Think about this for a moment — there are more virtual events being hosted every day than there’s ever been in history. It may not be a surprising statistic, but it’s one you, the event professional, need to capitalize on.
With this increased competition in the virtual realm, your event will need to step up its game to stand above the rest and keep guests intrigued.
This means your event will need to be more engaging, experiential, and entertaining than the myriad of similar events put on by your competitors.
Luckily, we’ve come up with 20 virtual event ideas and tactics, including real-world examples, that you can use to inspire your next event and ensure attendees walk away feeling satisfied.
Ready to enhance your virtual (or hybrid) events? Keep reading for ways to improve the outcomes of your next event.
Virtual Event Ideas: Engagement
Engaging a virtual audience requires a different set of tools and tactics compared to the traditional event.
Your audience members will likely be facing several distractions, such as checking their emails, dealing with home life, and getting distracted or watching YouTube clips.
You will need to try harder to maintain your attendee’s attention. This may mean reducing what has traditionally been a multi-day event into a one-day event.
Also, you’ll need to consider accessibility in your virtual event. The benefit of hosting virtual events is that visitors all over the globe can attend, but what if English is a second language to your visitors? Attendees who are blind or deaf will also need additional features to stay engaged, such as live-time transcription or video descriptions.
Below we’ve come up with a list of the most powerful engagement tactics and virtual event ideas you can use to command your event-goer’s attention and ensure your event’s success.
Virtual Event Idea #1) Use Gamification to Your Advantage
Gamification techniques turn routine interactions between your attendees into a competition. The more valuable the action you want your attendees to perform, the more valuable the prize you can offer them.
You can create challenges to encourage event-goers to network with each other, offering prizes to the people who have networked with the most people.
If your aim is to improve session attendance, then give away awards and badges to people when they attend a session. Each session can have its own designed badge that attendees can start collecting (more on this in idea #15).
Any event goal or KPI you want to achieve can benefit from gamifying the action you want your attendees to perform. Create buy-in from your guest speakers and entertainment to play along with the games, encouraging your guests to participate in the activities.
Oktake20 Live, hosted by software company Okta, put on an IT-themed conference last year. To encourage interactions between attendees and vendors, they created a passport game that awarded badges to guests who attended virtual booths. These results were then shared on a virtual leaderboard and used to announce prizes to the top performers.
Need more info about event KPIs and goals that can benefit from gamification? Read 12 Event Metrics to Measure Your Success.
Virtual Event Idea #2) Theme Your Breakout Sessions
Create themed virtual break rooms. Your attendees can get together, have lunch, or just socialize. These breakout rooms don’t need to resemble the rest of your event, they can have their own unique theme.
Add video breakouts during or after sessions for small groups. Create fun assignments or challenges for each group to work on. Then reconvene in the session to discuss the outputs.
Why not create games for your attendees to relax a little? There are tons to pick from. Virtual Pictionary, charades, time’s up, trivia, bingo, caricature challenge, workout sessions, etc.
How about your groups all take part in a “best virtual background” competition? Have the members of the group vote for the best background. Then publish a picture of it on the feed to find out who gets the most votes?
With the right setup, you can use all kinds of virtual backgrounds and effects. Check out below the virtual stage Snapchat did. Take it a step further and mix streams from various sources for your event. You can even create your own layouts. There are lots of tools, tips, and tricks available online to help you with this.
Virtual Event Idea #3) Form a Virtual Treasure Hunt
There’s nothing like a bit of friendly competition to get participants to engage with your virtual event. Many platforms offer gamification options that will open up lots of possibilities for your fun virtual event ideas.
One idea is to combine a number of activities into a virtual treasure hunt for your participants, or even an escape game. Each task could have its own clue or riddle for your audience to solve to earn points and then move on to the next activity.
You could choose to have participants compete individually or in teams. You could also imagine a fun leaderboard that displays who’s in the lead, how many points they have, etc.
Or send goodie bags to users before the event. Think of a fun virtual swag bag that they can use for all your virtual event activities. You can also reward users with gifts during, or after the event: some platforms allow participants to exchange the points that they’ve earned in games. How’s that for some fun incentive to play?
