Author – Jacob Thomas
Discover inspiration for incorporating virtual experience into your events strategy. Featuring examples from brands like Google, Wistia, and Gainsight.
Virtual events are growing in popularity, especially as the world continues to deal with the novel coronavirus. Fortunately, modern technology has made it possible for companies to host amazing online events that rival in-person versions, leading to many benefits for both event planners and attendees alike.
In this article, we take a deep dive into what virtual events are and why they’re worth your time. Then we share 20 unique ideas you can use to host an amazing virtual event today.
For more inspiration, check out these virtual event examples.
What is a Virtual Event?
A virtual event, also known as an online event, is an interactive gathering that happens on the internet. Unlike in-person events, virtual ones aren’t restricted to a single location. A remote attendee can join and participate from anywhere in the world, given he or she has access to the web.
Some events are completely virtual and every guest attends sessions from the comfort of their own home, favorite coffee shop, or wherever they might be. Others have both in-person and virtual components, which is also known as a hybrid event.
If you plan to have some integrate both in-person and virtual elements, take a look at these hybrid event ideas.
What Makes Virtual Events So Beneficial?
There are many reasons why virtual events are valuable. First off, virtual events allow the individuals or companies hosting them to reach a wider audience. Were you to host your event in a specific city, not every person in your audience would be able to attend due to the cost of travel. With a virtual event, travel isn’t an issue.
In general, virtual events are also much cheaper to put on. Event planners don’t have to book a giant venue or hire a bunch of temporary staff. These cost savings can then be passed on to each virtual attendee in the form of lower ticket prices.
Lastly, virtual events are extremely measurable. Companies can easily learn which sessions were the most popular, how many people attended, where those attendees live, how they paid for their tickets, and much more. Just about every attendee action can be tracked and analyzed. This information can then be used to improve event strategy.
Now, let’s take a look at 20 different virtual event ideas!
1. Wista CouchCon
Wistia is a video marketing platform specifically designed for businesses. A couple of years ago, they hosted their first ever virtual event, adequately named CouchCon. Attendees learned from 13 different influencers about the ways in which video can be used to market a company.
Beyond just the information shared, though, many people attend events to meet their peers and network. One of the few potential drawbacks of virtual events is the lack of community. But Wistia is all about relationships and they wanted to make sure that CouchCon was full of networking opportunities. They accomplished this by creating dedicated Slack channels which event attendees could join, meet their peers, and share resources.
For your virtual event, get creative and build opportunities for your attendees to meet and network with each other.
2. Event Marketing School
Source: Event Marketing School
Event Marketing School exists to help companies host ROI positive events. They’ve worked with big-name brands such as IBM, Delta, and Salesforce to educate over 10,000 event planners, technologists, and marketers. One of the reasons their events are so well received (just read the testimonials on their website!) is because they work hard to make them feel personable.
A great way to make your virtual event feel more personal and authentic is to have an event host (or hosts) facilitate it. That’s what Event Marketing School does. One of their more recent virtual gatherings featured three knowledgeable professions to help guide remote attendees through the six-day event. If you’re searching for ways to make your virtual get-together feel more personal, find a host.
3. Gainsight PulseCheck
One of the biggest benefits that virtual events offer those putting them on is the opportunity to easily repurpose content. Each session is recorded and streamed to virtual attendees. After the event is over, these sessions can then be used as marketing materials like lead magnets.
Gainsight does a great job of this with their virtual event named PulseCheck. To help build the company’s email list, they offer the recorded sessions for free to new subscribers. After your virtual event has concluded, use the recording as marketing collateral to continue building your business.
4. South by Southwest (SXSW)
South by Southwest is an incredibly well-known festival. The conference celebrates technology, business, music, film, comedy and more every year in Austin, TX (virus allowing). But the event organizers realize that not everyone is able to attend in person. So they stream the keynote speeches online for all to see and enjoy.
Just because you’re hosting an in-person gathering doesn’t mean you can’t get in on the virtual event action. Consider live streaming your event also and selling discount tickets. This will allow you to reach a wider audience and bring in more cash.
5. Google I/O
Source: Google I/O
Google needs no introduction. They’re one of the biggest companies in the universe and their search engine fields over 90% of internet search queries worldwide. They also hold multiple events every year. One of the more popular ones is I/O and it’s geared towards developers.
