October 14, 2020
By Madison Layman

According to a survey conducted by PCMA, 79% of event planners are going virtual. From virtual meetings to virtual conferences, the meetings and events industry has transformed in the last few months and is embracing new forms of event marketing and management technology. We’ve gathered 26 virtual event ideas together to try at your next virtual event.

26 Virtual event ideas with examples

Q&A during sessions

Attendees will always have questions – give them a chance to ask them! The best way to do Q&A virtually is through a chat, which allows a moderator to approve questions before having the speaker answer them.

Create a hashtag for your virtual conference

Promote your event on social media using a hashtag. Have attendees use a hashtag when posting about the event and use it during promotion before the event to generate interest.

Send swag to attendees who register early

Event swag is always one of the best parts of any conference. Send attendees hats, t-shirts, mousepads, hand sanitizer, branded masks, or whatever else is popular at the moment. There’s nothing better than a surprise delivery.

Gamification through a mobile event app

Activate your attendees through the mobile app by adding gamification challenges that keep them engaged during the event.

Breakout sessions

Find a virtual conferencing tool that allows you to send attendees into breakout sessions. These breakouts can be used to facilitate lively discussions during sessions.

1:1 appointments

Sponsors and exhibitors are always looking for ways to network with attendees. Allow attendees to self-schedule meetings with sponsors and exhibitors before the conference and have them added to the agenda.

Trade Show booth hours

Have exhibitors offer drop-in hours at booths so that attendees can network with them during free moments in their schedule. Gather

Live polling during sessions

Engagement is the name of the game. Have speakers utilize live polling during sessions to gauge attendee’s answers in real-time.

Find event sponsors

Sponsors can alleviate the cost of your event and attract more attendees. Put together an attractive sponsorship package and find quality sponsors who align with your event’s purpose.

Cooking lessons from the comfort of your own home

Hire a chef to give a cooking lesson during the virtual conference. This lesson can occur during the lunch break or at the end of the day. Send attendees the recipe ahead of time and maybe even a gift card for groceries or a little swag, and have them tune in to follow along with real pro.

Limit access based on different registration levels

If you’re charging for your virtual event, consider offering different levels of access to content that is clearly stated on the event website, just like you would at an in-person event. Come up with different offerings for a basic attendee and a VIP attendee that are worth the cost difference

Mixology lessons during happy hour

mixology

Just like cooking lessons, who doesn’t like to learn how to make a new drink? Create a special drink for your event and send attendees a cocktail kit ahead of time. Then, host a mixology class before a networking happy hour.

Throw a dance party

Channel the feeling of a Las Vegas nightclub with a dance party and a great DJ. While it can’t replicate the actual thing, attendees can still have fun dancing like no one is watching (because they aren’t!). Another option is to create a special virtual conference playlist to share with attendees and get them excited.

Put on a concert or a comedy show

Hire a band, a singer, or a comedian and stream a live concert for attendees. Often, some of the biggest draws at a conference are the featured performances. They are a great way to give attendees a “brain break” and grab interest when promoting the event.

Unique keynote speakers

One benefit of a virtual event is that the lift is lower for speakers. Because of this, you might be able to get a speaker that wouldn’t normally be available. Content is everything for a virtual conference, and a few attention-grabbing keynote speakers can have a positive impact on registrations.

Present a panel of speakers

Vary the session style by offering panels. They are a great way to facilitate discussion between leaders in an industry and can make use of live Q&A as a way to include attendees.

Offer livestreaming and on-demand content

Give attendees a few options when it comes to virtual conference content. Rather than making their agenda fixed, offer a few live sessions as well as ones that can be viewed on-demand at their leisure.

Hire a video production company

train speaker

The better the content, the higher attendee engagement. A production company can add endless value to your virtual conference, whether it’s making session content crisper or making videos and ads to intersperse throughout the content.

Specialized tracks to meet attendee needs

If your virtual conference attendees have different needs, then it’s worth thinking about creating content tracks to meet those needs. Build out streams of content that align with those needs, then tag content to make it easier for attendees to choose the right sessions for them.

Think outside of the box with a virtual awards ceremony

As we saw with the Emmys this year, awards ceremonies can still be entertaining when done virtually. Revamp your awards ceremony to make the most of the virtual space, with performers, different hosts, and a great script.

Allow attendees to download content after the event

Make the most out of your event content and allow attendees to access content after the conference. Consider putting a time limit on availability to drive demand, then leverage your virtual conference content in your demand generation streams.

Offer sessions at times that are convenient across time zones and in multiple languages

Virtual conferences can cast a wider net than in-person conferences. Take advantage of the increased attendance by scheduling your sessions for various time zones. Also, consider translating sessions or offering them in different languages.

Train speakers ahead of time

To make your content the best it can be, train your speakers before the event. Talking on video is very different than in-person and there are easy ways to make their session more engaging. Something as simple as checking their background, camera, and microphone setup can make a world of difference.

Send a bingo card of industry terms to attendees

Every industry has their own unique glossary of terms. Make a game out of these terms or common phrases by making a bingo board for attendees to fill out during the conference. It will incentivize them to stay focused on sessions and add an element of fun.

Training courses and certifications

Don’t just offer sessions – offer training courses and certification. Attending a virtual conference requires justification and getting credits for attending can do just that.  

Keep sessions short – or vary the structure

Distractions are a click away at virtual conferences. When creating content, don’t drag out sessions. But, if you do want to have longer sessions vary speakers and production so that attendees are engaged by the change in formatting every ten minutes or so.

Lean into creativity with virtual events

There is no limit on what can be done at virtual events to engage and entertain attendees, sponsors, and exhibitors. As you plan your next virtual conference, be ready to push past what you’re used to doing and embrace new virtual technology to create your best event yet. 

For more virtual engagement ideas, read 18 Ways to Engage Attendees at Virtual Meetings and Events.

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Madison Layman

A graduate of the College of William and Mary, my passion for writing began before I could read, with a nightly verbal diary dictation transcribed by my obliging parents.

When I'm not writing, you can find me binge-watching TV shows, baking elaborate desserts, and memorizing pop culture facts.

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