Virtual Event Idea #4) Create Unique Channels and Feeds
There are plenty of fun virtual event ideas you can use to drive interactivity. Just keep in mind that your app users will love to share their opinion. Some fun virtual event ideas can be to create dedicated channels or feeds, a chat room for meeting new people, polls, interactive forms, etc.
How about a “share pictures of pets” channel or feed, or a “watercooler” channel where attendees can post funny memes or GIFs. Or a “self-promotion” channel where attendees can shamelessly promote their companies.
Any type of easy and fun interaction is a good way for your audience to share their ideas and to feel connected with your virtual event.
Virtual Event Idea #5) Networking, But Make it Speed Dating
To encourage networking between your guests you could set up a timed, randomly paired video chat between your attendees. Sort of like speed dating, but instead it’s speed networking. Each attendee will get two to five minutes to chat with each person before their time is up and automatically begins their chat with the next person. Donut or Hopin both provide this type of functionality.
If your platform doesn’t allow for individual one-on-one chats, then the next best thing is impromptu breakout sessions.
Many virtual event platforms now use artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to run their matchmaking and breakout rooms. These functions analyze collected user data added from profiles and survey results to automatically pair compatible attendees together.
Need more networking ideas to connect your audience? Read 20 Tips for Hosting a Successful Virtual Networking Event.
Virtual Event Idea #6) Organize Event Tracks Based on Attendee Interests
Event tracks, or conference tracks, are categorized sessions that fall into a particular theme within your larger event’s theme.
For example, if your event is about technological innovation, you could have one conference track set up just for AI and machine learning sessions, another track set up for hardware and materials sessions, and another about disruption and trends sessions.
Attending a large event with multiple concurrent sessions can be overwhelming for your audience. Make it easier for them to attend by creating individualized tracks based on their interests, and they will be more likely to interact and engage during these focused sessions.
MozCon, put on by SEO company Moz, curated multi-track options to let conference-goers choose their own event track. Attendees could then access all the sessions once the event finished.
Virtual Event Idea #7) Include Q&A Sessions and Panel Discussions
Q&A sessions and panel discussions are one of the most important aspects of a virtual event. These types of sessions are often the main draw for attending the event. People want the opportunity to chat with their industry heroes, leaders, and role models.
Give your audience an opportunity to chat with the guest speakers and panelists so they can voice their opinion and ask valuable questions that may not have been addressed.
You can then keep track of the best questions and answers to create new blog posts and content that will resonate with your audience.
The Slamdance Film Festival in February 2021 featured daily panel discussions with industry leaders that were exclusively accessible to those with the festival pass. In addition, their panels had ASL, closed captioning, and visual descriptions to improve its accessibility for all audience members.
Looking for more engagement ideas? Read 10 Interactive Conference Ideas to Increase Engagement with a Virtual Audience.
Virtual Event Ideas: Experience
There’s the saying “people may forget what you said, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.” The same can be said about events.
Give your attendees an experience they’ll never forget. Intrigue them. Excite them. Give them an event experience that they will want to tell all their friends, colleagues, and family members about.
Here are some suggestions to inspire wonder and awe into your audience’s experience.
Virtual Event Idea #8) Create Intrigue with Invitations
The way you invite attendees to your virtual event can set the tone for fun. Remember Willy Wonka’s golden tickets?
Create intrigue using fun invitation emails. Build-up interest with hints at what’s in store at the virtual event. Ask your attendees to introduce themselves in a fun way. This could be some kind of recording prior to the event. You can even use this content to populate the feed or the user’s profiles.
Why not create a fun interview of your attendees? Some conversation tools are great for gathering information from users. Use intriguing questions and add fun GIFs and emojis. Just remember to keep things light and fun. This will encourage users to play along and provide the info you need.
Casually collecting info from your users will have three benefits. You’ll generate fun content to share, learn about your audience, and help attendees to get to know one another.
Zoomtopia, Zoom’s user conference, sent beautiful invitations to its attendees to make them feel as if they were invited to a real-life ball for their first virtual charity gala. And even though it was a virtual event, attendees were encouraged to put on their best attire to give the gala a glitzy feel.
Virtual Event Idea #9) Create a Fun, Branded Virtual Event Look and Feel
Most virtual event tools have advanced design options. Don’t hesitate to use them to give life to your fun virtual event ideas.
