A little less than a year ago, businesses and organizations across the world realized that they had to do their bit in order to flatten the curve. Everyone was encouraged to stay home or work remotely while the pandemic spread like wildfire.
Suffice to say, the events industry suffered. After all, how can you build communities if everyone is isolated from each other?
Luckily, the internet and new technologies opened up different channels for people to come together and share ideas without physically being in the same room. Enter: virtual events!
Building Virtual Communities
Today, of course, most of us have attended virtual events in some form or the other. Interactive gatherings that occur online through video conferencing tools, these online-only conferences and sessions have changed the face of the events industry in more than one way. Pandemic or not, conducting events this way has a number of benefits.
For one thing, it increases your reach. Remote attendees can join from anywhere around the world, whether it’s Hong Kong, Singapore, or Australia. Considering how much time, effort, and money it takes to travel from one area to the next, virtual events remove this friction.
Virtual events are also a lot easier and cheaper to organize. There’s no need to book a venue or hire a caterer at your event. All you need is a stable internet connection and a couple of people to help you host the channel.
Lastly, virtual events are also measurable—you can easily track how many people attended, how engaged they were, and how they felt about the event. This is possible through the different tools you used, including video conferencing apps, interactive activity platforms, or polls.
There’s only one catch: virtual events need to be really engaging because leaving a virtual event is as easy as joining it. It’s all possible at the click of a button.
So how do you make your virtual event more engaging? Well, that’s where the kind of virtual event ideas that we are suggesting come in to the picture.
Virtual Event Ideas To Make Your Event More Engaging
From different types of virtual icebreakers to fun games that you can play online, we have seen and read articles that cover all of these in details. In fact, we’ve written a few of these ourselves. But in this article we focus on ten broad virtual event ideas that will surely make your session stand out in the crowd. Take a look!
#1 Virtual Icebreakers
For new communities that aren’t as well acquainted with each other, it’s a good idea to include an icebreaker in the program, whether it’s at the start, middle, or end. For community members that are separated by miles, this is a good way to facilitate small talk and encourage meaningful connections.
#2 Great Speakers
A virtual event is only as good as the names headlining it and one of the virtual event ideas to make your session a success and make it engaging is to get a speaker for your event that your audience may not normally have access to. Content has the biggest impact at a virtual event and have good speakers will ensure half your battle is won.
#3 Coffee Sessions
What do you miss most about offline events? For me, it’s the time outside of structured sessions when I can catch up with someone over coffee. Can you recreate this moment virtually? Could you send everyone attendee a swag bag prior to the event with coffee paraphernalia to help them brew their favourite cup of joe, for a breakout session with other attendees.
#4 Breakout Rooms
This brings us to the power of virtual breakout rooms. Allow your participants to collaborate freely? Create a virtual event structure that allows attendees to choose the session they want to attend? Create a designated breakout room for networking or coffee chats where people can “bump” into each other. This freedom to move around and interact holds attendees’ interest.
#5 Virtual Games
If your event members all know each other and there’s no need to break the ice, you can jump straight to conducting virtual community-building activities. These games can strengthen ties between your members even further.
Think of games like a virtual version of MTV’s Cribs. Encourage members to share parts of their home or space that has been their calming oasis in this tough time. This helps people relate to each other as having lives outside the square box in which they live digitally. This is one of those virtual event ideas that work better with teams that are comfortable sharing their lives with each other.
#6 Live Polling
In the last year, think back to the most boring events you attended. Chances are they were the ones where you were a passive listener. Am I right? A speech-like session is a sure shot way of ensuring your attendee loses interest. Pepper your session with engagement activities like live polls. Not only will this keep participants engaged, it helps you as a speaker gauge attendees in real-time.
Even the most serious offline events will have featured performances that become the biggest draws at the conference. Virtual events can be the same. Think about hiring a band or a comedian for a live performance during the event. If you are hosting a day-long or a multi-day event, these performances can be just what the doctor ordered to keep the Zoom fatigue at bay.
#8 Attendance Optional
This may seem counterproductive. After all, can you make attendance optional for an event that hinges on attendee participation? Well, we are suggesting that you offer attendees different ways in which they can access your event. Instead of fixed agendas, can you offer on-demand recorded sessions mixed in with live sessions, spread over a few days? This allows attendees to benefit from your event on their terms, especially if they are spread across time zones.
#9 Downloadable Content
Which brings us to content accessibility. The best virtual events that I attended this past year were those that allowed me to reflect on what was discussed way after the event got over. And that was possible because I could access the content even days after I attended it. Could you do the same? Can you send out video or audio recordings? Or an emailer with salient points? Or share the presentation made? Drive the demand for the content by limiting availability.
#10 Ingredient X
So here’s this thing? Most of us have attended more than our share of virtual events in the past year. So how do you drive up the value of your event? You have the best speakers, a great content line up, a brilliant swag bag, but what’s the X-factor that makes your event special. This could be a mixology lesson during happy hours, or a 1:1 networking sessions with speakers for select participants, or even a certification at the end of the conference. Let your participants go home with something valuable or just fun.
Other Ideas for Successful Virtual Events
Before you start planning your next virtual event, here are a few tips to make sure that everything goes without a hitch.
First, if you’re working with a team to organize this event, you should assign roles:
- Timekeeper: to ensure the program goes according to schedule
- Tech support: to handle any technical issues
- Conversation assistant: for live streams, to keep track of the chatbox for messages
Second, you should make the most out of online tools. There is a whole range of free tools available online, and some useful paid tools as well. Virtual events are going to be the status quo for a while, so you might want to consider making a small investment.
A paid subscription to a video conferencing tool, for example, will allow you to host video conferences for any number of people for an unlimited amount of time. A poll tool can also help you get feedback from members during a program. And a live interaction platform can help you engage members through these icebreakers and community-building activities.
Or you could sign up for Toasty which focuses on helping groups converse with each other and have meaningful conversations. How? By making virtual events engaging and fun.