Do you ever struggle to think of new event ideas? Wonder how to reinvent the attendee experience to keep it fresh? As regulations for in-person events frequently change and the growth of online events continues, you may be looking for fun virtual event ideas.
To help you get inspired, we’ve compiled 67 popular event theme ideas and formats you can mix and match at will for your next great event, whether online, in-person, or a combination of both.
Event idea #1: Auction
Items or services are sold either in front of an audience or online to the person who is prepared to pay the highest amount. Audience members place “bids” for each item or “lot,” with bids being managed by an auctioneer. Competitive bids are placed increasing in value, until each person has offered the maximum amount they want to for the lot, at which point the highest bidder has secured the item. This is great for non-profit fundraisers.
Event idea #2: Award ceremony
Think the Oscars, the Emmys, or the Grammys. Of course, not all award ceremonies are quite as slick and glamorous, but they’re a wonderful way to recognize and reward the hard work of teams and individuals.
Event idea #3: Book reading
Choose an author or particular book and host a virtual or in-person read-along, like Octavia Butler’s Slow Read does. Make sure to let attendees know to bring a copy of the book for themselves to read along with.
Event idea #4: Breakfast briefing
A morning event format often used when the host has an announcement or launch to present. It’s great for those who want to reach a business audience, who would be unable to attend an event in office hours or after work, and is an ideal option for those who need online event ideas, as the format is easily adaptable to a virtual venue.
Event idea #5: Cabaret
Cabaret is a stage performance, typically held in restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. But if venues are closed, it can be adapted to an online format. It mixes music, song, dance, and drama with an overarching theme that is normally more suited to adult audiences.
Event idea #6: Conference
Conferences are made up of several sessions, often mixing up formats including keynotes, panels, breakouts, and roundtables and blending learning with networking. They can be either in-person or online like the Johnson Women in Technology conference.
Event idea #7: ConfEx
A ConfEx is part conference, part exhibition. As you’d imagine, there’s a heavy emphasis on talks and learning, but with a large number of exhibitors offering smaller presentations, and unique opportunities for networking and connecting either in-person or online.
Event idea #8: Congress
Congresses generally refer to formal meetings between politicians or government representatives. Many conferences also adopt the name of “congress” to sound more formal and important, too.
Event idea #9: Consumer show or fair
These are usually big events full of vendors selling their products or services all linked by a specific theme. You can bring vendors to an online version, too, to market homeware, travel opportunities, or electronics — take inspiration from the Global Sources consumer shows.
Event idea #10: Convention
This is another broad term that can sometimes mean a conference, a trade show, or, more commonly now, a virtual or in-person gathering of fans (i.e. a fandom).
Event idea #11: Dance, ball, or disco
Not many events feature so strongly in our culture as those that revolve around the dance floor. Whether you go ballroom dancing or clubbing, just for fun or to compete, their variety is almost limitless, and so is their enduring appeal. If venues are limited, consider moving the event — and moving your body — online.
Event idea #12: Debate
Witnessing talented, passionate debaters is an event that can make a huge impression. In fact, virtual debates, like those hosted by Bright Green, can influence elections, lend credibility to causes, and get spectators questioning their original assumptions.
Event idea #13: Endurance race
Endurance events are normally individual feats of endurance where you race against yourself to complete the distance. Like races, the most common forms involve running, cycling, and swimming (or all three). But they could involve dancing in your house for 24 hours.
Event idea #14: Exhibition or trade show
Trade shows are similar to consumer fairs, but are normally restricted to professionals and not open to the public. They focus on selling high-value B2B goods or services and can easily be held online.
Event idea #15: Masquerade
Most common around Halloween, masquerade parties are a great excuse to get dressed up, either online at home or, if venues are open and safe, out and about in person. Revel with others in equally outrageous, amusing, and esoteric clothing.
Event idea #16: Fandom gathering
Held virtually or in person, this type of event focuses on fans of a particular part of popular culture — usually referring to subcultures such as science fiction, anime, and gaming or cult TV series.
Event idea #17: Fashion show
The buzz and theater of a runway at one of the major fashion weeks are hard to replicate, but fashion shows work well online, too. Plus, they’re a fun way to raise money for charity.
Event idea #18: Festival
Festivals are often music-focused, but can be on any topic. An organized concert series, like the one from the Contemporary A Capella Society, or screenings or plays, are usually hosted at a single venue over several days. While gathering in large groups of people in person may be difficult with venues closed, many creators are moving their festivals online.
Event idea #19: Flash
Flash events may be organized months in advance, but they are promoted merely days before the event. These types of events are great if you have a large following or a high demand for your event. The sudden release of news of your event is sure to trigger impulse buying.
Event idea #20: Food and drink
Food and drink events can be as varied as food and drink itself. In-person events typically have a large variety of stalls and vendors selling their goods. But with many venues closed, creators like Olive & Atlas Travel Design have transitioned their events online. They often involve obtaining ingredients to cook along with, and are a great way to sample a lot of variety and expand your palate.
