16 Unique Virtual Event Ideas for Companies To Stand Out Online
Virtual events are here to stay, but with in-person coming back in a big way, you’re probably stress-Googling, “What are some exciting virtual events ideas for companies?”
Fortunately, virtual event management software has rapidly evolved to help event organizers like you host unique online experiences that not only help you achieve your goals but can also entertain and delight your attendees. We’ve accepted that virtual event experiences will never replicate the in-person event experience. Still, we believe creating an equitable experience — striking the right balance between entertainment, networking, and education — is 100% possible.
In this article, we look at ideas and examples of next-level virtual event entertainment, gamification, sponsorship, and more. Feel free to use the table of contents or dive straight in!
Table of Contents
- Virtual Event Entertainment Ideas
- Virtual Event Engagement and Gamification Ideas
- Virtual Event Sponsorship Ideas
- Immersive Virtual Event Ideas
- Virtual Event Production Ideas
Virtual Event Entertainment Ideas
Thanks to the pandemic, the sky’s the limit for virtual event entertainment. Thousands of entertainers, DJs, emcees, and more popped up out of necessity throughout the pandemic, which has left us today with more options than we know what to do with. (And that’s a good thing!)
1. Virtual Improv
An improv troupe offers a fun way to engage your attendees at online events. If you’re hosting an internal corporate event, the ability to turn comedy into education or inspiration can be a game changer. Improv is interactive, so you can prompt the troupe to weave themes from your event right into the performance or have the troupe work with attendees on topics and prompts.
We once invited North Coast, NYC’s premiere hip-hop improv team, for a live performance at a virtual summit. To make it personalized and interactive, North Coast asked the audience questions about their favorite aspects of events. Before the show even started, attendees had fun reminiscing about special moments from past events in the chats. When it was time to perform, North Coast delivered personalized improv hip-hop and pulled from the unique experiences attendees had previously shared.
One of the hardest parts about attendee engagement at virtual events is keeping attendees tuned in and amped up. Consider hiring a DJ and offering 5-minute dance parties or movement moments to keep attendees awake and engaged.
For example, for our internal sales kickoff, we brought in DJ Graffiti to energize everyone early in the morning and get started on a high-energy foot.
3. Virtual Concert
This engaging virtual event idea will make for a memorable experience. When planning a virtual concert, it’s important to produce it in a way that works well in the virtual environment. Concerts should be immersive; don’t just stream a video feed. Instead, create something specifically for the virtual world.
A great example from the music industry is Billie Eilish’s Where Do We Go? The Livestream concert. After canceling her sold-out 2020 world tour because of the pandemic, Eilish wanted a way to connect with her fans. The concert was exceptionally produced with multiple camera angles and a massive 60×24-foot LED stage. Throughout the concert, the LED stage was full of striking scenes taking viewers on a dynamic journey. The concert also provided a chat for attendees to interact and an online store for limited-edition merchandise.
Virtual Event Engagement and Gamification Ideas
According to Forrester, 61% of event professionals believe keeping virtual attendees engaged is their biggest challenge. Luckily, event management software has come a long way in providing opportunities for attendees to chat, take polls, schedule meetings, react in real time to what they’re seeing, and much more.
4. Curated Session Tracks
Virtual events offer an average of 20 sessions per event, often because the virtual aspect makes it easier to have more content, speakers, and attendees. But participants want personalized and curated experiences — and to self-select their journeys — which is where customized tracks win the day.
A prime example of an event that excels at this every year is INBOUND by HubSpot. INBOUND 2022 was hybrid and offered different tracks based on topic, ticket type, and session/keynote location. Attendees could easily self-select their journey and attend sessions based on their goals, priorities, or interests.
5. Leaderboard Challenge
A leaderboard is a great way to boost engagement and encourage attendees to experience every corner of your event. Attendees can earn points by sharing the event on social media; attending keynotes, roundtables, and breakouts; booking a demo of your software; or booking a 1:1 networking meeting with another attendee. To incentivize attendees, ensure you’re offering real, enticing rewards — gift cards, high-value swag, NFTs, or free use of your software.
