Throwing a Virtual Event? Here Are 7 Ideas to Make It Amazing
Virtual events don’t have to be snoozefests. Read more here to find out how you can make your event a great experience!
We’ve all been to webinars with presenters reading the slide decks on the screen or happy hours with teammates who don’t even have their video on. But you don’t need an over-the-top concept, celebrity guest, or a team full of extroverts to make a virtual event one to remember.
Just like in-person events, the key to virtual events is thinking about the entire experience, from signing up online to the post-event follow-up email.
So, whether you’re hosting a webinar, happy hour, team-building event, or all-day conference, here are a seven ways to make sure your next virtual event is a hit:
Virtual event ideas to make your next event amazing
Everyone loves in-person events for the feeling they create. We’ve all had those incredible off-the-cuff moments where you meet the right person or hear just the right piece of advice to break through a plateau in your career. But they’re not the only option to achieve your marketing goals.
Done right, virtual events can bring people together – without needing to book plane tickets, pay for parking, or wander around large conference halls desperate for a decent cup of coffee. Here’s the secret: Virtual events can’t recreate in-person ones, and the best ones don’t try to. Here’s what they do instead:
1. Make attendees feel like they’re in your space
Nothing is more blah than the standard backdrop for every. single. online meeting.
If you’re running an event in-person, you would consider signage across the entire conference space or even the airport to greet attendees when they arrive. So why not do the same with your virtual events?
Think about adding your brand colors, logo, or event hashtag to:
Consistent backdrops for all presenters
Custom branded slide decks for speakers
Custom URLs and names for virtual meeting rooms that fit the event
Background colors, fonts, and illustrations or imagery that matches your brand
With Whereby, you can embed meetings directly into your website or app, so your attendees feel like they’re a part of your overall online brand experience right away. It’s seamless, so all they have to do is click to join.
2. Include a built-in tutorial beforehand
Let’s face it: Not everyone is super comfortable with technology. A few days before a big event, grant your attendees access to your event platform or set up a virtual sandbox for them to get familiar with all of the different features, like how to chat, react, or whiteboard within the platform. Include a video tutorial or written troubleshooting guide just in case something goes wrong on event day and attendees aren’t not able to reach your team.
This is doubly true for your presenters. Whether or not they’ve participated in an event with you before, run through the material one last time a few days before they present, and have them log on a few minutes early for a final sound check. You want to make sure each event speaker understands how to move through a presentation, share screens, mute/unmute, and start breakout rooms before the event gets started.
Because we’ve all been through the embarassing, “No, you’re on mute,” moments when it matters.
3. Combine virtual and real-world experiences
There’s no rule that says virtual events have to be 100% online. Adding a real-world component makes your event feel more…well, real, even if it’s only a few hours. Not only is it unexpected, it’s memorable – and makes your attendees feel more connected to one another.
Surprise your guests with a real-world component to the event, like:
A welcome box filled with branded swag
A selection of beer, wine, or mixed drink ingredients for a happy hour (plus a few non-alcoholic options)
Branded coffee or breakfast pastries for a morning event
Notebooks, printed materials, and pens for note-taking
Even if an attendee is just logging on in the middle of their workday, sending them a little something they can use as part of the event sets the tone that you care about their experience – and that the event is going to be something special.
4. Pay attention to transitions
Have you ever tried to sit in front of your computer without getting up for more than an hour? It just doesn’t work. If you’re running a longer workshop or all-day event, break up the content into manageable chunks, with plenty of opportunities for snack and bio breaks in between.
Pay attention to your transitions between sessions. So many events overlook this time as just a rush from one breakout room to another, but it can be a real moment of delight if you get creative with it:
Hire a band, late-night entertainment style, to provide live entertainment between sessions
Run a quick cooking demonstration for a snack break attendees can follow along at home
Include a silly or fun YouTube video during the break (cat videos are always a crowd favorite)
Do a rapid-fire interview session with an executive or special guest
Play an icebreaker game in smaller breakout rooms
Invite a yoga teacher or fitness instructor for a five-minute get-up activity or meditation
For your event material to really resonate with your attendees, you want to give them an experience they can remember. Including plenty of breaks, shorter sessions, and opportunities for each participant to get up and move in the same way they would at an in-person event is an important part of making the experience one they’ll remember.
5. Open up the chat for real-time communication and questions
Virtual events should be interactive.
Yes, even with hundreds of attendees. While you wouldn’t want to open it up for a free-for-all where anyone could jump in with a comment (or leave their mic on…) you still want to make sure people can participate and feel heard. The best way to do that is through chat and reaction functions.
While your presenters may have a script they want to stick to, the more they can use what they’re seeing in the chat, add quick polls, or answer questions throughout the event, rather than at the end, the more engaging your event will be. At a minimum, start every session asking attendees to drop where they’re from or one thing they hope to get out of the session in the chat as everyone is getting settled, and make sure to build in time to answer questions at the end.
6. Include networking opportunities
When you think of networking, you’re probably picturing a crowded conference room full of people chatting over passed appetizers. But when there are thousands of people at a virtual session, it’s even worse. How do you know who to talk to? You don’t want to DM someone random during a session to start a conversation if they’re trying to pay attention. That’s why you want to build specific networking time into your event, whether you create a specific networking community, Slack, or Facebook group.
“How do you know who to talk to when there might be 1,000 attendees? You might only have time to meet 10 or 15 people, so you want to be efficient and maximize the time you do have. [Even virtually], attendees and the sponsors are there to meet prospects and potential customers.” - Ville Vanhala, Co-founder and Head of Customer Success at Brella
Online networking tool Brella uses Whereby to facilitate one-on-one networking meetings by matching event attendees based on their shared interests and career path. Then, it allows participants to schedule networking sessions on-site or virtually through a video call. So far, they’ve scheduled over 350,000 meetings and held 1,200 virtual events.
7. Use Breakout Groups to your advantage
Another way to make events more interactive? Smaller, more intimate virtual meetings. If you’re hosting a larger meeting, use Whereby’s Breakout Groups feature to your advantage.
Whether you want your attendees to discuss specific challenges they’re having, brainstorm solutions to a given brain teaser or business problem, or simply get to know one another better, Breakout Groups give them the space to have those conversations, even during a larger session.
Running a fantastic virtual event means you need to pay attention to the entire event experience, from small touches like branded presentations to capturing some of the in-person magic virtually with interactive games, chat, and networking opportunities. No matter how small, your attendees (and presenters) appreciate feeling like they’re a part of something bigger.