While this is an in-person get-together, they also stream it online, just like SXSW. But that’s not all. Google I/O also helps to organize what are known as “extended events”. These are basically streaming parties that take place around the world. People who can’t make the live event in California get together with others from their own cities and watch the live stream together.
6. Apple Special Events
Apple’s Special Events are legendary. A few times a year, the tech giant invites members of the press, bloggers, and other special guests to witness the unveiling of their latest products in person. But they also stream these events on the internet so that the general public can learn about the new iPhone, iPad, and MacBook too.
Why not take a page from Apple’s book and use your virtual event to make an exciting company announcement? It could be an entirely new product, new software feature, or anything else your audience will find interesting. A big reveal is just one more reason for event-goers to attend your virtual soiree.
Event marketing can be tough. There are so many great conferences, seminars, and expos out there. How will your event ever stand out? Do what INBOUND, a marketing conference by HubSpot, does and create great content year-round to promote your get-together. That’s right, for the best results, you need to market your virtual event 365 days a year.
INBOUND does this by allowing their audience to view popular keynote speeches and sessions from years past, AND by creating completely new, original content for their audience to consume on a regular basis.
8. Webinar World
Webinar World is a hybrid event (meaning it hosts both in-person and virtual attendees) created by ON24. The gathering prides itself on educating “webinerds” on marketing best practices — especially on how they pertain to webinar marketing.
Everything about virtual events is aimed at practicality. So do what Webinar World does and make sure your content is practical too. The more actionable the better. After an attendee has viewed your event, they should be able to immediately begin implementing what they’ve learned.
9. AWSome Day Online Conference
Source: AWSome Day Online Conference
AWSome Day Online Conference is an Amazon event that showcases the core services of the AWS platform: compute, storage, databases, and network, and trains attendees on how to use them. It’s geared towards IT managers, system engineers, and other cloud computing professionals.
Here’s a wild B2B event marketing idea: make your virtual event free. If you want more people to “show up”, completely remove every barrier of entry. If potential event-goers don’t have to travel or even pay a few bucks to attend, they probably will.
10. Adobe MAX
Source: Adobe MAX
While Adobe MAX does stream many of its keynote speeches and sessions to a virtual audience, it’s definitely more of an in-person event. But that doesn’t mean we can’t study the conference and learn a lot about hosting a killer virtual get-together. After all, the best online events provide the experience of an in-person meeting without any of the hassle.
If we were to learn one thing from Adobe MAX it would be this: get amazing presenters. The folks who speak at this conference are amazingly accomplished. Past speakers include legendary filmmaker Ron Howard, Grammy-winning musician Questlove, and comedic star Tiffany Haddish.
Who will speak at your virtual event? You don’t need celebrities. But you do need knowledgeable experts your audience will be excited to see.
11. HR Virtual Summit
Source: Bamboo HR
Claiming to be “the world’s largest virtual summit dedicated to uplifting the HR industry,” HR Virtual Summit brings together the brightest minds in human resources. These expert insights are then shared with and enjoyed by over 30,000 people around the world.
To accomplish such an ambitious goal, Bamboo HR teamed up with Glassdoor. This is a great tactic worth considering for all event types. Rather than carrying the entire burden of planning, marketing, and hosting a virtual event on your own, find another company to partner with.
12. Call to Action Conference
Source: CTA Conference
Call to Action Conference is an annual event held in Vancouver, Canada and hosted by landing page software company, Unbounce. Currently, registrations for the CTA Conference for 2020 have been paused in light of COVID-19 with additional details to follow.
After just a quick glance at its website, you’ll notice that this conference has event engagement down. Their site is full of testimonials from past attendees promoting the get-together. This social proof goes a long way to convincing new people to attend. When marketing your virtual event, use testimonials whenever possible.
13. Outreach Marketing Virtual Summit
The Outreach Marketing Virtual Summit (OMVS) is an online event hosted by GroupHigh, the world’s largest blogger database. It’s full of top-notch information given by many well-respected marketing experts. But what we really want to talk about is content marketing.
OMVS does a fantastic job of taking its recorded sessions and using the content to better market its parent company, GroupHigh. After the virtual event has concluded, they post the best sessions online for all to see. This helps build buzz for the service they sell. Don’t forget to use your recorded virtual event sessions to promote your main company and its products and services too.
14. Women’s Strength Summit
Source: Girls Gone WOD
Women’s Strength Summit is for, you guessed it, women! This event aims to help those of the fairer sex get out of their comfort zones and build stronger minds, bodies, and spirits. The gathering in 2019 features 24 expert speakers and was a life-changing experience.
