At one point in time, in-person interactions were the norm, and virtual events were a less-than-ideal backup for a face-to-face meeting. Though much of the business world has gone “back to work”, virtual meetings and events are here to stay!
Virtual events or parties can be just as, if not more, rewarding as in-person events. A well-planned virtual event is often a suitable replacement for what would otherwise have been an in-person gathering in the past.
In this article, we share some of the best virtual event ideas for companies. We’ll also discuss how to host a successful virtual event, including how to choose your event, how to plan it, and what you can do to make it an enjoyable experience for all.
So don’t shy away from hosting. It’s time to embrace all that virtual events and parties have to offer!
Table of Contents
What is a virtual event?
A virtual event is a gathering of two or more people that takes place in an online setting rather than in person at a specific venue. Groups of people use virtual meeting platforms like Zoom, Google Chats, Microsoft Teams, Instagram Live, etc. to connect.
Even when connected digitally, people can interact in mostly the same way that they would if they were in the same room! They’ll be able to see each other, talk, laugh, smile, and have a lot of fun despite the distance. Unlike their physical counterparts, virtual events (also referred to as remote events) aren’t restricted to a specific location or attendance number. Hundreds of guests can participate from around the world!
What can you do in a virtual event?
You can host practically any kind of event virtually. From professional meetings to casual gatherings, so many events translate well to a virtual format. Companies can hold virtual meetings and parties, families can enjoy holiday gatherings, friends can watch movies together, universities can offer courses…the list goes on and on! There are two main types of virtual events: internal and external.
Internal virtual events are those that are attended mainly by employees at a company. Some of the best internal company virtual events are meetings, team building activities, training sessions, company parties, happy hours, water cooler chats, and even coffee breaks!
External virtual events are attended by a general audience and include things like webinars, virtual conferences and workshops, fundraisers, trade shows and exhibitions, theatrical and musical performances, and even fitness classes!
The virtual event ideas above are by no means exhaustive. There are hundreds of events and social gatherings that take place virtually. The list never stops growing as more and more people conjure up new virtual social event ideas that can work just as well online as in person.
How to host a virtual event
Most of the logistics of hosting an in-person gathering are the same for virtual events. So if you’ve organized an event or party in the past, your existing knowledge will come in handy when planning a virtual version!
For those who feel overwhelmed by the prospect of organizing a virtual event or just don’t have the time, you can hire a virtual event planning company. These full-service agencies handle all the components of your event so that you can have fun with your colleagues. Here are several virtual event planning companies that do all the work for you.
Here we go over all the elements of hosting a virtual event with suggestions on how to make yours a smash hit!
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Know your objective
Why are you considering hosting a virtual event?
Is there an upcoming special occasion, such as a colleague’s retirement, a seasonal holiday, or a company anniversary? Is the purpose of the event less concrete? Perhaps you sense that team morale is low and your group could benefit from an injection of energy and team spirit.
Knowing the purpose of your virtual event narrows down the activity options. A virtual party is good for celebrating special occasions. Networking lends itself well to a virtual happy hour while webinars are excellent for an educational event.
What are the outcomes you hope to achieve?
Is the event intended to connect your team or honor an individual? Think about the emotions you want participants to feel. Do you envision a light-hearted party involving toasts, games, and guests dressing up? Perhaps you want to encourage colleagues to develop professionally or strengthen their team communication skills.
Be sure to communicate virtual event intentions to your invitees! You may know the objective, but that doesn’t mean others do! Asking people to attend a virtual event without letting them know what’s in it for them may result in low turnout.
Choose an activity
Now that you know the purpose of your virtual event, it’s time to choose activities that can best achieve the objective! With the ever-growing number of engaging virtual event ideas, deciding on one could end up being the hardest, but most fun, part of hosting. Consider the following questions as you choose:
Who are your attendees?
Are they a small team of well-acquainted co-workers? Are you hosting a larger group of people, some of whom are new to the team? When you establish the audience, it will be easier to pinpoint what type of event they’ll respond to best!
How much time do you have?
Will this be an hour-long virtual gathering? Longer? Or are you planning a short virtual event to touch base with others? Attempting to cram a complex activity into a short period of time is a recipe for disaster. Not only will participants leave the event without any kind of practical takeaway, but they may also be reluctant to turn up for the next virtual event!
What’s your budget?
Virtual event costs can run from nothing up to thousands of dollars! Before you set your heart on a specific virtual event, lay out a budget. If you don’t have much dough to spend, don’t worry. There are plenty of free virtual event ideas too!
What virtual platforms and technology are available to you?
Virtual event platforms are the means by which you connect all the participants online. The best platforms come with audio, visual, and interactive components. The more the platform allows for interaction, the more engaging the event is for guests.
