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How to Host a Virtual Event | 2021 Best Practices

How to Host a Virtual Event | 2021 Best Practices

A year ago, virtual events seemed like a backup plan to help the scrambled business world adjust to 2020's challenges for a few months.

How time flies!

In-person events have always been a major touchpoint for B2B marketers looking to engage with buyers. At the beginning of the pandemic, events were postponed, but organizers quickly realized that virtual events were an avenue to continuity, rather than just a temporary fix.

While it would be easy for tech companies to switch to virtual events. After all, they're already familiar with the necessary infrastructure. But what about other companies?

Statistics have shown the overwhelming majority of planners will invest in virtual events moving forward as they were able to reach a wider audience and found it easier to find great speakers for their events (Bizzabo, 2020)


"At least 40% of all businesses will die in the next 10 years… If they don't figure out how to change their entire company to accommodate new technologies." —

JOHN CHAMBERS, EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN, CISCO SYSTEM


The organization of events and online services are, therefore, becoming the new standard. To succeed, you'll need to apply some of the virtual events best practices which will be covered in detail here.


What is a virtual event?


A virtual event is a gathering similar to in-person events, with added value, that is hosted on web-based platforms rather than in a physical location. Virtual events can be a great way to form relevant global networks and distribute content at a large scale.

Here are 55 virtual events examples for inspiration when planning your next online event.

1. Live Scribing

Bringing talented illustrators on board to create real-time artwork as panel discussions go on. This is an informative and entertaining way to engage your audience with a unique type of content that could be used in future marketing materials.

Virtual Events Best Practices - Live Scribing

Source: www.87seconds.com

2. Virtual Concert

People are missing concerts, and other in-person experiences, so musical performances can translate very well to virtual events. They add a fun element and keep the audience engaged.

Virtual Concert

Source: www.variety.com

3. Live Games and Competitions

Host an online video game tournament with an entry fee or provide engaging demos and ask the audience to vote for their favorite and announce the winner a few days later. This is a creative way to get the audience involved and have them constantly going back to the event's social media pages to check who won.

Live Games and Competitions

Source: www.esports.net

4. Group Dance Lesson

If you are hosting an event with music and dancing, a group dance lesson is a super fun way to reflect your overall event theme, get lots of laughs, and get attendees out of their shells. 

Virtual events Group Dance Lesson

Source: www.classicfm.com

5. Cooking or Cocktail Class

Virtual cocktail or cooking classes are fun options for social events. Find a cook or mixologist, and have everyone join in from their kitchens, allowing them to learn some new skills, all from the comfort of their home.

Virtual events Cooking or Cocktail Class

Source: www.conviviorome.com

6. Virtual Tour

Give live-stream guided tours in museums and venues as part of your virtual events, during which they can also answer any questions and make people more connected.

Virtual Tour


Source: www.travelandleisure.com

7. Live Translations

A major advantage of virtual events is that they can easily be accessible to international audiences, as well as participants with disabilities. 

Many virtual event platforms now include features powered by AI, which will go a long way to making your virtual event more engaging.

Virtual events Live Translations


Source: www.zdnet.com

8. Social Media Challenge

Think of a fun challenge on TikTok or Instagram and encourage people to take part in and share. This can be incredibly fun and effective for fundraising and building awareness. 

Social Media Challenge

Source: www.nytimes.com

9. Virtual Gala

Another common fundraising idea is gala dinners. Invite guests, share a meal (virtually) and try to deliver a treat or a bottle of wine beforehand for them to enjoy during the event. 

Virtual Gala

Source: wwd.com

10. Head Shaves and Other Dares

A method used all the time by YouTubers. In return for money, you can watch us do something crazy, a great idea for a virtual fundraiser.

Virtual events Head Shaves and Other Dares

Source: www.stbaldricks.org

11. A Pet Event

Invite furry friends to your virtual party by asking attendees to introduce their pets to the audience. Consider mailing goodie bags to the pets, which can go a long way.

A Pet Event

Source: www.thedigitalhash.com

12. Magic Shows

Magic shows are an unexpected and engaging way to entertain your virtual audience and keep them wondering, "How'd he do that?" 

Magic Shows

Source: www.theamazinggary.com

13. Virtual Jam Sessions

Host jam sessions where musicians gather and improv songs together, allowing attendees to unwind and create together.

