February 16, 2024
By Madison Howard

We've always had webinars, but now, the humble webinar has been joined by a new type of event - a virtual event.

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.

With this new reality comes new challenges and solutions. As you're building your virtual event strategy, there's a lot to consider. The right virtual event platform, the right type of content, the best virtual engagement strategies – these are all crucial components in crafting an effective (and enjoyable) virtual event. If you’re considering what your event might look like and how you can make your virtual event as engaging as possible, take a look at these 30 virtual event ideas that you can try at your next virtual event!

Attendee Engagement During Event Programming

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.

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.

Interactive Live Attendee Chats

Attendees at virtual events want to feel as connected as they would at an in-person event. Offering a chat feature that allows attendees to connect instantly during your event can help create that connectedness they’re all craving.

Highlight Exhibitors' Products and Services with Virtual Trade Shows

Want to give your attendees the experience of a live, in-person event from their homes? A virtual trade show is a way to do it. Trade shows are designed to be an exciting and interactive way for an attendee to view exhibitors' products and services, but it doesn’t have to be limited to a physical venue. Now, you can host more viewers than ever through a virtual replication of the real thing.

Trade Show Booth Hours

Have exhibitors offer drop-in hours at virtual booths so attendees can network with them during free moments in their schedule and check out their products and services.

Live Polling During Sessions

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

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.

Show Off Your Products and Services with a Virtual Exhibition

Want your attendees to feel like they’re at your venue? A virtual exhibition is an online space containing a detailed and interactive environment for attendees to peruse your offerings. You can show off your products and services while giving your viewers the feeling of an in-person experience.

Specialised 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.

Create a Momentous Experience with a Virtual Graduation

Do you have attendees graduating from certification or training programs? Just like any other awards ceremony, you can host a fun and engaging virtual graduation ceremony, allowing your graduates to bring virtual guests along with ease.

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.

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.

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. 

Offer Online Lectures with a Virtual Seminar

Similar to training and certifications, virtual seminars are a great way to give your attendees the chance to learn during your event. Instruct and guide your attendees on issues and trends that are important to your industry in a functional and flexible learning environment.

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.

Virtual Team-Building Exercises

Working effectively as a team is hard enough, but virtual teamwork comes with its own unique set of challenges. Why not host a virtual team-building event for your internal teams or event attendees?

Virtual Internal Events to Keep Your Teams Connected

Give your company a morale boost or an opportunity to learn with virtual internal events. There are many options when it comes to a virtual event for your employees, including workshops, games, and even holiday celebrations.

Motivate Your Teams with a Virtual Sales Kick-Off

To bring your sales team together, share your organisation's annual goals, and set the tone for your year, try a virtual sales kick-off. This internal event has so many perks! You can use it as an opportunity to celebrate the team’s success, talk about strategy, and bring awareness to updates and best practices. Not only is the event itself helpful, but it can also be as simple as setting up a Zoom meeting and organising an exciting agenda.

Breakout Entertainment During Event

Mental and Physical Wellness Programming

During a virtual event, it’s no secret we all struggle to pay attention as well as we might in person. Screen fatigue is real, and anyone hosting a virtual event needs to acknowledge that and adjust their programming to help. Including mental and physical wellness breaks during your event can not only provide contrast to the regularly scheduled sessions but can also help attendees focus on sessions once it’s time to sit still again.

Social Media Scavenger Hunts

Social media scavenger hunts could kill two birds with one stone. Get your attendees more engaged with your brand and your company’s social media presence while also offering a fun competition for attendees.

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.

Mixology lessons during happy hour

Virtual Event Ideas to try

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. This is also a great option as a virtual team-building activity.

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.

Send a Bingo Card of Industry Terms to Attendees

Every industry has its 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 incentivise them to stay focused on sessions and add an element of fun.

Pre- and Post-Event Attendee Engagement

Unique Registrations for Attendee Types

Offering unique registrations based on attendees' interests in sessions and event programming allows you to not only track attendee engagement in various event programs but also allows you to create targeted messaging. Depending on an attendee's registration type, you might choose to send specific marketing content to that attendee before and after your event that promotes content, event programming, and products you know they'll be interested in based on their registration choice.

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 sanitiser, branded masks, or whatever else is popular at the moment. There’s nothing better than a surprise delivery.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Looking to improve your virtual event strategy? Check out our Virtual Event Strategy for Dummies guide.


Madison Layman

Madison Howard

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 memorising pop culture facts.

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