When choosing the best virtual platform, take into account the number of people joining the event. Some platforms like Zoom allow for a large number of participants, while others are limited.
Also, consider what options participants are already familiar with before choosing a platform. One of the more challenging aspects of virtual events is the tech side, so be comfortable with the platform you choose before the start of your event!
Your role during your virtual event
Before jumping into your planned activity, check that invitees have “joined” the gathering and that their video and audio functions are working. It can be awkward to start the activity only to discover that someone’s audio hasn’t been working and they’ve missed several minutes of the event!
After the tech check, welcome the group! If your group is a mix of old and new faces, make any necessary introductions.
Next, briefly share pertinent event information, like what the goals are, how long the event will be, and if there’ll be opportunities to take a quick break if it’s a long event. Be sure to ask the group if they have any questions. It’s better to clarify before moving on to the activity.
During the activity, present a lively and positive attitude. Staying energized will help keep the group enthusiastic and engaged. Use facial expressions and gestures to let your group know visually that they are on the right track. Don’t underestimate the power of a simple thumbs up!
Most importantly, you need to be intentionally involved in the event or discussion. When the host of a virtual event zones out, so will some of the other participants. A lack of engaging activities is one of the chief reasons that a virtual event fails. So how can you avoid this pitfall? Read on!
How to make virtual events more engaging
It’s just as easy to leave a virtual event as it is to join one! Keeping your group engaged is crucial to the event’s success. A survey of marketers found 49% of them reported that audience engagement is the biggest reason for the success of virtual events. Just as guests at a boring in-person event may find a way to slip out, so will your remote guests!
Engagement in smaller groups
Check-in with individuals
Nothing keeps people alert as much as knowing they might be called on! Joking aside, call out participants by name, ask them a question, or have them share their thoughts.
Get your group moving
Unless your event activity requires some physical movement, it is likely the participants are sitting down. If your event is lengthy, you should get your group moving. A group stretch, an intermission, or even a quick mini dance party, can re-energize everyone.
Use breakout rooms
Splitting your group into smaller groups of a few people can help keep participants engaged. Smaller groups provide everyone a chance to speak rather than be passive listeners. Different virtual platforms have features that allow for private side conversations.
A great example is Zoom’s breakout rooms where individuals can gather separately from the main group. When your virtual event has a lot of participants, breakout rooms are a fantastic way to turn what may feel like a mob into an intimate gathering!
When all else fails, let attendees know that those who stay engaged and participate fully will receive some sort of reward at the end of the event like a gift card or a book related to the event topic.
Engagement in larger groups
If you are hosting a large professional event like a webinar or virtual conference, you can implement these techniques to keep the audience engaged:
Q & A
This allows your audience to interact with your event speakers, presenters, or panel. The event will feel less one-dimensional.
Virtual event participants can get “screen fatigue” if their sessions go long. Try to keep sessions under two hours and offer breaks depending on the event length.
Live chat tools
Virtual event apps have tools that allow individual event attendees to connect via text message. One-on-one dialogues create networking opportunities which is one of the main reasons that people attend virtual events.
With the use of mobile event apps, you can periodically check in with your audience by sending out a survey during the event.
Improve engagement with feedback
Event feedback is critical since it will inform you as to what worked and what didn’t. This information will play a big role in your deliberations over your next virtual event. Since you won’t have the means to ‘read the room’ or fully gauge participants’ thoughts, reach out in other ways like using a customized Google Form.
What are the best virtual party ideas?
Among the most popular virtual events are those that recognize the occasions we already cherish, like birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and other life and work milestones. Here are some of the very best virtual company event ideas and virtual party ideas that you can start planning right now!
1. Virtual holiday party ideas
Don’t call off Christmas just because your group is working remotely! It’s easy to celebrate holidays virtually. Here are just a few virtual holiday party ideas: set up a virtual “Secret Santa”, take an online group cooking class for Thanksgiving, hold a Halloween Costume Contest or do a whiskey tasting for St. Patrick’s Day!
2. Virtual going away parties
At a virtual farewell party, your departing colleague will appreciate the chance to say hello and goodbye to the whole team. One great virtual going away party idea is to have the team share stories and memories of experiences they’ve had with the person leaving!
Another virtual going away party idea is to have a colleague collect farewell messages and past group photos and create a Powerpoint to show during the party. This is an especially nice way to say farewell to a coworker as they leave the event and a tangible reminder of their time with the company.
3. Virtual birthday party ideas
The virtual birthday ideas are endless! Take an online group Mixology class, throw a virtual surprise birthday party, do virtual karaoke, or create and play a personalized trivia game based on details about the birthday boy or girl!
