12 Virtual Event Ideas From Professional Event Planners

Cassy Aite
October 13, 2023
12 Virtual Event Ideas From Professional Event Planners

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, events migrated from in-person events to an online format. And following the pandemic, not much has changed. Even long-time event planners have had to get creative to make the transition from live events to virtual events and avoid potentially horrifying event-planning problems.

To alleviate the concern of novice or worrisome event planners, we talked to professionals in the industry to learn more about their experience planning online events. Time and again, these professionals cited event engagement as the biggest obstacle.

Unfortunately, even the best video-conferencing platforms can't replace face-to-face interactions. And in a world plagued by Zoom fatigue, an invite to your virtual conference or virtual corporate event could feel like another obligatory, mundane online meeting.

But by harnessing the power of social tools and creating interactive online experiences, event planners have found innovative ways to increase engagement, create branded experiences, and provide greater ROI (return on investment) for their clients.

Learn from their success by trying one of these virtual event ideas to create a unique, engaging event experience.

12 Virtual Event Ideas That Offer Proven Results

Woman attending a virtual event

Whether you're hosting a product launch, speed networking event, trade show, or training for your virtual team, exploring creative virtual settings is crucial to engagement — not just scheduling another tedious virtual meeting for your team members. Explore these virtual event ideas to come up with a solution you can mold and tweak to your liking and transform remote work meetings into a fun way to mingle, disseminate information, and just have a downright great time.

1. Open Your Event Space Early

There are two questions clients often ask Leslie Blye, the National Sales Director at L!VE, a full-service event production firm in Columbus, Ohio: "How can we ensure our attendees will be able to access and navigate the platform? How do we make it easier for attendees to connect with our content, one another, and our sponsors?"

L!VE uses the LUX event platform to solve both of these problems. A few days before the event, they send a video tutorial and invite attendees to join the virtual space. Then, they use gamification to reward attendees for creating profiles, visiting sponsors, and engaging with content before the event. They also add a countdown clock that changes to music, a DJ, a slideshow, or videos 30 minutes before the event begins.

According to Blye, “[by launching early], you can reduce potential technology issues that tend to hit 15 minutes before your first keynote speaker takes the virtual stage." Aside from reducing the technical issues that often accompany virtual events, setting up your event platform early "is also a great way to promote longer networking for attendees and greater ROI for sponsors." As an added bonus, allowing attendees to interact in advance reduces the need for forced icebreakers or long introductions.

2. Include Sponsor Demos

Companies sponsor events for the opportunity to promote their product to their target audience. When the event is virtual, getting sponsor products into the hands of potential users can prove difficult.

We talked to Ellie Dickinson, the director of BCC Management, a professional conference organizer in Melbourne, Australia. According to Dickinson, "When we first started, it was difficult to provide authentic and engaging sponsor and delegate interactions, so we needed to get creative."

To overcome this obstacle, BCC Management started sending packages of sponsored products to event attendees in advance. These packages allowed attendees to interact with a sponsor's product in real-time. Dickinson tells us, "When it came time for sponsors to talk to delegates, [delegates] each had an item in the box that was specific to [the sponsor's] product and sale." Delegate interactions with the product helped organically shape the event.

"For example, we had one sponsor provide wine and then take virtual delegates through a wine-tasting experience. It was a great way to showcase their product, local region, and keep delegates engaged throughout the day," Dickinson says.

3. Invite an Illusionist

Andriana Avraam, founder of PINK MEDIA in Toronto, Canada, has an exciting and intriguing virtual event idea that illuminates the mind and dazzles the eye. She likes to invite a mentalist and illusionist to perform 30-minute sessions on her virtual event platform.

The clear benefit of choosing an illusionist as your exhibitor is all about connecting with your attendees. Unlike comedians, speakers, and other presenters, an illusionist demands audience interaction as part of their performance.

PINK MEDIA works with Kevin Hamdan, a mentalist and psychological illusionist, who Avraam says is "super interactive, brilliant at engaging even the most reluctant digital users and, just mind, blowing."

According to Hamdan, "I created this show from the ground up, focusing on what I call the big three E's: engage, entertain, and experience. I have created effects in the show where everyone in the audience gets to participate."

Avraam and Hamdan's partnership demonstrates the importance of working with talented vendors to create the best virtual events. Hamdan executes Avraam's virtual event idea by providing an engaging show.  

Avraam tells us that her team has been asking for a lunch and learn just so they can see Hamdan again. "We can all use a little different type of wow factor," she says.

