A couple years ago we organized a major 200-person conference style event. I wanted to put up the materials on our website, but there was serious concern that this could tank attendance, as people would read the materials and not come to the conference.
I think the opposite is the case. People would read the materials, find it super interesting, understand that the event is not some BS event, and come to the conference to be part of this important discussion.
There are so many potential unique benefits that an in-person attendance to an event can provide. Networking, connecting with the presenters, sharing your perspectives, digging into logical gaps, asking for source materials, getting a feel of the room on a divisive opinion, etc.
I think even streaming an event live can help with attendance. If I was local to an event city, and was watching a conference via streaming, and found it to be super valuable, I would actually turn off the computer and come to the conference. I don’t go to conferences because I have attended enough and found most of them to be completely useless. Live streaming is one of the closest things to getting a feel of the event before the event takes place – I would totally go to one if I could see that participants actually know what they are talking about.
If an event has zero benefits to offer/lure live participants, from the many possible benefits, then that event really doesn’t deserve to be held as a live event. Just pre-record the thing, and distribute the video to subscribers/payees (if you have such a model) or release it on the internet.