Virtual events have exploded in popularity during the Covid pandemic. With millions of businesses forced to pivot their operations and millions more exploring new methods of doing business, we thought it would be helpful to put together a solid list of virtual event ideas to inspire you and help you plan your own virtual event.
This isn’t a comprehensive list of virtual event ideas by any means, but it’s a list of proven event ideas & real-world examples that you can pull from or use as inspiration in your virtual event planning process.
How did we put this list together? We did the legwork to talk to dozens of expert event planners and organizations about their experiences running virtual events and got them to spill the beans on their top performing concepts.
Not only are you going to get proven & unique virtual event ideas from this list, you’re going to get to hear the real stories of how businesses are pivoting and persevering in the face of a rapidly changing economy.
16 Virtual Event Ideas Proven in the Real World
This list is in no particular order and we may continue adding to it over time. If you have a proven virtual event idea (with an example and results) that you want us to include in this list, please shoot an email to email@example.com.
Idea #1: Virtual Races
A virtual race is a race event where racers are able to participate anywhere in the world, at their own starting point. Sometimes, virtual races are even held on treadmills, making participation even easier.
Turning traditional races into virtual events has a ton of benefits for participants and organizers alike and is one of the most popular virtual event ideas trending right now.
Mike McKnight, Director of Operations for a non-profit called Racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome (RODS), uses virtual races to raise funds for the international adoption of children with Down Syndrome.
“Our primary way of raising funds is through athletes. Our athletes will do races for a specific child, and utilize their friends, family and following for donations. With COVID causing race cancelations, we've had to shift our tactics to virtual,” says Mike.
The shifts Mike and his organization have been forced to take have spawned a ton of creative ideas, such as their "World Record, Personal Best Challenge."
“I'm a professional ultra runner and I’m going after a world record on the treadmill – furthest distance ran in 48 hours. We're going to have athletes sign up for hourly slots to run with me virtually. They can sign up for as many hourly blocks as they want. The catch though is that they have to achieve their own personal record during their slot – fastest 10k, furthest distance ran pushing their child in a stroller, etc. Everyone who signs up will be encouraged to raise a minimum dollar amount for a specific child.”
RODS isn’t the only organization holding virtual races. They’re relatively easy to organize and the results are outstanding. Virtual races also directly promote better health, which is another bonus.
Idea #2: Virtual Campfires for Team Building
A “campfire” is a type of corporate team building event. It’s held around a literal campfire and it’s focused on group and individual storytelling.
Michael Alexis, CEO of TeamBuilding, told us how his company is shifting campfire events to the virtual space.
“We’ve run thousands of virtual events for clients like Apple, Amazon, Google, Netflix, Johnson & Johnson, KPMG, etc. One of the most popular events is called Tiny Campfire. It’s a virtual campfire that includes s’more making around tea light candles, icebreakers, camp games, and historic ghost stories.”
We asked Michael why he thinks virtual campfires are so successful. He mentioned the event’s ability to capture the nostalgia of a camping evening and the introduction of physical participation (receiving the campfire kit in the mail and actually doing a physical activity during the virtual event).
That, plus the connection and entertainment that happens inside the campfire event, creates a really powerful experience.
A nice aspect of virtual campfires is that they’re super easy to plan and host and equally as easy (and fun) for people to participate in.
Idea #3: Virtual School Fairs & Tours
A school fair is like a job fair, but designed for students to tour a school prior to admission. They’re very popular events for private schools and universities.
Monika Bochenek at UWWWEB has been leading the charge in hosting virtual school fairs.
“Our first-ever virtual school fair was hosted in October of 2020. While arranging our first event was slightly overwhelming, we saw excellent participant response! We had over 1500 student participants and over 30 exhibitors. Just like our in-person events, our virtual events are hosted to match students with admissions representatives and ultimately to match students with their dream international post-secondary school.”
Monika’s company hosted a second virtual fair in December of 2020, which had 2500 student participants, and has more virtual fairs lined up throughout 2021.
This isn’t just an idea that’s exclusive to education. You can extend the concept of virtual fairs and tours into many other industries as well.
Idea #4: Virtual Galas & Awards Banquets
Galas are very popular events for fundraising, awards ceremonies, and even a combination of the two.
