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3 Virtual Event Ideas and 3 Examples of Awesome Virtual Events

By Tiina Raekallio on Nov 5, 2020 10:00:00 AM

The number of virtual events is growing at a pace, especially because of the 2020 restrictions and challenges associated with organizing physical events. 

This means that a growing number of organizers are hard at work trying to figure out how to create a virtual event that not only delivers the content it is meant to deliver but is also engaging and inspiring.

This can be a tough nut to crack, especially if the event in question was initially meant to be organized as a physical event, and the move to the virtual environment is happening at a tight schedule. 

There are some virtual event best practices you can follow that will help make your event a success. Check out our favorite virtual event ideas below, followed by three inspirational examples of engaging virtual events.

Virtual event idea #1: Consider time zones

A physical event involves traveling to the spot. One of the key advantages of a virtual event is there is no need for travel, which makes participating in a virtual event viable for people who would not have been able to fly over for the physical event. Less traveling means fewer emissions and also, in today’s world, less risk of spreading infections. 

However, for a virtual event, you will also need to consider time zones in a way you don’t need to when organizing a physical event. At what time does your program start – and to who is that timing convenient? Who would need to get up in the middle of the night?

This should guide your decision on whether to focus on live video or recordings. An additional point to consider on that front is that while live broadcast does create a certain sense of a shared moment, publishing recordings give an opportunity to enhance the content by editing. This can lead to a significant increase in the quality of participant experience. 

You may want to consider using recordings before or after the event and go live for the event itself for the best results. If your participant base truly is global, you can consider running the live part of your event two or three times so that every part of the world can participate at a convenient time.

In addition, scheduling of the event program itself is worth carefully considering. Remember that people have a shorter attention span when it comes to online sessions. 45 mins is a short time in a physical setting but a long time in a virtual one. So perhaps instead of delivering one long event in one day, you could split your event into shorter sessions and deliver them over several days. This would also allow you to benefit from the asynchronous dimension of virtual events fully: you could invite participants to take part in polls and conversations, and they could do this at a time that suits them.

Virtual event idea #2: Choose the right delivery

To create a successful virtual event, you need to diversify your delivery. What this means, above all, is that talking heads and slideshows simply won’t cut it. You have the almost limitless possibilities of digital media at your fingertips – so use them to design an experience that is genuinely immersive.

In order to do that in a meaningful way, however, you need to choose the right platform to host your event on. Good ones are as versatile and customizable as possible, allowing you to really get creative with how you lay out the event and how different programs take place. With Howspace, for example, you can have your participants co-create the session notes or engage in-real time with the event speakers. Gamifying your event in some way can also increase engagement – you could, for example, design a scavenger hunt and set up a leaderboard. It’s also important that your event has regular breaks and interactive content that helps people remain engaged.

If you really want to get creative, think of ways to add physical dimensions to your experience. You could, for example, have food delivered to your participants for a shared lunch. (This is what the Finnish Democratic Party did for their seminars – read more below!) You may also want to look into organizing break exercises or entertainment, such as musical numbers or mindfulness sessions. 

Virtual event idea #3: Don’t forget networking

Ask someone who attends a lot of conferences or events to list their reasons for doing it. The chances are that they mention networking right away.

With the right kind of setup, networking can be arranged very effectively in a virtual setting as well. It will work in your favor if you put a lot of focus and effort into this at the planning stage – because if you get it right, people will want to join your event again next time.

For example, you can organize breakout rooms where your participants can join for a free chat – or include appointment bookings within your program. This may be even more effective than spontaneous hallway conversations of physical events. For example, digital Open Space sessions are already here to stay. People can jump into the discussions they're the most interested in and get to know people with the same interest. 

 ...Read on to find out how Toronto Change Days enhanced their networking experience with digital tools.

Virtual event example #1: Growth Open and the quick learning curve

Finland's biggest growth and sparring program, Kasvu Open – Growth Open, encompasses many events and services. Many were already virtual, but in 2020, all needed to be moved online. Essentially this meant moving business coaching sessions as well as the main event at the end of the program all into the virtual environment.

First, the organizers thought of just doing the sessions as video conference calls but realized they need to diversify the approach. They decided to deploy Howspace to get the participants and business mentors engaged before the event, meaning they were better prepared once the coaching sessions started.

Read more on Growth Open.

Virtual event example #2: Toronto Change Days and inspired facilitators

Toronto Change Days was organized in November 2018 for the first time. Modeled after Berlin Change Days, the festival focuses on understanding change, always with distinct themes to approach the subject from. 

While the event has not been organized 100% virtually yet, the digital element has already been very much present: Toronto Change Days used Howspace to help participants connect with one another outside the workshops, with an aim to raise the bar from casual and often superficial hallway conversations to something more meaningful and in-depth. The organizers set up workshop-specific workspaces and allowed each facilitator to customize them. This sparked a lot of creativity as the facilitators started exploring Howspace and got excited about all the things that can be done with it. And the end result was that people became engaged in the topics and discussing them on Howspace even before the workshop itself – and after.

Read more on Toronto Change Days.

Virtual event example #3: Finnish Social Democrats and Employees’ Seminars

Finland’s largest party, the Finnish Social Democratic Party (SDP), organizes an event called Employees’ Seminars a few times a year. Employees’ Seminars are opportunities for the party’s employees to get together and review the achievements of the previous period and discuss plans going forward.

These events had been face-to-face events until spring 2020 when SDP decided to make them virtual. With the help of Howspace, SDP made their virtual seminars a great success, complete with delightful details such as a pizza lunch and an outdoor photography competition. In terms of inclusion, SDP felt that the most valuable part was the event’s brainstorming workshop, during which the participants discussed ways to adapt the party’s operation to the exceptional circumstances of the coronavirus spring.

Read more on SDP Employees’ Seminars.

Virtual event ideas always need a strategy

Although virtual events have their challenges, they also offer some incredible opportunities. Perhaps the biggest one is scalability. As mentioned above, joining a virtual event is possible for many people who would not have been able to travel over for a physical event. This means you can reach a far wider audience with a virtual workshop – and you should take this into account from the get-go. It basically means that you can organize your event at a far lower cost while attracting more participants, boosting the return on investment (ROI) effectively.

This does not come on its own, however. All virtual events must include a robust marketing strategy and plan, including how to follow up after the workshop. This should be created in alignment with virtual event best practices, your reason for organizing the event, and your organization's overall strategy – what are you aiming to achieve and why?

With the right kind of platform and the right kind of plan in place, the opportunities are almost limitless.


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