For example, at the Event Experience Summit, we worked with Captello on event gamification to offer attendees nine ways to earn points. The great thing about how we set this up was that one of the earning opportunities drove a separate campaign we were running — the Top Event Experience Leaders. Don’t hesitate to get creative and think long-term or broader than your event when brainstorming ways to help attendees earn points in the leaderboard!
6. Virtual Photo Booth
Photo booths have always been a staple at in-person events for years, so these popular engagement tools have evolved to fit the virtual event landscape. You can create branded backgrounds, icons, and text blurbs for attendees to get creative and start sharing.
But the best part of a virtual photo booth is that your attendees end up creating tons of authentic user-generated content (UGC) that you can then use post-event and to promote your next event.
7. Continuing Education Credits
Incentivize attendees to register and show up by offering continuing education credits in partnership with your event’s topic or theme. Not only does this show that you’re partnered with the industry’s best professional development organizations or certifications, but it also shows your prospective attendees that you’re fully invested in them — beyond the price of a ticket.
For example, for our Event Experience Summit, we offered Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) continuing education credits. We worked with the CMP Governance Commission through the Events Industry Council to ensure attendees could get credit for registering and showing up to the summit as part of upskilling and professional development.
Virtual Event Sponsorship Ideas
One of the realities of virtual events is that tickets are often free or at drastically reduced prices compared to their in-person counterparts. In July 2022, more than 25% of in-person and hybrid events on Bizzabo’s platform were paid versus only 10% of virtual events. As a result, event sponsorship is becoming an increasingly important role in funding virtual events. The question is: How do you make sponsorship worthwhile for sponsors and attendees?
8. Virtual Exhibition Hall
Virtual expo halls highlight sponsors and allow attendees to browse virtual booths. For example, the betting and gaming industry event SBC Digital offers an Exhibition Hall where attendees can chat with a representative, book a meeting, or share their profile with the business. These virtual exhibition halls also are slowly becoming more stylized as a metaverse for virtual events, featuring additional experiences like networking lounges.
Another example is DataRobot, which leveraged Bizzabo’s virtual event management platform to offer virtual exhibitor booths to give sponsors a best-in-class experience. Sponsors created landing pages within the event website where they could upload documents and images to recreate the experience of a booth virtually. Learn more about what DataRobot accomplished in our case study: How DataRobot launched a worldwide virtual event series with Bizzabo.
9. Sponsored Sessions
Offering sponsors the opportunity to create sessions with content that aligns with their messaging can be extremely effective for sponsors to reach attendees. When building out your agenda, collaborate with sponsors and work with them to craft a message that resonates with the goals of your event while also highlighting the sponsor.
Here’s an example of a sponsored session from American Banker’s Digital Banking 2023 showcasing Lendio, which sponsored a session of this event built on Bizzabo’s platform. If you look throughout the Digital Banking agenda, you’ll notice that a lot of the sessions have sponsors, which are directly called out on the “Agenda” page and featured on the “Sponsor” page.
Source: Digital Banking 2023
10. Sponsored Giveaways
A great way to get sponsors involved and improve audience participation during your online events is by holding a sponsored giveaway. At Avionté CONNECT, attendees had the opportunity to win amazing prizes like an iPad or Ring Doorbell from sponsors like Adobe, ADP, and Equifax. To increase engagement and excitement, the company announced the winners live in the closing session.
11. Branded Videos
If you’ve watched a free video online, you’ve probably seen sponsored content that rolls right before the video. You can leverage pre-roll videos the same way and showcase your sponsors while you have your attendees’ undivided attention with a short sponsorship video right before the session starts. Most companies have a short brand video readily available, meaning less time creating content. It’s common for these videos to typically be 30 seconds to 1 minute long.
Want more help with virtual event sponsorship ideas? Read “The Ultimate Guide to Event Sponsorship for 2023 and Beyond” or download our Virtual Event Sponsorship Guide + Workbook.