4. Host a Lip-Sync Drag Battle

Dolled up drag queen doing a pose

Hosting a virtual concert or dance party isn’t easy and engagement isn’t always at its pinnacle. However, you can bring both ideas to the table with a lip-sync drag battle. This outside-the-box virtual event idea is a favorite of Lahoma Dade from Events Unleashed in Austin, Texas, who says that it's "created super great engagement with [her] clients."

To host a lip-sync drag battle, hire professional drag queens to face off against each other. Alternatively, you can improve audience participation by asking attendees to lip-sync their favorite songs and hire a drag queen to serve as your moderator (many professional drag queens are experts at improv and comedy, and offer their services as MCs). The beauty of lip-syncing is that — unlike karaoke — you don't need a great set of pipes to participate.  

Regardless of whether you have professional drag queens or event attendees do the lip-syncing, you can encourage audience participation by using applause (or a thumbs-up system in your messaging platform) to choose a winner. Display a leaderboard to keep the competition fierce while turning the battle into an exciting virtual social event.

Dade uses this virtual event idea for her nonprofit clients who support people living with HIV and AIDS. But it would also be an on-brand experience for organizations that want to support the well-being of the LGBTQ community, raise awareness for an anti-bullying campaign, or simply promote a culture of creativity and inclusivity.  

5. Add Chats, Q&As and Polls

RockIt Events, a boutique marketing and events agency in Scotts Valley, California, has successfully made the switch from live events to award-winning virtual events. Founder Heather Hite leads all types of corporate events, including user conferences with breakout rooms, sales kick-offs, trade shows, road shows, president's club incentives, corporate parties, webinars, internal client meetings, and even get-togethers.

RockIt Events recently hosted a 20,000-person event for Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company. During this virtual conference, RockIt Events embedded live Q&A, chat, and polling features into the video player, allowing attendees to interact with executives, speakers, and Aruba content experts in real-time.

Aruba also hosted live polls ranging from technical questions related to the session content to polls where the audience could select their favorite event mascot. Q&As, chats, and polls require input from the audience, which keeps attendees engaged. According to Hite, "Out of the 20,000 event attendees, nearly 17,000 participated in the chat, Q&A, or polls."

6. Set Up a Virtual Engagement Zone

Another favorite virtual event idea from RockIt Events is their virtual engagement zone. This zone features a virtual photo booth, online games, quizzes, live music, and more. The virtual photo booth allows attendees to upload or customize a picture, gif, or boomerang with a variety of stickers, backgrounds, and photo frames — all branded for the event.

Attendees can then post the images on social media, using the event hashtag. This helps promote the event with user-generated content — a common feature of live events that's often lost when they go virtual.

Hite tells us that at the Aruba event, "Over 1,000 attendees participated in the branded, virtual photo booth. Nearly all attendees joined in on the personalized, gamification journeys as well."

The virtual engagement zone also included virtual swag bags with items such as digital coloring books and custom Zoom backgrounds. And there were a variety of musical performances, including a live DJ, dueling DJs, a band, dancers, and more.

7. Play Virtual Family Feud

Virtual game nights are always a favorite team-building activity for remote teams. Video games, charades, and trivia nights are classic virtual event ideas, but Dawne Eisenberg of Pop! Events Group in Toronto, Ontario, goes a different route.

She uses the popular trivia game show Family Feud as her basis for a fun virtual event idea. Just like Family Feud, you can divide your event attendees into teams. Ask trivia questions with multiple answers, and have each team try to guess the most common answers. Create a branded version of this game by asking questions related to your company and its products.

You can even use Family Feud as a unique team training exercise. Teams that know more about your products can win prizes for providing the right answers. Teams that know less will learn as they go.

According to Eisenberg, "This activation has really helped companies increase employee engagement while working from home."

8. Create Immersive Energy Breaks

As President and Founder of CSP Worldwide Event Management, headquartered in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, Carey Smolensky has been producing events for over four decades. His favorite virtual event idea is to use breakout sessions — or "energy breaks," as he calls them — to keep event attendees engaged.

During designated event breaks, CSP Worldwide keeps the energy high with an MC, a DJ, thought-provoking virtual trivia or riddles, gamification based on company culture, and the use of camera, mic, and messaging features to create engaging competitions.

According to Smolensky, these energy breaks have led to an "overwhelmingly positive response" and have helped promote an "exciting camaraderie between attendees."