Event idea #21: Forum
Historically, “the Forum” was a Roman center of public life where citizens would gather. In the context of events, a forum is usually a great format for debate and airing of opinions and so associated with legal and political proceedings.
Event idea #22: Gaming
Whether it’s gathering social gamers or attracting gamers that play for cash prizes as a sport, gaming is a big industry to penetrate. These types of events can help you target a niche audience.
Event idea #23: Gig
Wikipedia explains this one best: “Gig is slang for a musical engagement in which musicians are hired. Originally coined in the 1920s by jazz musicians, the term, short for the word engagement, now refers to any aspect of performing such as assisting with performance and attending a musical performance.” In the 2020s, you can find them livestreamed online, too.
Event idea #24: Hackathon
When you bring together programmers, designers, and other digital professionals and ask them to build a prototype within a set period of time, you’ve got yourself a hackathon. The stereotype is that they’re fueled by pizza, caffeine, and beer.
Event idea #25: Immersive
Immersive events normally follow a tight narrative that leads the participant through the story, with the help of actors who always stay in character and settings like you might find on a movie set. This is a favorite event for fans of zombies and apocalypse scenarios and can even be held online by asking attendees to tune into a livestream.
Event idea #26: Improv show
Improvisational comedy is where the performers have no set script, and instead develop ideas from the audience into jokes and sketches on the fly.
Event idea #27: Interview or fireside chat
This is a great format for those who want a keynote speaker but can’t invest the time in creating a presentation. Instead, you can set up a microphone and camera or, if venues are open, put them on stage and ask all of the questions you and your audience want to know.
Event idea #28: Meet-up
Whatever your interest — punk rock fan club, property investors, book club — it’s always great to connect with like-minded people and enjoy conversation with those who share a passion. Of course, a meet-up can be held virtually if needed.
Event idea #29: Networking evening
Often geared towards professionals, networking events are designed to bring like-minded people together to chat, share experiences, and hopefully find common ground that will ultimately lead to a mutually beneficial business relationship. Sometimes, they’re just about eating pizza and having a drink together — virtually or otherwise.
Event idea #30: Open mic
An event where you get the chance to be the star of the show. They usually focus on poetry, music, and comedy and give aspiring artists the chance to showcase their skills and get comfortable performing in front of people (even if those people are behind a screen).
Event idea #31: Paint jam
Grab some brushes, paint, and a canvas, hop online and you’ve got yourself a paint jam. People love watching amazing art come to life.
Event idea #32: Panel session
A perennial favorite at conferences, they can also be stand-alone events. Gather a few experts, throw in a moderator and a series of questions on their topic of expertise, and you’ve got yourself a panel.
Event idea #33: Participatory
This is where attendees become a part of the event, helping to shape and change the experience and the outcome as it goes. This dynamic makes them unpredictable and exciting, and always unique.
Event idea #34: Party
Do we have to define a party for you? Really? Okay, then… parties are simply a gathering of people (friends or strangers) who come together to have fun, relax, and often celebrate something (whether that’s a birthday, wedding, or just the arrival of Friday and another weekend). The best thing is, attendees don’t even need to leave their homes — they can party virtually.
Event idea #35: Performance art
You never know what to expect from performance art. It’s as completely original and unique as the artist with very little common ground between one event and another. They typically combine elements of theater, film, music, video, spoken word, or artistic discipline into an original statement.
Event idea #36: Pitch
The format is normally a rapid-fire session of startups or speakers pitching to the audience, or a panel of experts, usually to win a prize.
Event idea #37: Presentation
A presentation isn’t another word for “PowerPoint,” contrary to the popular understanding of most conference speakers. A presentation should inform, persuade, or build goodwill. While usually found as part of a conference or other larger event, there’s no reason you can’t have a single presentation as the star of your virtual event.
Event idea #38: Product launch
Product launch events are often held in a party format to showcase a company’s latest release, so they’ll generally involve a demo, lots of cool branding, important people, and, if in-person, plenty of drinks and nibbles.
Event idea #39: Prom
An American staple and movie classic, it involves giving your attendees the chance to relive their high school experience — with (legal) drinks. Hosting it virtually is simple, too — just provide attendees with home decorations and ask them to dress up.
Event idea #40: Puzzle or escape room
Solve puzzles in a group, within a certain amount of time, in a closed space or online. This creates the right mix of excitement, curiosity, and agitation to make this format a recent stand-out success.
Event idea #41: Q&A
Question and answer sessions are very common after a talk or panel at a business event, but they’re not limited to that situation. Artists will often launch their latest film or book with a Q&A session so that their fans get a chance to dig behind the scenes and ask their burning questions.
Event idea #42: Quiz
This fun event usually consists of groups or teams competing against each other, and a “quizmaster” who poses questions to the competing teams. Each group then writes down (or types) answers to each question with the winning team having the most correct answers.
Event idea #43: Race
A race is any competitive endurance event, over a specified distance or time, usually running, cycling, or swimming. It occasionally involves an egg and spoon or sack. Where spaces are closed, try competing virtually.