These events can be large or small. For example, Marisa from Unruly Studios put on a Twitter virtual event for their 2021 Unruliest Educator Awards.
“A virtual banquet was a great way to get audience engagement in a low-risk environment. 26 educators were nominated in our awards and got a total of 850 votes from their friends, family, and fellow co-workers to vote for them in the category they were nominated in. The category winners were announced live on Twitter via the virtual event. We announced a winner every ten minutes and did some Unruly Trivia with prizes in between.”
While that’s an example of a smaller event, there are countless examples of organizations hosting full-fledged virtual galas and banquets. The scope of your event is totally up to you, which makes this a virtual event idea that’s accessible to everyone.
Idea #5: Virtual Mini-Conferences
Conferences where people show up to hear keynotes and participate in other activities such as breakout sessions can easily be hosted virtually, but you can even change the scope of these events as well.
That’s exactly what Marie from MFKPublicity.co experienced with the concept of virtual mini-conferences.
“Because many top global events were cancelled, such as Mobile World Congress, Google Voice's team started organizing and hosting an hour-long monthly livestream called VOICE Talks, which discusses the latest developments in voice technology and features the world’s foremost leaders on the subject. This was our way to stay connected to the voice developer ecosystem, to learn from them and keep them updated on the progress of this technology.”
The sky is limit with these types of events. It’s the classic conference concept, just smaller and virtual. They’re very easy to organize and attend and can be hosted once or on a repeating schedule.
Idea #6: Virtual Red Carpets
A Red Carpet event typically coincides with a gala. While the awards happen inside, the Red Carpet is hosted on the outside where VIPs mingle with attendees.
Expert event organizer, Tammy Dickerson, explains:
“Red Carpets have been a staple of high profile events for decades. Red carpets are typically where audiences can see what celebrities are wearing and how they look for the event. Having a virtual red carpet really allows for a sense of normalcy and tradition for your virtual gala.”
The success of an event like this is all in how it’s executed. For one of her red carpet events, Tammy enlisted over 150 of the attendees to send in one word that best described the guest of honor so she could create something unique and memorable.
“I took all of these words and created an animated visual to music that played right before his introduction. It was a unique way of introducing a speaker outside of the normal introduction video.”
Keep in mind that red carpets don’t have to be centered around celebrities or fashion. You can use the same concept to simply create an even where VIPs can interact with attendees.
Idea #7: Virtual Concerts
While it might seem like a virtual concert would lack the magic of a live in-person concert, there are a lot of benefits to going virtual for concert organizers.
James, founder of SoundFro.com, told us that virtual concerts need to be happening because people need live music in their life. If it’s not possible to organize or attend a traditional concert, the show must go on virtually.
The great thing about virtual concerts is that they allow for more intimacy and they give performers an opportunity to create an experience and various types of interactions that just aren’t possible in the traditional concert setting.
Additionally, virtual concerts are one of the best ways for performers to grow their audience. Traditional concerts have geographic limitations while virtual concerts can include attendees from across the globe and are highly shareable.
If you’re in the music industry or you want to bring live music to your organization or event, give a serious look at virtual concerts.
Idea #8: Virtual Fundraising Events
If you need to raise funds for an organization or a cause, virtual fundraising events are highly effective.
There are so many different ways to organize a virtual fundraiser, but we were especially impressed with how Celeste Garcia from Noisy Trumpet helped SA YES shift their largest annual fundraiser to a virtual model.
Every year, SA YES ensures that students are provided with essential school supplies. With Covid cancelling their in-person fundraiser, they switched to a virtual raffle model and raised a record-breaking $317,000 as well as multiple promotional wins.
“In partnership with a local car dealership, the SA YES 2020 Drive Away for Education Truck Raffle helped increase their fundraising efforts and gained local media placement. The combined digital marketing efforts resulted in 15.5K social media engagements and 1.77M impressions.”
Your organization can’t afford to shelve important fundraising events. You can continue making an impact in people’s lives by holding virtual fundraising events.
Idea #9: Virtual Corporate Recess
Another corporate team building event idea that can be held virtually is the Virtual Corporate Recess.
The goal of corporate recess is to create a fun, interactive experience that gets people talking and moving for better productivity and better health.