9. Add Visual Storytelling

Nirjary M. Desai, Chief Experience Officer at KIS(cubed) Events — a global events agency with offices in Atlanta, Georgia — says that the key to a good virtual experience is "creating it in a way that the audience and participants engage with the brand and mission of the event from the comfort of their home."

Brand storytelling is a key aspect of Desai's events, which incorporate brand color schemes, themes, media, and products. KIS(cubed) also delivers mailers and experience boxes before the event so attendees can interact with the brand in a more tangible, on-demand way.

To successfully utilize storytelling, your event — like every story — needs a hero or protagonist. You can draw the hero from sources such as your company, your employees, or your customers, depending on who you're celebrating. Tell the story of an obstacle that your hero overcame in order to get where they are today.

According to Desai, it's "important not to lose the human connection. [You need to] make people feel engaged and valued."

10. Set Up a Virtual Casino

Dealer holding a handful of poker chips

Claudia Zervos of Your Great Event in Glendale, California, specializes in fundraising events for clients in the nonprofit sector. One of her favorite virtual event ideas is a virtual casino, featuring online versions of traditional casino games like poker, blackjack, and roulette.

According to Zervos, "This particular theme has been very successful in keeping the audience engaged — AND supportive in the fundraising goals of the organization."

If you aim to recognize your clients and employees rather than raise money, you can use this idea without requiring a buy-in for attendees to participate. Simply give rewards to the winners of your virtual casino night. Prizes can vary, but you up the ante by offering virtual cooking classes, mixology classes, or fitness classes — all of which your attendees or employees will appreciate.

11. Broadcast Your Event From a Professional Studio

Using a film studio to record and livestream your event can add a level of professionalism to your virtual experience. Ryan Zynger, owner of Zynger Events in Los Angeles, California, rented out a studio in Houston, Texas, to broadcast a recent event for their client Aspen Challenge.

According to Zynger, "Having a live host in a studio with some branding, props, and room to move around, made it a lot more engaging and exciting!"

Zynger personalized the event for attendees by streaming participants’ faces in a video used on all breaks. They also had a DJ play music and used their online platform to highlight participants' dance moves. This allowed them to feature all of the event participants on screen — like a virtual tour of the party if you will.

The professional production value made all of their on-screen elements a success. "It was quite the show!" Zynger says.

12. Bring in Familiar Decor

Jen Hansen, Senior Event Specialist, at Event Lab in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, suggests incorporating familiar decor elements from your live events to make the transition to virtual more seamless.

According to Hansen, "Since many causes are lucky enough to have repeat attendees, the recurring decor items (such as a red carpet entrance, chandeliers, silent auction tables, etc.) make attendees feel comfortable, familiar, and as if they are actually a part of the live event atmosphere that they are so used to."

If you host an annual soirée, adapting your traditional activities for a digital space is a sound virtual event idea. Try to recreate the emotional experience that attendees would typically have at your event.  

Hansen tells us, "I think creating a comfortable, yet engaging atmosphere helps ignite generosity and philanthropy as it sparks all the feels that attendees are used to feeling inside a live event space."

Capturing that experience in a virtual space can lead to long-term results for your annual event. If you can create a successful virtual experience, you'll be able to stick with virtual events or use a hybrid event model to reach a wider audience in future years.

Our Favorite Virtual Event Idea

Despite the move back to the office, many companies have made a permanent shift to virtual teams, and virtual platforms have allowed businesses to get closer to their global customers and business partners. A well-designed virtual event builds on these relations.  

At Hoppier, creating rewarding virtual experiences is what we do. Hoppier's virtual cards allow event attendees to order food and beverages from local restaurants and national vendors — recreating the catering experience they would have at a live event (but better because now they can choose their own food!). It’s the ideal accouterment to employee-only events, such as a virtual scavenger hunt, murder mystery, movie night, or happy hour.

Hoppier Virtual Conference Gift Card

You can also use Hoppier cards to provide event swag or offer prizes to the winner of your virtual casino night or Family Feud game. And unlike traditional gift cards, any unused funds on your Hoppier cards can be refunded after your event. Sign up for a free demo to learn how Hoppier can increase engagement at your next virtual event.

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Ready to 2x your global engagement at your next event, with Ox stress?

Make Hoppier your unfair advantage today, schedule a demo

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Ready to 2x your global engagement at your next event, with Ox stress?

Make Hoppier your unfair advantage today, schedule a demo

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
arrow point to CTA

Ready to 2x your global engagement at your next event, with Ox stress?

Make Hoppier your unfair advantage today, schedule a demo


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