Event idea #44: Rally
A rally is pretty synonymous with politics and social issues, which take the form of a whole lot of people taking to the streets — or to the internet — in support of (or against) a specific shared cause.
Event idea #45: Rave
Big in the 90s, less so today… but what about getting your attendees to party like it’s 1999? They had the internet back then, right?
Event idea #46: Religious events
Whatever your religion, events will likely play a crucial role in bringing together believers, sharing a common message, or raising funds.
Event idea #47: Retreat
This can involve attendees coming together online or in-person, often over a weekend or longer, to meditate, relax, and find peaceful conversation.
Event idea #48: Reunion
While you might associate a reunion with high school or college classmates, there’s no reason to keep them so limited. Host a virtual reunion of old co-workers or colleagues, or reunite with last season’s extracurricular sports league.
Event idea #49: Ribbon cutting
The classic “ribbon-cutting” event has the town mayor, dignitary, or famous guest come to open up a new public space, like a school or library. It’s a great way to gather the community — even virtually — and acknowledge the new amenities.
Event idea #50: Roasts
Roasts, in the opposite tradition of toasts, are events where the main subject is honored but with some gentle mocking and ribbing. A great way to keep egos in check, it’s like a best man’s speech, minus the wince-inducing innuendos.
Event idea #51: Roundtable
All in attendance in person or through a virtual platform are posed the same question and then debate the answer. Think city planning, business innovation, or political issues as the kind of topics often discussed at roundtables.
Event idea #52: Scavenger hunt or treasure hunt
Virtual scavenger hunts like the New-York Historical Society‘s can be a fun and enjoyable way to get people working together.
Event idea #53: Film screening
Ranging from virtual Saturday nights at the movies to exclusive documentary screenings to raise money for charity, screening events can be surprisingly diverse and flexible.
Event idea #54: Secret event
Keeping the agenda of your event a mystery really engages people’s curiosity. Sometimes, telling them nothing at all makes them buy a ticket just to find out what it’s all about.
Event idea #55: Seminar
This session event focuses on a single theme where attendees are invited to participate by following along with specially designed academic exercises.
Event idea #56: Signing engagement
Signings are generally associated with books, so fans and readers can meet their favorite author and get their latest release signed by them. They’re also a common component of fandoms and comicons, too. But where venues such as bookstores or conventions are closed or limited, fans can still connect virtually.
Event idea #57: Silent auction
Like an auction, but virtual or in-person bids are placed in a closed box, with no one knowing how much anyone has bid. The box is then unlocked and the highest bid wins.
Event idea #58: Silent disco
If you want to hold a house party with no complaints about the music volume, this could be the solution. Instead of blaring out dope beats from speakers, each attendee of a silent disco uses headphones and dances to the tunes only they hear. Since everyone provides their own tunes anyway, this event is easy to turn virtual — just have everyone put their mics on mute.
Event idea #59: Standup or comedy show
Everyone loves to laugh, and standup has been around as an event format since Ancient Greek times to service this basic human need.
Event idea #60: Talent or variety show
A competition where entrants compete to demonstrate their unique talent in front of an audience and judging panel. Hold it through a virtual platform like Zoom or in person if regulations allow.
Event idea #61: Tastings
Tastings give you a tantalizing flavor of what’s to come. If you have a workshop or series of classes, they could be a great way to get people interested in your more expensive offering. For a virtual event, either send the drink or food to attendees or make sure they know what’s on the menu beforehand, so that everyone can follow along at home.
Event idea #62: The arts
Here we mean ballet, musicals, opera, and theater. Yes, we’ve lumped four major types of events into one, because they share a common factor — a center stage occupied by talented artists, appreciated by an attentive audience. With many performance stages being closed or limited, attendees can also enjoy the arts virtually.
Event idea #63: Unconference
Unlike conferences, they focus on a specific theme but with no pre-formed agenda. Attendees usually decide the topics for discussion at the start of the day (or virtual session) and then self-regulate as the event progresses.
Event idea #64: Virtual reality
A new type of event that will continue to grow is virtual reality, whether it’s used to make an in-person event more interesting or bring a unique live experience to remote attendees. The possibilities are endless.
Event idea #65: Virtual tour
These are events led by an expert on the location or focus of the tour — who guides the group between venues on camera.
Event idea #66: Webinars
An online seminar where attendees dial in either by phone or web and follow the slides on screen. It’s a great event if lead capture or education are your primary objectives, and there’s also the option for live Q&A, too.
Event idea #67: Workshops
Workshops are often used interchangeably with training sessions, but their traditional meaning was a room where people could build stuff. So in event terms, your event should probably focus on helping people create something tangible — like a painting or teapot warmer.
Get started on your next event
Did this list give you some unique special event ideas? Do you now have plenty of ideas for virtual events? If so, it’s time to start promoting your events.
Eventbrite Boost is the all-in-one-marketing platform designed for event creators. Whether you’re connecting people in-person or virtually, for poetry readings or mariachi lessons, cook-alongs or concerts, you’ve got a lot on your plate. Eventbrite Boost makes it easy to reach new people, engage your fans and followers, and grow your attendance — directly from your Eventbrite account.