Once a niche aspect of the event industry, virtual events have become an integral part of daily life in the time of COVID-19 — and it looks like these events are here to stay. With the right ideas and a few virtual event best practices, you can tap into new markets and keep events going even as circumstances change.
The best part of the online event renaissance? You don’t need a huge budget or previous event experience to create fun virtual events anymore. Resourceful individuals and organizations have recently pushed past traditional virtual event boundaries to broaden their reach. One sports medicine practice brought all of its wellness classes online, while a retired teacher started a virtual music venue from scratch. Thanks to inexpensive technology and tools, anyone can host an online event, regardless of their budget or experience.
New to hosting online events? Check out this collection of virtual event planner resources.
The value of virtual events
Virtual events exploded in popularity during the pandemic, but they’re proving to be a high-value opportunity regardless of restrictions on live events. Not only can they be just as engaging and exciting as in-person events, but they also let creators bring together a wider audience. Travel costs that could have prevented attendees (or talent) from being able to attend a live event are no longer an issue.
Plus, going virtual means you’ll have lower overhead costs — after all, you’re not budgeting for a venue, large event staff, or other in-person line items. This means you get to drastically reduce your expenses (not to mention your carbon emissions) while focusing more on curating the best virtual event possible.
Lastly, there’s the data. It’s much easier to track who’s watching what when everyone’s tuning in online. All that attendee data is music to sponsors’ ears, which can make securing the best partners for your online event a whole lot easier.
11 ideas for virtual events
Wondering how to translate a physical experience into an equally valuable online event? It’s all about giving attendees what they want while offering ways to connect socially. Here are 11 ideas to get you thinking about virtual events:
- Host an interactive workshop where you share your business expertise
- Interview an industry influencer, followed by a Q&A with attendees
- Host a bake-along virtual cooking workshop, with specialty ingredients or tools included in the ticket price
- Teach a series of courses on perennial gardening
- Run a Q&A session about how you started your business
- Demo your brand new product, offering a discount or special gift with purchase to attendees
- Run an awareness webinar, with a post-event suggestion to donate to your cause
- Teach your yoga/art/dance class online
- Showcase local businesses with product demonstrations and expos
- Give attendees a chance to show off their skills with a virtual talent show
- Hold a themed trivia night
For more ideas and examples of virtual event success, check out our curated collection of the best events online.
Best practices for engaging events
With over one million online events hosted on Eventbrite in 2020, our expert knowledge and insider data will help you create an event your attendees won’t forget. These virtual event tips can help you adapt nearly any successful in-person event to an online format.
1. Make it relevant
To grab people’s attention, make sure the content you’re delivering is useful for your customers. What do attendees want from a virtual event? What will they spend money on? And what will make them want to turn on their video app after a long day of remote work? When you start planning your online event, make sure it’ll be worthwhile for your audience.
Need to learn exactly what your audience wants out of your webinar or online workshop? We asked them for you. Our survey data provides you with valuable insights on what attendees are looking for in virtual events, so conducting your own research is optional.
2. Pick the perfect platform
The platform you use to stream your event will rely entirely on what you’re providing. If you’re hosting a webinar and want to moderate attendee participation, Zoom might be a good option. Looking to livestream a film? Vimeo offers password-protected streams, so you can ensure only ticket holders can attend.
3. Price it right
Online events often have fewer overhead costs than traditional events, but that doesn’t mean you should undervalue the experience you’re providing. Ticket prices for online events vary widely between categories, from $17 average for music events to $91 average for professional development events. You can even offer donation-based or sliding scale pricing so more people can attend.
Picking the right price is the first step to throwing an event attendees are excited about. To help you decide, we spoke with some Eventbrite creators about how they priced their events on the blog.
4. Use precise marketing tactics
Marketing is different for an online event compared to an in-person event. Eventbrite data shows that boosting marketing one week before an event sells 47% more paid tickets than starting marketing a month early.
From social media to our simplified marketing tools, it’s easier than ever to promote virtual happenings. Make sure you’re marketing the right way for your customer with our guide to marketing online events.
5. Be inclusive
Making your event diverse and inclusive doesn’t have to be difficult. If you’re hiring speakers, find experts of different genders, races, and backgrounds. Add subtitles to your film, or consider an ASL translator for a livestreamed concert. Consider offering scholarship tickets for professional development classes or networking events.
No matter what you do to increase the inclusivity of your event, add all of this information to your event listing so your guests feel welcome from the start.
6. Invite special guests
With so many people working in front of their screens all day, your event needs something that will drive sales and get attendees excited to show up. Consider inviting an expert in a related field, joining up with an influencer your attendees would love, or even hosting a celebrity for a performance or Q&A. Booking big-name talent for online events is easier than ever, no matter where you’re located.
7. Integrate your in-person experiences
If it’s safe and legal for your organization to do so, you might consider hosting small in-person events, bookended by virtual events with the same theme. Alternatively, hybrid online/offline events are a great way to engage your local customers while interacting with new audiences. Think about livestreaming a live fashion show or film screening, or creating a virtual follow-up to an in-person workshop.
8. Incorporate add-on items and fun merchandise
In-person add-ons, like participant packages shipped to attendees’ doors, are proven to help your bottom line and drive ticket sales. Consider adding a box of perfectly paired snacks to your wine tasting tickets, or send out some fun household decorations in themed colors to virtual partygoers. Integrating an in-person experience helps participants feel like they’re part of the action while adding value to your event.
9. Keep your attendees safe
During the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual events tend to be a safer option than in-person events. But virtual safety is important, too. Using your platform’s highest security options will ensure your guests’ personal information isn’t at risk.
Guests expect their financial information to be safe when they purchase a ticket, and they expect to be safe socially as well. Make your event password protected, set participation guidelines for your attendees and personnel, and be sure to have staff on hand to moderate chats and attendee interaction during the event.
10. Ask for feedback
Getting feedback from attendees is like getting free business advice from the people who matter most: your customers. Take advantage of your guests’ fresh points of view and send out a survey shortly after your event ends. To make that easier, we’ve compiled 21 survey questions you should ask after an event. Your attendees’ authentic feedback will help you make your next event even better.
Make your events lively, varied, fun, and unexpected. Your participants will get more out of the experience and be more likely to come back for another.