helpful when performances are at play. Many presenters also prefer this method to the live counterpart. 

Virtual Event Pre-RecordedWhile pre-recording has been an important part of many events this year, our friends at Center of Family Love were thankful for the flexibility created around their two musical performances, mcee, and important calls for donations throughout the program. Combining the pre-recorded performances allowed the mcee to focus on the results from the telethon while streaming live. 

The pre-recorded content also allows for more “pizazz” in your presentation. More graphics, video production, and subtitles. Not to mention, you can book any speaker — it is not necessary they be available at the appointed time, and you can also find times for a panel to all record together by merging their calendars.

The Combo

The combination of the two methods resulted in smooth transitions, less awkward pausing, polished content, and high engagement. For many of our clients, it is highly recommended to do a combination of live and pre-recorded content. 

Still have questions about live versus pre-recorded virtual events? Contact us here. 

Here’s more on pre-recording versus going live from BizBash. 

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