Virtual Event Ideas: Bring Your Gatherings to the Digital Space

Whether you’re planning a virtual conference, fundraising gala, networking event, or company offsite, this guide covers creative virtual event ideas for your next gathering.

December 18, 2023

Virtual events have exploded in popularity over the last few years, serving as innovative ways to bring people together online for memorable shared experiences. Whether you’re planning a virtual conference, fundraising gala, networking event, or company offsite, this guide covers creative virtual event ideas for your next gathering.

What Are Virtual Events?

Virtual events are gatherings that happen on the internet instead of in person. You can participate in these events from your computer, tablet, or phone — making it possible to be a part of exciting activities without leaving your home.

These events come in all shapes and sizes, including online meetings, webinars, or even parties and concerts.

Why Virtual Events?

Forget boring old video calls. Modern virtual events utilize technology to transport personalized, interactive shared experiences to attendees globally through their devices.

These online gatherings span way beyond a typical webinar. Immersive 3D virtual environments are now incorporating augmented reality capabilities, VR, and innovative event apps to enable meaningful networking and collaboration unmatched by in-person events.

Some examples of creative virtual events include:

  • Hybrid conferences blending physical and digital engagement
  • Intimate digital celebrations like galas or weddings
  • Experiential product launches
  • Fundraising events with integrated real-world and online components
  • Extended reality training by enterprise companies
  • Interactive live events

The right combination of creative programming and technology unlocks novel virtual event possibilities. Attendees can digitally traverse multidimensional venues at virtual conferences, connect through celebrations on device screens, or collectively solve puzzles in digital escape rooms – no passport required!

However, virtual events do have some downsides. Attendees might face internet issues, distractions, or miss the in-person connection they get at physical events. Make sure to plan and incorporate fun and engaging virtual event ideas to keep everyone focused and having fun.

To avoid these issues, consider working with an expert audio-visual company like Catalyst — we transform normal online meetups into dynamic, lively virtual experiences that participants will remember and cherish.

Engaging Virtual Event Ideas

With the right mix of content, networking opportunities and online event tech elements, virtual conferences can actually exceed in-person events for relationship building by connecting people across the globe. Here’s some ideas for your next virtual event.

Virtual Get-Togethers

Virtual get-togethers are digital networking events that mimic the feel of social mingling at an in-person gathering. Popular examples include virtual cocktail parties, mixers, or casual meetups held over video chat platforms.

Attendees can move between digital "rooms" for small group conversations, then come together in a main video chat space for larger group discussions, games, or toasts - just like circulating at an in-person party. Recently at Catalyst, we produced Safety Culture’s virtual event where the team had multiple opportunities to virtually meet.

Virtual get-togethers are perfect for team building events, casual networking gatherings, client engagement parties or informal meet-and-greets.

Online Learning Sessions

Host interactive learning sessions where an expert teaches a particular skill or shares specialized knowledge. These virtual workshops mimic the experience of attending an engaging in-person class or training.

Popular examples span from cocktail mixology workshops where kits are shipped to attendees to guide them mixing drinks from home, to art classes where an instructor teaches painting techniques over video. Many conferences now also incorporate deep-dive workshop sessions on topics like marketing tactics or leadership skills as part of their virtual event programming.

The variety of learning session ideas is endless. But the key is picking topics that align with your audience interests and enable valuable skill-development. The shared immersive learning experience can spark meaningful connections and engagement.

Digital Conferences

Host a full multi-day conference in a digital format by inviting several speakers to present on a particular topic, just like an in-person conference experience. Well-known examples include the virtual editions of events like SXSW, Dreamforce and CES that have attracted tens of thousands of online attendees.

The key is incorporating engaging presentation formats that promote lively attendee participation. Consider "crowdsourcing" talks where attendees can float between Zoom rooms of rolling TED-style flash presentations or quick hitting panels. Blend in compelling workshops, virtual expo tours for sponsors, and plenty of interactive polling, surveys, Q&A and gamification throughout.

Online Team Fun

Incorporate fun online games and activities into virtual team events to spark camaraderie and engagement.

Popular examples include multiplayer trivia contests testing pop culture and company knowledge using polling platforms like Kahoot. Friendly competition drives participation while letting team members glimpse fun sides of coworkers' personalities.

Digital escape rooms split employees into teams to collectively solve puzzles and mysteries within a given time limit to figuratively “escape” the virtual room. Companies like design custom scenarios and puzzles tailored to organizations.

You can also organize virtual talent shows over video chat for employees to showcase their hidden skills, whether comedy sets, guitar solos or dance routines! The end goal is enabling connections through laughter and fun.

Hybrid Gatherings

Hybrid events blend in-person and virtual elements to engage local and global audiences. For instance, Cisco hosted a hybrid partner summit with both live venue and digital attendance options for its 20,000 guests.

Onsite attendees could network face-to-face and view product demos in an exhibit arena. Remote attendees could live stream keynotes and talks through an event app allowing real-time Q&A with speakers. Some sessions were specifically produced for digital viewers only report higher satisfaction than physical attendees.

Hybrid provides flexibility but requires extensive planning for equitable experiences across groups. Unique content and networking for virtual attendees is key so they don't feel like an afterthought.

Themed Virtual Trade Shows

Virtual trade shows allow exhibitors to showcase products or services by allotting designated time slots. Attendees can video chat with company reps and explore digital "booths" to mimic an in-person expo vibe.

For example, the industry conference MAGIC hosted a week-long virtual fashion trade show for brands to connect with retail buyers unable to travel due to COVID. Exhibitors uploaded collection images and buyers could schedule video consultations to view new styles up close and place orders.

Themed environments, gamification through digital scavenger hunts, AI-driven matchmaking, and even digital swag can make these business events exciting and rewarding for all.

The sky's the limit for crafting virtual B2B events that facilitate lead generation and valuable networking opportunities between organizations!

Tailor Virtual Events To Their Purpose

When organizing a virtual event, you should avoid taking a one-size-fits-all approach. It's important to intentionally tailor certain key elements to closely align with the:

  • Core purpose of the event
  • Target audience
  • Success metrics

For example, a virtual fundraising gala should incorporate features that focus on delighting attendees with fun surprises to incentivize donations. The programming should aim to mimic the exciting atmosphere of a lively in-person black tie event.

On the other hand, a virtual summit requires event elements that prioritize platform reliability for seamless content delivery, as well as easy access to important keynote talks and workshop offerings.

You can customize aspects like attendee engagement features, event technology, program flow, and promotional messaging for each specific event purpose and intended viewership.

The key is to clearly define what "success" looks like for every individual virtual event. Then you can innovate programming with those specific goals as the guiding focus.

When crafting event components, you should always keep the intended audience at the center to build programming that delivers value and also drives your pre-determined success metrics.

Your Virtual Event Partner, Catalyst

Networking events, online classes, or fun team-building activities — there's an online event format for every need.

However, planning a virtual event requires a creative and strategic approach to ensure it's engaging, seamless, and memorable. That's where w come i

With our creative teams and advanced technology, we take care of every detail from planning and consultation, to managing content material and attendee engagement.

To learn more, schedule your free 30-minute event consultation with us today.