Design your whole event around a theme. Adjust the colors, images, menus, graphics, icons, feeds, pages, etc. Change the entire look of your virtual event to recreate an atmosphere. And add a touch of humor to create a fun environment for your event.
Your event could have its own theme during the day when sessions take place. Then it could change for the evening or any social meet-up moments. Your breakouts could even each have their own theme, depending on the topic. It could be a coffee break or cocktail theme. Even an 80’s, Hawaiian, fancy dress, or any crazy ideas your guests might enjoy!
Send your theme into overdrive with swag. Why not coordinate swag to go with the theme? Perhaps even send something for people to wear or use?
Virtual Event Idea #10) Invite the Family and Pets
With more people working from home, family members are more likely to be close by. Children, dogs, cats, the list is endless. Why not create a moment or session where family members can join in. Perhaps you have a movie-watching party? Or even a pet fancy dress party?
Or how about an “I Look Like My Dog” photo contest, that was put on by the Wine and Dine with Doggies Meetup Group.
Virtual Event Idea #11) Let Your Attendees Get in on the Action
Think of fun workshops, courses, or classes that attendees can participate in. For example, engaging in a DIY project, cooking class, workout, or yoga routine.
You could bring in a mixologist to teach your attendees how to create the special event drink during a “virtual happy hour.” Or bring in a chef to teach how to make a new dish or dessert.
Let attendees get their hands dirty rather than just sitting in front of a screen the whole time. Try to incorporate your event’s theme into this interactive presentation. Make sure it’s relevant to the purpose of your event and find ways to tie it back to your brand or overall objective.
Virtual Event Idea #12) Create Attendee Tiers for Different Levels of Access
If you’re looking to boost your event attendance, then consider creating a “freemium” event, with optional paid, premium tiers. For example, this could allow anybody attending your event a free pass to access sessions and keynotes.
However, it also incentivizes attendees to pay for more premium options, like exclusive breakout sessions, panels, and Q&A sessions.
By creating a freemium model with multiple audience tiers, you can demand more sponsorship at your next event, by proving your audience attendance has been rapidly increasing during past events.
The Midwest Digital Marketing Conference offered two pricing tiers — free and unlimited access for $99. The free option lets attendees watch 14 live-streamed sessions over the course of two days. And the premium option lets users engage in a special Q&A session and view on-demand content during or after the event.
Virtual Event Idea #13) Offer Live, On-Demand and Downloadable Content
Just like traditional events, virtual events often feature concurrent sessions, which forces attendees to pick and choose which sessions they can attend at one time. Luckily, every session can be recorded and uploaded so attendees have access to all of them.
Sessions can also be pre-recorded and uploaded as on-demand content. This way your attendees can attend a live session, while also watching the related on-demand content later.
Adding downloadable content is another helpful feature for attendees to get the most out of their event. Event hosts can upload cheat sheets, summaries, PDFs, and other valuable content for attendees to download at their leisure.
Posting past recorded sessions to your company’s website will also improve your SEO, which can increase registrations for your next event.
For example, Adobe’s Summit website is filled with past event sessions that are free to watch, however, each page has a registration link for their next event prominently featured to encourage signups.
Virtual Event Idea #14) Change Up the Format and Length Frequently
Virtual events and their individual sessions often need to be more succinct and engaging than traditional events. Why? Because people attending from home are prone to more distractions.
So if a traditional event session is an hour-long, your virtual event session should probably be only 20 minutes.
Traditional events schedules also tended to be more predictable, taking into consideration that attendees needed to travel from one area of the convention center to another. But with virtual events, there’s no traveling. Everything is accessible from your attendees’ computers or mobile devices.
This allows greater flexibility to change up the format, reschedule, or adjust the length of each session, which can keep your audience on their toes, and anticipating more.
Virtual Event Idea #15) Make Interaction Competitive
Spark your attendees’ competitive drive to create a fun challenge to see who can attend and interact with the most sessions.
Or create challenges for attendees to interact with sponsors, send introductions, exchange business cards, or participate in polling. If you’re hosting a hybrid event, let in-person visitors gain points by scanning QR codes throughout the venue.
Live-time leaderboards can be presented in your event app, fueling the competition until completion.
You can even have a virtual event MVP ceremony, where you recognize and award the audience member who attended the most sessions or participated in the most activity challenges.
