Virtual events have really come in to their own during the coronavirus pandemic, and continue to soar in popularity coming into 2021 too. Not only can online events maintain communication during this period of isolation, they can be extremely effective in achieving business objectives and placing your brand front and centre.
However, in this rapidly saturated market, it's now important not just to create an online event, but to create an unforgettable online event that is going to seriously wow your attendees and provide ROI for your clients and sponsors. To help you get started, here's 11 creative virtual event ideas for you to consider for your event strategy for 2021 and beyond.
If you want to get back to basics, you could also read our piece on 10 Simple Steps to Planning a Virtual Event or How To Monetise Your Virtual Event. You could also read our piece on Common Hurdles When Organising A Virtual Event And How To Overcome Them.
Table of Contents
1. Virtual conference
2. Online workshops
4. Online entertainment
5. Health and wellbeing sessions
6. Virtual meetings
7. Virtual networking
8. Fireside chats
9. Teambuilding activities
10. Virtual parties
11. Live streaming
Why choose a virtual conference?
Conferences are a great way to meet with likeminded people, learn more about an industry and see some great speakers. So, if you're looking to bring together people from different geographical locations who share a common goal or interest in your industry, a virtual conference is a great way to go.
A virtual conference will typically consist of a keynote session, followed by several different sessions (including breakout sessions) throughout the day, followed by a post-event networking feature using digital engagement tools. More sophisticated platforms will allow an exhibition capability too, allowing you to create a trade-show feel consisting of different stands just like a live event.
How to make your virtual conference stand out
To make your virtual conference stand out, you could consider sending an intro tutorial video to attendees explaining how to use the platform, along with instructions on how to create their own agenda for the day.
You could also go one step further and create a 3D virtual conference or virtual trade show, where attendees arrive at the 'Lobby' which features a background based on a real conference centre lobby, enter the conference rooms, visit a virtual exhibition stand and more! This is a unique approach which can add an interesting novelty to the event, and give attendees a sense of familiarity.
You could also offer incentives in order to engage your attendees. For example, you could hold a social media competition where attendees have to share a post about the event on social media using the dedicated event hashtag, with the aim of winning virtual goodies. Not only will this add excitement to your event, but it will build brand awareness and make attendees keep checking back and engaging with your social media channels, too.
Another way you could take your virtual conference to another level is to bring an artist on board to create real time illustrations. This technique is known as digital live scribing and is a great way to engage your audience in a novel way. The artist creates artwork during panel discussions to provide a visual representation of the topics covered in the session. They are great to provide to attendees post-event and share on social media.
Hire Space recommends:
Do some research into multi-feature technology platforms, such as UPstage by Hire Space, that has the software to accommodate your event. Make sure you ask any platform you like the look of to give you a demo, and have a play around with it yourself to check it's easy to use, and easy to build! Have a chat with our experts to find out more about our virtual conference platforms. You can also read our piece on 8 of the best all-in-one platforms to get you started.
It's also important to remember that online exhibitions and conferences don't need to break the bank! Read our guide on How Much To Budget For Your Virtual Event.
Why choose an online workshop?
Online workshops are a great way to deliver skill-based training while keeping your attendees engaged and interested. Workshops usually last anywhere from half an hour to 3 hours, making them short and easily accessible to people who are working. Workshops typically involve audience participation, which maintains attention and tests newly-learnt knowledge.
How to make your workshop stand out
A great way to make your workshop or training session more engaging is to use a host or make the workshop sessions smaller. At EventLAB 2020 Online, workshops had a capacity of about 70 people, which meant that the experience was more personal and attendees were held more accountable when an actual human is talking to them!
To quiz your attendees and allow them to apply what they've just learnt, you could run a fun 'pub quiz' style test. Separate your attendees into groups using breakout session technology and ask some questions to consolidate their learning. This will get them talking to their peers, share knowledge and create a more rounded and active learning experience.
Hire Space recommends:
Depending on how many attendees you're aiming for, online workshops don't typically need super sophisticated software. A workshop of around 30-70 delegates would work well with a fairly simple streaming platform with the capability of breakout rooms, such as Zoom.
Why choose a webinar?
Different in style to a workshop, a webinar requires less audience participation and could therefore have a much wider audience reach - delegates from all over the world can tune in and just listen, no embarrassment necessary! Typically lasting anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours, a webinar usually consists of one speaker sharing knowledge, advice and best practice on a particular topic. It can be a great tool to keep your employees or customers updated with the latest information around your chosen topic.
How to make your webinar stand out
Watching one speaker talk for ages may get a little tiresome. To liven it up, you could turn it into a 'talk-show' style session, where you interview an industry influencer, or bring in an expert to discuss a niche topic. The key here is educating but also variety to keep delegates attentive. By all means, get a keynote speaker to address your audience, but balance it out with a panel discussion on best practices, or perhaps break up the educational content with a mindfulness session with a wellbeing professional.