Source: edmonton.ctvnews.ca

14. Virtual Dance Party

One of the best stress relievers is to let loose and start moving. Host a virtual dance party, queue up a groovy playlist, and bust a move.

Virtual Dance Party

Source: www.nytimes.com

15. Virtual Happy Hours

Socialize in a comfortable setting while sharing drinks and casual conversation over video calls. Decide on a day and time, choose a theme, provide a stipend to buy drinks, and prepare conversation topics and happy hour activities. 

Virtual Happy Hours

Source: swoonstaffing.com

16. TV Viewing Party

Gather on a video call to watch a special broadcast such as a season finale of your favorite show, the Oscars, or a sporting event while streaming the show on a platform like YouTube.

TV Viewing Party

Source: alumni.towson.edu

17. Digital Breakfast in Bed

Start your day with a digital breakfast in bed by asking attendees to arrive in pajamas, allow them to lounge in bed for some time, eat breakfast, and talk with teammates.


Digital Breakfast in Bed

Source: www.workitdaily.com

18. Online Fitness Classes

Promote healthy habits through group accountability by hosting online fitness classes. 

Online Fitness Classes


Source: govdelivery.com

19. Virtual Coffee Breaks

Go on video calls and chat about non-work topics. Which helps build rapport with remote colleagues and leads to more effective collaboration.

Virtual Coffee Breaks


Source: joffreys.com

20. Virtual Casino Nights

Test out luck in high-fun environments by joining with web-based versions of typical casino activities like roulette and blackjack, for example. 

Virtual Casino Nights


Source: www.funcasinonights.com

21. Virtual Story-time

It turns out adults enjoy story-time every bit as much as children. Read stories as a group and discuss them afterward, and maybe encourage attendees to write and share personal pieces as well. 

Virtual Story-time

Source: readingpartners.org

22. Virtual Open Mic

These are virtual events where participants sign up for slots to share a talent like performing a comedy set, singing, or playing an instrument.

23. Virtual Garden Party

Since remote employees do not always spend enough time outside, virtual garden parties force employees to get outside to stream the meeting instead of staying in living rooms.

24. Digital Barbeque

Similar to a virtual garden party, a Digital Barbeque focus on food. Attendees can use a personal mini grill to share and prepare their favorite Bbq recipes. 

25. Wine tasting 

In times of home offices and virtual businesses, receiving real packages in the mailbox makes us happy. Send appropriate drinks to all attendees so that everyone can participate in the tasting. You will be amazed to find out how many wine connoisseurs work in your company.

26. Virtual Trivia Night

Bring in the excitement of your local pub trivia to the computer screen with a virtual trivia night. 

27. Virtual Tarot Card Reading

Find a professional tarot reader to reveal to attendees what the cards have in store for them. Or get yourself a book, do a ton of research, and read their fates over Zoom.

28. Virtual Sand Art Workshop

You don't need artistic skills to make beautiful sand art. Bring in a professional who can demonstrate the craft, and maybe send out the materials needed and get everyone on your team to roll up their sleeves.

29. Virtual Meditation

Experience the present on a whole new level and unlock deep inner reserves of zen. Choose between breath work, classic mindfulness, or posed-based meditations and find an inner connection along with your team. 

30. Virtual Escape Room

A virtual escape room is much more fun than you might think. You'll need to explore and examine your environment and find clues to create a path to freedom.

31. Virtual Get-To-Know

Play a guess who game where you match your co-workers with clues from their past and present, and you'll be in for many fun surprises. 

32. Virtual Homebrewing

Host live instruction sessions for anyone interested in a home-brewing adventure helping brewmasters of all levels use ingredients and materials to create their very own beer.

33. Virtual Dress up

Come dressed up as different characters or imitate them, and the rest can guess what they are. 

34. Polls and Q&A

These have always been used in virtual events, which can give you a good insight into what your audience thinks about a certain topic.

35. Audio only discussions

An alternative to running virtual events without having to strain your eyes looking at the screen the entire time is audio-only discussions. They're productive, cost-effective, and allow attendees to tune in to the audio while doing other chores at home.

36. Brand transitions slides

Make the best out of it and promote your sponsors whenever there is a slot open, like during breaks and in the time while shifting to the next set of the event. 

37. Sponsored virtual swag bags

Who doesn't love a bag filled with goodies! Give away to your audience a couple of sponsored virtual goodies like gift cards, vouchers, or discount coupons, etc. You can also deliver actual gifts to your audience before or even after the event. 