Virtual Event Idea #16) Demo Your Product and Give Attendees an Exclusive Offer
Virtual events are prime environments to demo your new product to your attendees. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons why people attend events — so they have exclusive offers to purchase new products before anybody else can.
And if they attended your event, it’s because they’re probably interested in what you have to sell. It’s a win-win for everybody involved.
For those who aren’t ready to buy yet, you could offer them a special promo code or trial offer just for attending the event, prompting them to reconsider purchasing the product when your sales team connects with them after the event.
Need more ideas on how to launch your product? Check out How To Take Your Product Launch Events Online [+10 Event Ideas Worth Stealing].
Virtual Event Ideas: Entertainment
All work and no play can make events a dull experience. Incorporating moments dedicated to entertaining guests can break up the monotony and seriousness during the event and bring joy to your attendees. But there’s another bonus to bringing in entertainment — your attendees share these experiences with their friends via social media and other channels, spreading your event’s reach to more people organically.
Here are a few ways to add a dash of entertainment to your event.
Virtual Event Idea #17) Incorporate a Virtual Awards Ceremony
As we mentioned in idea #15, you can have an awards ceremony at the end of your event. In addition to awarding the MVP, you can also poll your audience to determine winners or run a social-media-inspired contest on your platform’s live feed.
Examples for virtual awards include:
- Best speaker
- Company with the best team spirit
- Best question asked
- Best vendor
- Best new product
- Best demo presentation
- Favorite one-liner or shareable quote from the event
Virtual Event Idea #18) Add a Sponsored Session or Giveaway
To offset the costs of hosting your event, consider having your sessions sponsored by one of your vendors or a company related to your event.
Creating a giveaway from sponsors is another way to advertise your sponsors, excite your audience, and generate leads.
For example, if one of your sponsors is an airline or a hotel, work with them to create an all-inclusive vacation grand prize.
Essence Festival, a New Orleans-based event that celebrates African-American culture and music, went virtual. It featured a concert series presented by Coca-Cola, and a Ford sponsored virtual trade booth experience complete with a photo booth, a VIP lounge, vehicle tours, and registrations for a free vehicle giveaway.
To reduce event costs and make the most of your event budget, check out our article on how to optimize your virtual event budget.
Virtual Event Idea #19) Bring in Star Talent (That’s Relevant)
Here’s a tip to boost your attendance and marketing efforts: bring in a celebrity or online influencer!
Working with a popular star or influencer will do wonders for increasing your attendance and spreading your event’s marketing reach.
Cross-promote with your star so that they can share your event’s social posts to their large existing fanbase.
As we mentioned in idea #7, many people will attend an event just to have the opportunity to chat and ask questions to their favorite celebrities or influencers.
Virtual Event Idea #20) You Can’t Go Wrong with Exclusive Performances
Besides bringing in key influencers, you should also bring in some entertainment that doesn’t necessarily have to specifically relate to your event. Think of musical performances, comedians, and magicians to add levity to what may be a serious event.
Taking entertainment breaks will help your audience relax a bit to offset their “Zoom fatigue” and give them something to look forward to in anticipation before your event.
It’s been proven that taking short breaks will improve your attendee’s memory, energize them, reduce their stress, and boost their concentration.
INBOUND, by Hubspot, routinely brings in well-known celebrities, such as Dulcé Sloan from The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Whitney Cummings, Van Jones and celebrity couple Chrissy Teigen and John Legend.
Bring Your Virtual Event Ideas to Life with the Right Tools
We hope these tips have helped get your innovative juices flowing. There is clearly no shortage of fun virtual event ideas, and with the right software, you can take each one from idea to (virtual) reality.
With SpotMe’s virtual and hybrid event platform, you get all the tools and integrations you need to put on a compelling event in one package. Registration pages, analytics, and interactive features all come built-in. And with Zapier integrations, there’s no limit to the amount of third party software vendors you can incorporate into your event.
Creating customizable branding for your event’s look and break out rooms is a breeze with SpotMe. And our social-media-inspired interface and mobile event app will ensure your audience members can attend your event with a minimal learning curve.
Curious to learn more about other event platforms out there? Read our virtual events platform comparison chart for 2023.
You can also take a look at 10 Ideas to Get Higher Participation at Digital Experiences to improve engagement at your next event.