The great thing about online webinars is that they're pretty easy to orchestrate - running a webinar can be easily done using pretty simple video conferencing tools, but it may be a good idea to make sure there's a Q&A or live poll function, so guests can be involved in that way.
Hire Space recommends:
Think about your business objectives here. What are you providing your delegates with that will make them come back time and time again? When setting up a webinar, make sure your speakers are known to your audience and that your content is actually interesting and educational. You may consider charging for webinar access, or offer it for free but charge for the on-demand content post event.
Why choose online entertainment?
Just because you're taking your event virtual, doesn't mean it has to come to an abrupt end when the content is finished. Adding on a fun entertainment segment adds a new dimension to a virtual conference or meeting, or you could host a whole event purely aiming to entertain your attendees. Most of us have done at least one virtual quiz during this pandemic, and there have been many digital concerts too, such as the One World: Together at Home back in April. The trick is to make yours stand out!
How to make your online entertainment stand out
Technology is your best friend! You can entertain attendees and encourage them to problem solve by doing virtual scavenger hunts, or treat them to an evening of culture with a live music or theatre performance.
Back in lockdown 1.0, events industry charity Meeting Needs held a fantastic virtual evening of entertainment called 'Lockdown Rock-down', where guests could listen to live music, participate in live game shows and even take part in lip sync battles. The opportunities for virtual entertainment are endless - you could even add on karaoke or an online photo booth! Chat to our virtual event experts for some more inspiration, or check out our Virtual Experiences Marketplace to instantly book engaging online entertainment.
Hire Space recommends:
In terms of technology, there are a range of platforms which can facilitate your event objectives. The key here is to think about what your attendees would be excited to attend. For more ideas on entertaining attendees, check out our piece on 11 Teambuilding Ideas for a Quarantined World or 10 of the Best Virtual Event Entertainment Suppliers On The Market.
Health and wellbeing sessions
Why choose health and wellbeing sessions?
Keeping fit and active during lockdown is crucial. For our physical and mental wellbeing, it's important to get our bodies moving and releasing endorphins, which will make us feel good and help us wind down and sleep better, too.
How to make your wellbeing sessions stand out
During these difficult times, anxiety, uncertainty and stress can often lead to us feeling overwhelmed. There are hundreds of online workout and mindfulness classes that take place every day at the moment, so to make yours stand out offer sessions that people may not have done before, to keep it exciting and give them something to look forward to. Rather than offering yet another yoga class, why not invite a Tai Chi instructor to lead a class, or hold an action-packed boxing class!
You could also hold wellbeing sessions as part of another event, such as during your virtual conference. People won't mind getting hot and sweaty during a break between sessions when they're in the comfort of their own living rooms! You could offer a HIIT session or a relaxing mindfulness and meditation class to help combat stress. This will cost you little to nothing, and will add a different, more personal dimension to your event and will help build bonds with your audience.
Hire Space says:
Health and wellbeing sessions can encapsulate all kinds of things, so really look around to find interesting and valuable forms of physical or mental exercise, keeping your attendees fit and focused. In terms of delivering the sessions, it couldn't be easier! A simple video conference call or live stream is all it takes for an instructor to deliver a class. Check out our Virtual Experiences Marketplace for some more options.
Why choose virtual meetings
It's important to try and emulate a face-to-face experience as much as possible. We can get a lot of information from facial expressions, so for new partnerships, touching-base meetings or even just team meetings, consider a virtual meeting rather than just a phone call. Essentially, a virtual meeting is just a video conference call, where there's an agenda for points to be covered, but is a good way to engage a small number of clients or employees and build on relationships. You could also turn it into a virtual away day if you have lots to discuss! Here's How To Create An Awesome Virtual Away Day.
How to make your virtual meeting stand out
To make an online meeting a bit more interesting, each person in the meeting could go round and give a 30 second update, or introduction if you haven't met before. This will establish rapport and kicks off the meeting in a more personal way. You could also start the meeting with a game or brainstorming session to get attendees or employees engaged. You could even arrange for a breakfast or lunch delivered to attendee's houses if you're really trying to impress them!
Hire Space says:
Seeing each other face to face is really important. For example, you could start each day with a 'Daily Kickoff' meeting using our online meeting platform! Make sure each participant has a strong internet connection to ensure the meeting flows well.
Why choose virtual networking?
Networking with industry peers at an event is a great way to build your network, share knowledge and let your hair down with colleagues. It can be an essential part of an event and really bring people together. Why compromise the value of a networking event just because it's virtual?! Virtual networking allows your attendees to meet with like-minded professionals and more importantly, discuss your event and can be a great marketing tool for your brand whilst treating your attendees to some chill-out time.