38. Host a giveaway

Increase engagement by hosting a giveaway even before your event, and ask your attendees to tag their friends in it. You can even collaborate with your sponsors and host this giveaway which gives them a good reach.

39. Surprise attendees with home delivery

Make their experience at your virtual event worthwhile by sending gifts over to their homes to elevate their virtual event experience. 

40. Post-event thank you gift

Let your attendees know you appreciate them by sending a post-event Thank you gift with a small thank you note; this will spread the good word of mouth.

41. Leverage virtual venues

You don't need to invest in Hybrid Technologies to be creative. Be innovative by setting different backdrops to the speaker's screen to make it more appealing. Many platforms support this, like the Microsoft team and even Zoom.

42. Revealing quiz

A great and fun way to get to know your teammates is by playing a revealing quiz and have them ask others something about themselves, and the rest can guess and answer.

43. Three truths and a lie

Get your audience to know more about your sponsor by organizing fun quizzes for your attendees revolving around your sponsors' products. 

44. Book Club Evening

Pick out a book and have your attendees read it in advance. Then arrange for an event to discuss the book and their opinions. 

45. Campfire night

Get your team gathered online with their lights dim in the background, have a candlelit in front of the laptop with some marshmallows, crackers, and cheese, and get your virtual campfire night going on.

46. Incentive registrations 

Besides celebrities tweeting, free incentives are the one thing that can help create a buzz amongst people. Announce that you will be giving out a limited number of incentives to people who are the first to register. Make sure it is attractive and exclusive.

47. Virtual Lounges

Virtual lounges help build the relationship between the sponsor and the audience, and if any of the audience is interested in the product, they can get in touch with the sponsor directly. 

48. Ad space on your live stream

Selling ad space, banners, and pop-ups at the side can bring out the best of business. 

49. Pre-event chat rooms

Allow your like-minded audience to connect and interact before the event, makes it more comfortable and easier to get the discussions going during the virtual event.

50. Birds of a feather breakout session

Have a breakout discussion session for your attendees on a particular topic. That will help bring valuable insights into the subject. 

51. Virtual dares

Come up with a list of dares that attendees will most likely have no problem doing. This can be quite a fun task to do together. 

52. Treasure Hunts

Place clues in different rooms that attendees can look out for, or riddles placed in each room, and the person who answers it gets closer to the prize.

53. Build anticipation with a live countdown 

There's nothing like a live countdown to create hype and get your audience excited and engaged.

54. Keep the conversation going with chat engagers

Assign a person from your team responsible for answering questions and remind the audience how to use the chat function., this way you keep the chat and engagement going.

55. Use your platform to help those in need

Give your community the opportunity to do something good while attending your event by partnering with a charity and supporting a fundraising idea. 

Why do you have to host a Virtual Event? 

While virtual events is definitely a super convenient option, especially during times when people are unable to physically attend due to time restrictions or travel costs, there are other benefits of hosting a virtual event:


  • Cost-effective: Save time and travel/transportation costs for both attendees and organizers.
  • A flexible schedule that can be amended last minute
  • Wide variety of event types (demonstration, webinar, virtual dinner, classes, etc.)
  • Easy and instant feedback collection via polls during the virtual sessions.
  • Seamless insights collection and interpretation (number of invitations, attendees, engagement rate, etc.)
  • Speed up the sales cycle with improved customer relationship building.

17 Best practices for hosting Virtual Events

As we learn to adapt to this new situation, we face the difficulty of organizing a virtual event. What are some of the successful virtual event management best practices? Below is a list of some expert advice for any online event planner to help with virtual event management.

1. Choose the event type you're planning to host and define the objectives

Defining the type of event will help you build everything that follows.

However, it is still necessary to define the objectives of your virtual event as well as the theme. These must be clear to your participants to capture their attention and make them look forward to it.

Will your event have a seminar, conference, team building, product launch format, etc.? What are the messages that you want to share? Do you want to entertain, inform, teach?

Defining the type of event will help you choose the recording location, the speakers, the interactivities set up, shared documents, etc. However, even if the content is going to be quite similar to a physical event, its format will have to take a different form.

2. Choose the right platform for your virtual event

When choosing your virtual event's provider, you'll need to make sure that they support the necessary requirements to help you achieve your goals and vision. Do not get sold on the service quickly, but prepare a set of questions to help you inquire about everything needed. Remember, it must not only fit your needs as the host but also works well for your attendees. 