Ryan Wilke from Throwback Fitness organizes virtual recesses for his corporate clients. “Our events are hosted through Zoom and include several unique games and activities. These games provide a morale boost and encourage friendly team competition that builds office camaraderie.”
Throwback Fitness offers virtual recess for $19 per person which they say is much more cost effective than traditional in-person events. Of course, you can always organize these internally if you’re a company or you can start offering something similar if you’re an event organizer.
Idea #10: Virtual Ice Cream Socials & Food Events
Ice cream socials are a traditional gathering dating back to the 18th century in North America. They’re extremely popular in the summer, but they’re a great way to host a casual event centered around a cold yummy ice cream treat.
How does this work virtually? Lauren McCabe Herpich from Local Food Adventures explains how she used virtual ice cream socials and similar events like virtual brownie bake offs and virtual brunch parties to transform her foods business:
“When shelter-in-place orders closed offices and caused employees to work remotely, I transitioned my in-person guided food tours in Oakland and the East Bay Area of San Francisco first to a Virtual Ice Cream Social experience.
In working with many mid- and large-scale companies with employees working from home across the Bay Area and the United States (something I would never have been able to do before COVID), I have seen groups use our one-hour to just turn off work, recharge and have fun together. They appreciate being a little silly by participating in my in-group "Create the Yummiest New Ice Cream Flavor" contest by using ingredients supplied in an included Sweets & Smiles Ice Cream Gift Box as we
ll as items from their own kitchens.”
Lauren has hosted groups from notable companies such Google, Netflix, the Oakland Athletics, Levi's, AppFolio, Genentech, Kaiser Permanente and Lexis-Nexis, proving that this is an exceptional and successful virtual event idea.
Ideas #11-14: Virtual Parties, Magic Shows, Trivia Events, & Comedy Shows
Nearly all of these concepts can be transformed into virtual events as Tristan Olson from Venture has proven after throwing over 500 virtual parties and events.
“We hit the ground running last April with Easter Bunny visits worldwide, and this past holiday season we were happy to be the host of a variety of office party Santa visits, namely for Jam City & Paramount, plus Magic Shows, Karaoke Sessions, Trivia Nights, Adult-only Office Parties, and more!”
Aside from simple party themes, Tristan’s company has organized other types of virtual events like magic shows, trivia nights, and comedy shows. He says you can even combine things together. For example, you can have a comedian or magician open for any type of virtual event as a great ice breaker.
Hosting virtual parties all comes down to your imagination and willingness to just give it a go. If you host many events throughout the year, keep iterating and experimenting. There’s less pressure since it’s virtual, so just make it fun!
Idea #15: Virtual Happy Hours
Want to start out with something simple that requires very little planning or technical execution? Host a virtual happy hour.
Send out invites, get everyone to show up live via Zoom with their drink of choice, and just hang out.
This is a low-hanging-fruit virtual event idea that everyone is familiar with and that works really well as a repeating event.
Idea #16: Virtual Escape Rooms
This concept sounds like a blast and aligns perfectly with the rise in popularity of in-person escape room entertainment. It’s also another virtual event idea that’s perfect for corporate team building.
Lisa Jennings, with Wildly Different, has hosted hundreds of virtual game events with the most popular being virtual escape rooms. She explains how it works and why it’s great:
“People must work together in teams to solve clues to figure out either how to escape or discover who the murderer is. This gets them communicating and interacting in depth vs. a more passive activity where they may answer trivia on their own or simply be entertained by virtual entertainment. If you are looking for people to get to know one another better AND be entertained, virtual escape rooms are a great choice!”
Want to try and accomplish this on your own? You can buy escape room style games at your local Target or Wal Mart such as Escape Room The Game and simply plan a virtual event around doing the game together with friends or coworkers.
Ready to Host a Virtual Event? Here’s How!
We want to help you host the most successful events possible, whether virtual or in-person. That’s why we’ve created this free event planning checklist you can use that walks you through the event planning stages, starting as far as four to six months out!
In addition to using our event planning checklist, we highly recommend you test out the EventSprout platform for event landing pages, ticketing, live streaming (including our Zoom Integration), tracking attendance, collecting payments, and more!
Using a powerful event platform like EventSprout (a great EventBrite alternative) takes a ton of the logistics burden off your shoulders and it doesn’t cost you a penny as the Event Organizer!