Immersive Virtual Event Ideas
12. The Metaverse
As more industries and consumers start to embrace the idea of the metaverse — think virtual spaces like Fortnite, Minecraft, and Roblox — the events industry can hop on the bandwagon and wow attendees. In fact, the metaverse market is expected to bring in a whopping $678.8 billion by 2030, according to Statista.
In these virtual spaces, virtual attendees can create their own avatars to express themselves in a truly honest way (that they may not be able to at in-person events) and move around the virtual event space on their own time in their own way. The metaverse also champions diversity, equity, and inclusion by opening up opportunities to a broader audience and creates a more sustainable future for the events industry too.
Companies like Virtway are building metaverse environments for various events and use cases for companies like Pfizer and Fortune 100. We anticipate more event organizers pushing for the metaverse or metaverse-lite features in their virtual event strategy.
15. 360-degree Tour>
The key to successful online events? Interactivity. A 360-degree tour can help showcase your business or school from anywhere in the world — virtually.
The example below is from Virtual Applicant Day at The University of Warwick. This virtual applicant day allowed prospective students from across the world to tour the university, have coffee chats with current students and additional activities to help get a feel for what campus life would be like.
Source: The University of Warwick
Virtual Event Production Ideas
14. Pre-recorded Sessions
Pre-recorded sessions of your keynote speakers and specific sessions can elevate your virtual event while providing peace of mind for the day-of-event run of show. Having your sessions filmed ahead of time allows for enhancements such as editing or adding graphics. This virtual event idea helps you produce the highest quality broadcast, reduces room for error, and sometimes can make online events less stressful to plan and execute.
A great example of this was the 2020 Adobe SUMMIT. The event was pre-recorded, with executives and celebrities filming their sessions ahead of time. To find the best filming locations, Adobe had its presenters take producers on a tour of their homes to find the best setup and lighting for the event. Adobe also sent out training documents to help presenters make the best recordings from their homes, the documents included tips on camera positioning, what to wear, and how to choose recording locations. The result was well-produced pre-recorded videos for their virtual event.
Source: Adobe SUMMIT
15. Professional In-studio Session Recordings
If you want to elevate your sessions, consider recording them in a studio with your production team. Professional recording sessions rival the quality of news broadcasts and can bring your event to the next level.
Below you will see the team at Endless Events producing a high-quality broadcast for one of their virtual events. With the use of LED backgrounds and professional equipment, they were able to bring their client’s virtual event to life.
Source: Endless Events
16. On-demand Sessions
This virtual event idea will allow you to maximize your event long after the live show. On-demand sessions allow attendees to tune in when convenient for them and catch the session replays, and they’re especially helpful for tackling time zones. They’re also great for keeping people who registered but didn’t attend tuned in and interested in your event and brand.
On-demand sessions offer a powerful way to repurpose event content and build an ongoing lead-generating machine.
Need more guidance on your video production strategy? Read “How to Choose the Best Video Tools and Strategy for Your Virtual or Hybrid Event.”
The Sky’s the Limit for Your Next Virtual Event
Virtual events will continue to become more prevalent in 2023 as organizations cut budgets and resourcing while needing to keep events running to drive lead generation. Here are the main takeaways from this jampacked article:
- The best virtual events mirror in-person ones in many ways, but they’re not carbon copies of in-person experiences. The right virtual event tools allow you to transform many parts of in-person events into a digital environment.
- Do your best to provide memorable experiences with entertainment and gamification and personalize the attendee experience through session tracks.
- Make sure each of your sessions is recorded and available on-demand. This will allow people to access the content well after your event is live.
- With virtual events, partnerships are important to the success of your event. You don’t need to create your virtual event all by yourself. Virtual event production teams can help you elevate your experience. Sponsors can add value to your event.
- Comparing event software can save you hours and provide a great user experience.
- Look outside your industry for inspiration, many industries went virtual before events and can provide great virtual event ideas that attendees may not have seen before, making your event more engaging.
If you’re tasked with planning a virtual event and need a little help to get it up and running? Download our Virtual Event Production Kit.