A few details that you may want to inquire about include:

  • Session types
  • Metrics available in reporting
  • The number and quality of the design options available
  • Engagement tools offered
  • If any third-party plugins needed
  • The customer support in your time zone
  • Accessibility features available

3. Set a realistic timeline

While it needs from 8 to 10 weeks for an event to be up and running, it is recommended to book your event in advance. This helps you build it up to perfection and choose a date and time when most of your attendees will be able to make it. The type of event can help you choose the best timing. For example, a casual event can be scheduled on a Friday night, and a more formal one might be better placed on a Monday morning. 

You should also take into consideration having enough time to market for your event and build anticipation.

4. Bring in the best presenters and content creators

Regardless of the event type you are hosting, everyone wants to feel welcome. Make sure that the presenters and content creators are diverse, offering many viewpoints and perspectives to draw as many people as possible. Since you are working virtual, transportation, accommodation costs, and limitations do not exist, and it is possible to bring in the best people from all over the world. 

5. Invite participants to your virtual events

As usual, build your invitation email optimally. Specify if there will be a replay of your event and share the download links for your application.

The essential information of your virtual event must appear in your email, the access link to the virtual event, along with the passwords or codes for access.

Also, share the calendar of your event and highlight the break times. Specify if there will be a replay of your event and share the iOS and Android download links for your event application if you have one.

You can also share the website link of your event so that your participants register directly using a form you have designed. List all the information as well as the speakers, sponsors, partners, and the agenda of the event.

6. Use virtual features to their full potential to create an immersive experience 

Just like any physical event, the user interface has a great impact on attendees, making them know what to expect from the first few seconds. Starting from the landing page, where users get their first impression and decide whether they want to proceed or not, the design and layout must captivate them to maximize sign-ups.

7. Run a promotions plan

Create a buzz before your event by communicating with your guests on different platforms and channels. Give yourself a solid promotional time to promote your event, a good rule of thumb is to have at least 3 months. Send emails, reminders, run promotions on social media, use a calendar app to let them know where and when to connect.

Also, you can personalize a home page with applications, then load your program, your images, and your guest list, for example. Once you're ready, the app will help you send your guests all the essential information about the event.

In addition, you can alert them of a program change or delay. Then The app will be able to send you real-live updates when guests connect. You will, therefore, have all the necessary information at your fingertips.

8. Make use of engagement tools

For successful virtual event production, you will need to pay close attention to details, whether it is an online or offline event.

Make your online presence even more unique with the help of apps like Slide or Slido.

Also, organize more interactive events by adding certain features such as Live Polling (Slide poll) or Slide-Sharing.

Grab your audience's attention with an interactive quiz or turn on the digital note-taking option for your guests to share your presentation on social media.

Simple and effective, with a little organization, you can boost the participation of your audience and create commitment around your product from the comfort of your home.

9. Create links

With corporate events, employees can connect and go digital. They will have a unique opportunity to interact with people from around the world and in real-time. You can also use Donut or Slack to allow them to connect and organize meetings in private rooms.

‍When it comes to networking, a virtual event is no longer an obstacle. With the help of applications such as Zoom and Whereby, you can organize individual meetings.

Your guests can create personal connections, face to face and away from the main event. Networking online, in addition to being secure and private, is a great way to make sure your guests are always in the virtual room where the event is taking place.

As with any event, it's the details that make the difference when planning a meeting or a concert online. To make your event unforgettable, you can call on a DJ or a musician who could play live. Also, you can use a virtual photo booth like Snapbar to create great memories during your online session.

10. Plan and prep your support

It is normal to have something that will not work quite as expected, so preparing for tech troubles and setting a backup plan ensures the success of your virtual event. Inquire about how and when you can reach tech support and if they can respond to emergencies. If presentations are prepared on PowerPoint, encourage presenters to have them available on Google Slides as well. Make sure all presenters have enough time to get familiar and comfortable with the technology used.

11. Manage the quality of the content

It's easy to get carried away with overpacking your online event with content. You need to make sure that it is information-packed, but overdoing this can make your guests click away. Avoid presentations that are too long and incorporate a good mix of text, visual content, and engagement.

Assign enough time to manage the quality of the content you will be presenting. Fix any glitches and ensure content is of high quality. This is the voice of your brand during a virtual event, regardless of its type.