How to make your virtual networking stand out
You could do anything from providing a 'room' for attendees to go, to offering an appointment-booking capability, where attendees can book virtual appointments with sponsors or specific attendees. You could also be involved a little more and hold several sessions at the same time for attendees to choose from, whether that's a room with a live DJ session for attendees to dance around to, or a hosted pub quiz, you could potentially keep the attendees entertained at your event for hours after it's finished!
Networking sessions are also a great opportunity for a sponsor to get their name in front of the audience, so you may consider offering an incentive to attend, such as sending each attendee a small basket with the beverages and snacks they might receive at a live event.
Hire Space says:
Several virtual event platforms offer the ability for networking, so make sure you ask them to give you a demo so you can try it out for yourself. If the platform is easy to use and aesthetically pleasing, attendees are likely to spend more time chatting to fellow attendees and will be more likely to talk about how great your event was.
Why choose a fireside chat?
A fireside chat is an informal but structured interview between a guest and moderator. It provides a unique, informal opportunity to get to know a speaker on a more personal level, and is a great feature or addition to another virtual event, such as a webinar, virtual conference or live stream. It will also demonstrate your versatility in creating different kinds of events.
How to make your fireside chat stand out
We don't know about you, but we love watching guest interviews on various topics and are often dying to ask the guest questions about themselves or their work. To alleviate this, we suggest organising a fireside chat with networking, Q&A or live polls so that the audience can ask questions and they'll be covered at the end. This will make it more engaging and personal - imagine hearing your hero answer your question live on air! Priceless.
Our advice? Get speakers that are as high-profile as possible - humans are nosey! People will be more likely to sign up if they have a chance to find out some interesting, behind-the-scenes facts about a well-known personality. You could also use this opportunity for employees to ask the CEO of their company some questions about the business, their backstory and future plans.
Hire Space says:
As this is supposed to be more informal than a corporate interview, reflect this by creating a cosy lounge-style backdrop for the session. This will make it feel more casual and may attract an audience who don't fancy sitting through boring formal interviews.
Why choose a teambuilding activity?
Team building is a great way to break the ice for a new team, restore morale in a team lacking motivation and even to reward teams who have been working hard and deserve a treat. Whilst the pandemic is preventing us from participating in team building activities in person, there are loads of virtual alternatives.
How to make your teambuilding activity stand out
Novelty is key! Offer something different that your team will get excited by - from wine tasting to virtual panic rooms, there are so many possibilities on offer which will bring your team together and encourage cohesion as a unit.
Hire Space says:
If you want to organise a teambuilding activity, we can help! Our virtual event experts have negotiated exclusive discounts with a multitude of suppliers, so have a read of our piece on 11 Virtual Team Building Ideas, check out our Virtual Experiences Marketplace and book your free consultation to get the ball rolling!
Why choose a virtual party?
Just because organising in-person events and parties is tricky right now, that doesn't mean you can't celebrate your team's achievements! Virtual parties are a fantastic way to celebrate with your team and let loose for an evening of online fun.
How to make your virtual party stand out
Think outside the box! Whether you want to send your team some cocktails to enjoy during the party, or if you want to add a twist and turn it into a virtual escape room, the opportunities are endless! Be bold and stand out from the crowd.
Hire Space says:
If you want to host an online party with a difference, we have the perfect solution - treat your guests to an online Big Top extravaganza featuring some of the best entertainers on the web! Skilfully created by the team that threw virtual Christmas parties for 10,000 people and was featured in the BBC, Forbes and The Times, it’s not to be missed.
Why choose live streaming?
A live stream is an online, live transmission of an event. This can be done over several platforms, including social media platforms such as Facebook or Linkedin. A live stream is a great tool for building your social following and communicating your brand's messaging.
How to make your live stream stand out
Why not take a leaf out of the world of podcasting's book and create a talk-show style session, to engage your attendees and make the live stream more interesting to watch. Like the EventLAB podcast, you could invite industry leaders together to discuss industry news, latest updates, current affairs and engage in debates. To extend the value of the live stream, you could write up the key points into a blog and share it across social media, increasing your attendance rate for next time and providing value for those who couldn't make it.
You could even turn the live stream into a regular series, where you bring in different guests and focus on different topics each week, to maintain a touch point with your audience. For some inspiration, you can watch our live stream series from back in lockdown titled 'The Fortnight in Review' where we brought in key players from the events industry to discuss the latest coronavirus news and event industry responses.
Hire Space says:
If you want to find out more about live streaming and the services we can offer you, get in touch today.
We hope these ideas have inspired you to get creative and have a go at creating your own virtual event. To read more about planning virtual events, read our pieces on how to Adapt and Grow Your Audience With Virtual Events, Common Hurdles When Organising A Virtual Event And How To Overcome Them and download our Virtual and Hybrid Event Toolkit so you can develop a full event strategy for 2021 and beyond.