Skip to main content

Virtual event

What is a virtual event?

Virtual events are gatherings of groups of people over the internet. They’re like in-person events, but instead of meeting with other event attendees in person, you meet with them online. Also like in-person events, virtual events can take many forms, such as board meetings, large conferences, webinars, concerts, workshops and more.

Virtual events can take place on any number of online platforms, such as video conferencing software (Zoom, vFairs, etc.), social media or specialized online event platforms. 

An event that combines in-person and virtual elements is a hybrid event. Hybrid events may gather a small contingency of the event participants in one physical space while broadcasting to virtual attendees. An example would be gathering panelists together to speak and streaming them live for virtual viewers. 

What types of virtual events can you host?

You can cater an online event format to your specific needs. Their flexibility is what makes virtual events so popular. Starting out, you might have the most success sticking to one of the more common virtual event formats:

  • Webinar: As the most popular type of virtual event, webinars are also the easiest to pull off. They can be a presentation, lecture, panel discussion or educational seminar. They typically last about an hour.
  • Conference: A conference is like a series of webinars, but over several hours, one day or multiple days. Virtual conferences have multiple speakers and presentations, and they may include virtual breakout sessions for participants to have discussions.
  • Networking events: In-person networking events are a great way for industry professionals to get together and make contacts. Virtual networking events are no different. You can ask attendees to play interactive online games together, sit at “round table” discussions, and more.
  • Social gatherings: Virtual social hours can be a bit more informal; ask attendees to sip a drink of their choice, then curate discussions or fun games.
  • Workshops: A workshop is an educational event where you teach participants a skill or how to use a product. A virtual workshop is a great way to introduce your product or carve out some space as an authority in your industry.
  • Concerts and festivals: Although it’s hard to recreate the energy of an in-person concert or festival online, that doesn’t stop countless musicians from hosting virtual performances. People still love listening to live music, even if it is online.
  • Sales launches: A virtual sales launch lets you show off a new product or service, usually with giveaways or contests for your viewers.
  • Trade shows: Online trade shows allow exhibitors from across your industry to interact directly with attendees. Like an in-person exhibition, guests can “wander” through an online platform and choose various presenters and exhibitors to chat with. 

The advantages of hosting a virtual event

Virtual events have several perks that in-person events do not. When done right, a virtual event can even produce more value than a traditional event. What makes virtual events so great?


The biggest draw for virtual events is their accessibility. When you do your conference or trade show online, anyone from anywhere in the world can join you. Virtual events are more likely to have global attendees because people don’t have to travel to participate. They’re also great networking opportunities for those who are more introverted or don’t do well in crowds.

Cost reduction

Virtual events are significantly less expensive than in-person events. You don’t have to rent space, hire a caterer, pay for décor or book entertainment. The costs of the hardware and virtual infrastructure you’ll need for an online event are so low that you can spend more money on programming or booking great speakers for your event.

Better feedback

By engaging with your event attendees online via an event platform or social media, you can get their immediate impressions of the event. Virtual events are also much easier to track metrics for. Event platforms can show you how many people showed up, how long they stayed, key moments during your event, and other stats to help you plan your next virtual event. 

What are the essential elements of a virtual event?

The following “must” list applies to every virtual event:

  • Event website: Interested participants need a way to learn more about your event before agreeing to sign up. A killer landing page, speaker bios and registration info should be the minimum for your event website.
  • Event registration: Your attendees need a way to sign up for your event! Even if your virtual event is free, requiring registration is helpful, as some video conferencing platforms only allow a certain number of guests. Registration also helps you stay organized.
  • Live content: A virtual event wouldn’t be an event if you didn’t have live content. Not everything has to be live, but at least a few speakers or presentations should be. If your event features attendee participation or networking, then you’ll definitely need to plan live content.
  • Recorded content: Record or create some of your content beforehand, like introductions or transitions. You’ll need clips or videos to put on the screen when you’re coordinating things behind the scenes.
  • Feedback surveys: Give your attendees a chance to weigh in on the event by using survey and feedback tools. You can use feedback to see how you did and what to improve on.
  • Live polling: Live polling, Q&As, AMAs (Ask Me Anythings), or contests are vital to keeping your audience engaged during your event. Many events and social media platforms allow you to run live polls or ask questions.
  • Interactive video conferencing: For events focused on attendee participation and discussion, such as networking events, you will need a video conferencing solution that allows them to join the event and chat directly with others.

How to host a successful virtual event

To pull off a great virtual event, you need a solid strategy and a way to promote the event. Audience engagement is also a must, as are tracking your event metrics and choosing the right virtual event tools.

1. Create a strategy

You wouldn’t do an in-person event without any preparation, so why would you tackle a virtual event without a strategy? First figure out the format of your event, whether you need speakers, how you’ll keep attendees engaged, etc. Once you have a plan for your event, you can get more into the details.

2. Promote the event

Advertise your event across all your channels — website, social media, Discord — and drum up as much excitement as you can. Create small teaser videos to let people know what to expect, send out a lineup of speakers/activities, or post footage from a previous year’s event. 

3. Engage your audience

One of the biggest challenges of virtual events is keeping your audience hooked. Look for creative ways to break up the monotony of an event with interactive discussions, games, giveaways, or widely varied forms of content. Viewer participation is an ideal way to keep people engaged, but if your event format is minimal on participation, try to break your content up into manageable chunks.

4. Provide feedback opportunities

It’s hard to gauge reactions at a virtual event, where you can’t watch the audience's faces like you could at an in-person event. To know what people think, ask them directly. Provide clear and actionable feedback surveys so attendees can share what they love about your event. You may even be able to post some of the most glowing praise as a testimonial on social media or your website.

5. Track event metrics

Tracking metrics for virtual events is so easy there’s no reason not to do it. Keep an eye on how people registered for the event (via a landing page, through social media, etc.) and track your total guests. Pinpoint moments during your event when you had the most viewers and figure out why so you can repeat that strategy.

6. Choose the right tool

You can’t host a successful virtual event without the right platform. Each tool will have different capabilities that may or may not be suited to your event. If you plan to have attendees speak with each other live, then you’ll need a videoconferencing feature. If you want to take advantage of your huge Facebook presence, then hosting the event on Facebook Live might be your best bet. If you want to broadcast an event to multiple channels at once, then Restream is a good choice.