12. Ensure your event is accessible 

Upload content and recordings of live events as soon as possible to ensure your attendees can view them on-demand. Consider captioning and sign language translation. Also, make sure your event supports computer-based and phone-based audio listening and speaking.

13. Highlight your sponsors

If you've got sponsors backing your event, make sure to highlight them. Consider creating a branded virtual waiting room, offering sponsored games, or sending branded goodies directly to attendees. 

14. Boost morale

If you want to boost morale, why not use UberEats to deliver muffins and coffee before your next online meeting? During this period, technology plays a vital role in keeping us in touch.

Human contact is more important than ever, and with some creativity, you can make your events unique while connecting with your network.

15. Ensure rendering is at the top

To make sure that the rendering is at the top, here are some of the best technical practices recommended for Virtual Events:

Sound

  • Sound is going to be the focus of your event. Did you know that poor sound quality is much less bearable than a poor quality image? Audio will be the centerpiece of your event, so plug in a microphone and pay attention to your surroundings.
  • Choose a room with carpet and furniture rather than tiling and earthenware.
  • Use discreet and good-quality headphones and a microphone.
  • Make sure anyone around you doesn't make any noise during the recording. Switch off your microphone if you are not speaking.
  • Switch your smartphones & watches to airplane mode.

Image

  • Have your face lit by natural light (main light)
  • When using artificial light, choose a warm one.

Internet connection

Excellent sound and image quality also mean having a good internet question. It is essential to test your internet connection before the broadcast of your live event. For an optimal internet connection, use an ethernet cable or wifi if it meets these criteria.

Plan for an upload bandwidth of at least 24 Mbps (= 3 MB per second). To test its connection, visit fast.com or speedtest.net.

No software download

Consider using an event management platform as it can make things much more manageable. They can facilitate designing your virtual events by sending your campaigns, installing word clouds, votes, quizzes, and much more.

16. Measure success and generate detailed reports

Because everything is virtual, one of the key features of these kinds of events is the reporting capabilities. Tracking metrics and measuring success is fast, easy, and accurate. Capture registrations that you can add to CRM or mailing lists for lead generation purposes. Track website traffic, new vs. returning registrants, downloads, and other types of engagement to measure your ROI and optimize your KPIs.

17. Strengthen the relationship

Don't just focus on building relationships within your community before the event, but during and after the event as well. Keep the communication going, ask for their feedback, promote other products or services, and get them excited for your next event.


Virtual Events Frequently Asked Questions 


What is the best way to run a virtual event?

Think about how you can make your event different and add value. Tailor it to specific devices and incorporate the latest technology if possible. Find your niche because the more specific you make your virtual event, the more useful it will be for attendees. Always hold a mock event before the real thing to fix any technical issues and strengthen the overall dynamics. Plan it with accessibility in mind to ensure attendees can easily access it with clear details. Finally, make it as "real" as possible!

How do you plan a virtual event?

Kick start your first virtual event by understanding your audience, defining your event's format, choosing a suitable platform, hiring the right hosts and speakers, assigning the right time and date, and finally promoting the event. Keep it short and simple, focus on audience engagement, and monitor and track results.

What is the best virtual event platform?

There are many great platform options out there, so it can often be overwhelming to determine the one you should choose. Narrow down your search by identifying the type of experience you want your users to have. Do you want interactive elements and payment functionality, or do you need a more traditional webinar format? 

How can virtual events be improved?

Event organizers can improve virtual events by making full use of the tools provided by the platforms in terms of conferencing, streaming, and communication. Do not look at the event itself when considering engagement strategies, but share the agenda prior to the event, get the audience excited, and prepare for what's to be discussed. Engage with them after the event with quizzes, feedback surveys, and even gifts and thank you notes.


Conclusion

Planning and running a virtual event might feel overwhelming to many businesses, but achieving exceptional results can be one of the most realistic aims for your business this year. Think Orion knows how to create big buzz, experiential engagement, and a lasting impression that drives the results you need and delivers a positive ROI. Learn more about our event marketing services here.


Manno Notermans

Manno is a wanderer of the world looking to make an impact and change the world for the better. He has over 10 years of experience working in various marketing positions. Manno’s main focus the past few years has been accelerating the growth of businesses, increasing revenue, and profit with out-of-box creative ideas and implementations.