One of the reasons WSS has been so successful is because it caters to a specific demographic: women who want to improve their mental, physical, and spiritual health. When planning your virtual event, consider targeting a specific audience. While you’ll inevitably alienate some people, you’ll also develop deeper bonds with the core audience you decide to serve.
Drip is a popular email marketing software used by industry heavyweights like Dodge, Trivago, and Live Nation. A couple of years ago, they hosted an event named Automated, which brought together 14 e-commerce marketing experts. Attendees learned important tips and tricks like personalization strategies and content marketing tactics.
Just like many live, in-person events, Drip found sponsors for their virtual get-together. Zapier, Twilio, Big Commerce, and more were a part of the festivities. Just because you’re hosting a virtual event doesn’t mean you can’t get sponsors. Not only will sponsorship help financially, but it will also lend your gathering more credibility.
16. Global Growth Marketing
This virtual event put on by MobileMonkey taught attendees how to better market their companies and close more deals. Speakers include experts from DocuSign, Amazon, Uber, and more. And while the live event was free, MobileMonkey now sells access to the session recordings.
Maybe your company should consider doing the same. Giving away conference access can be a great marketing tactic. But selling access can help your bottom line. Both options are viable. What you decide to do with your recordings once your live event has concluded is up to you.
17. Content Marketing Summit
Source: Neil Patel
Neil Patel (the genius who’s helped Google, Facebook, and AirBnB better market their products and services) is the mind behind Content Marketing Summit. And just like everything else Neil does, this virtual event will be over the top amazing, featuring expert talks from Neil himself as well as Ann Handley, Pat Flynn, Sujan Patel, and Eric Siu.
What we really want to point out, though, is the excellent landing page that Content Marketing Summit is using to market itself. We’re sure you have plenty of corporate event ideas running through your mind. But whichever ones you decide to act upon, they’ll need a quality landing page to encourage sign-ups.
18. CCW APAC Online
Source: CCW Digital
Whereas most companies focus on differentiating themselves via price and product quality, CCW APAC Online teaches attendees to focus on customer experience instead. They argue that this is the best way for a company to rise above its competitors.
One way that CCW APAC Online differentiates itself is by offering on-demand access to its many sessions. That way attendees can watch and learn when it suits them best rather than rearranging their schedules. If your goal is to provide the greatest attendee experience at your virtual event, you should consider doing the same.
BOUNDLESS by Nutshell CRM is designed to “advance your skills in the art and science of selling.” This completely virtual event was held for the first time in 2019 and was a smashing success. It featured keynote speeches from some of the world greatest sales professionals and actionable CRM tips from the Nutshell team.
What a great idea! During your virtual event, position your company’s products as the perfect tool for attendees to implement their new-found knowledge with. This is a fantastic way to increase event ROI.
20. Innovation Marketing Virtual Summit
Source: Innovation Marketing Virtual Summit
Finally, we have the Innovation Marketing Virtual Summit by SnapApp. This event, originally held in 2018, shared the new playbook for engaging prospects and driving demand. In a blog post reflecting on the get-together, event planners mentioned how glad they were that they started the planning process months before it was set to stream.
Even though virtual events are typically less of a hassle to host than in-person ones, they still require a lot of planning. You need to know what kind of event software you’ll use, who will be speaking, how the gathering will be marketed, the ticket types you’ll sell, and many more details. All this takes time to plan. Give yourself enough of it.
Key Takeaways: Host Your Own Virtual Event
Virtual events will continue to become more prevalent in 2020 as organizations reconcile with the impact of COVID-19 on events. Fortunately, the twenty ideas listed above will help you host an amazing virtual get-together your attendees will love. Here are the main takeaways:
- The best virtual events mirror in-person ones in many ways. Do your best to provide networking opportunities for attendees, get great speakers, secure an event host, and personalize the attendee experience.
- Make sure each of your sessions are recorded. Then sell access to the recordings to boost profits or use them to better market your company. It’s up to you.
- You don’t need to plan, market, and host your virtual event all by yourself. Look for a company to partner with and split the workload with them. At the very least, secure event sponsors to help out financially and lend your gathering credibility.
- Plan your virtual event as far in advance as you can and know the tools, marketing strategy, and ticket type you’ll need to make your online get-together a success.
Learn more about how virtual can fit into your event strategy by downloading the Going Hybrid Ebook, featuring advice and examples from leading brands.