4. Virtual retirement party
Retirement is sort of like escaping, so why not play a virtual escape room? The guest of honor is sure to get a kick out of this activity! These 60-minute games give your retiree one last chance to work together with the team to solve clues to find the way out of the virtual escape room.
Another virtual retirement party idea is to take a virtual tour of another city. Stroll the streets of Paris, see the great museums of Rome or the beaches of Maui. You can find a virtual tour of just about any place. Retirees do often dream of traveling!
5. Virtual Employee Appreciation Day
This unofficial holiday on the first Friday in March is being celebrated more and more across the country. This is a perfect occasion to hold a virtual awards ceremony. At this ceremony, management can award employees for best performance in certain categories or roles like “best team player”, “best tech troubleshooter”, or “best salesperson”.
Make this event more fun and casual by asking employees to create the categories. They can come up with humorous awards like “most Zoom challenged” or “employee with the cutest pet” since we all know how our furry friends like to join us on virtual meetings. See some other ways to celebrate Virtual Employee Appreciation Day here.
6. Virtual happy hour
One of the most common virtual social events is a virtual happy hour. You can make this jovial gathering even more fun by organizing it around a theme. Host a ‘black tie’ virtual happy hour and have everyone show up in their swankiest clothes and sip a favorite classy cocktail!
7. Virtual museum scavenger hunt
Virtual scavenger hunts can be pretty exciting! The adrenaline gets pumping as you rush to find objects on the list. Virtual museum scavenger hunts bring together the joy of art and the thrill of the hunt!
What are the best virtual event ideas?
Many virtual event ideas fall under the banner of networking and making professional connections. Here are some of the most popular virtual events to hold:
1. Virtual team building events
Virtual team building activities are perfect for helping groups improve their performance as a team. According to a recent survey, 73% of employees wish their company invested more in holding team building events. This kind of event is super easy to hold! It can be as simple as playing virtual meeting games. If you’re an employer, definitely put a virtual event idea on your list of things to do!
2. Virtual recruiting events
Virtual recruiting events are a proven way to connect with potential job candidates as well as increase job seekers’ awareness of your company.
A major benefit of virtual recruiting events, as opposed to an in-person version, is that they help employers spend less by eliminating face-to-face logistical costs like location rental fees, travel expenses, and other hospitality expenses.
Many job applicants prefer virtual information sessions as well because they can learn about the open position, and the company in general, without the pressure of making a great first impression on a recruiter.
3. Virtual networking events
Virtual networking events allow people to gather and make connections with colleagues or other professionals in their field.
An easy and casual in-house virtual networking event is a virtual coffee break. Instead of meeting in the office kitchen, gather everyone on Zoom with their beverage of choice. Virtual happy hours are popular with employees as they can mingle and talk about non-work-related topics.
Virtual speed networking is a quick and fun way for people to connect virtually and make professional connections. Using small groups and break out rooms, people can have brief conversations about their jobs and companies, just as they would in person.
4. Virtual webinars
This form of a virtual event is just like a seminar but held online. Only the event hosts and a panel of speakers participate in the video aspect of the event. Attendees are not able to use their webcam or microphone and there is no interaction between them. For engagement, you can have a Q&A box so that event guests can interact with speakers.
5. Virtual conferences
Virtual conferences are virtually the same as (no pun intended) in-person conferences. The main difference is that conference sessions are hosted online. Typically virtual conferences have panel discussions, training sessions, keynote speakers, sales product demos, and even live entertainment!
6. Virtual trade shows
Hosting a virtual trade show event lets you present your products or services to a large potential client base from around the world. You can introduce new products and educate the audience about your company and what you offer.
Other virtual event and party ideas
Here are some additional virtual party ideas or event possibilities. You can also get creative and come up with unique ideas on your own!
- Have an online game show party
- Throw a virtual dance party
- Take a virtual cooking class
- Hold a virtual open mic session
- Throw a virtual costume party
- Organize a virtual wine tasting
- Start a virtual book club
- Play virtual Charades
- Attend a virtual comedy show
- Go to a virtual concert
- Take a virtual trip
- Have a virtual jam session
- Gamble at a virtual casino
According to a LinkedIn study, 75% of event marketers say they plan to continue holding virtual gatherings. It’s safe to say that virtual events are here to stay and offer plenty of options for fun and engagement on a team! From virtual conferences to office Christmas parties, take advantage of the opportunity to connect team members in a new way with events you may not have done otherwise due to logistics. If you have a dispersed team, virtual events are also the perfect solution to accessibly unite members. It may seem daunting, but you can plan epic virtual events that ultimately edify your team!