February 20, 2021

41 Virtual Conference Ideas for the Best Event ROI


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  • The challenges with engagement in virtual events
  • A quick checklist to plan your next virtual conference
  • 41+ fun virtual conference ideas to try (with proven ROI)

Hosting corporate conferences is something many businesses and marketers look forward to each year. It’s the key to connecting with prospective customers, building relationships with clients, and building your visibility as a brand. But when local events got canceled in 2020, businesses began looking for alternate ways to entertain and educate their audiences. One option is hosting virtual conferences.

The problem is creating a virtual conference people will want to attend. You want your online event to be just that — an event. Or better yet, an experience. Something your audience will remember for a long time.So we’re going to discuss some proven virtual conference ideas you can use to make your online conference stand out.

Virtual Conference Ideas to Help Your Event Stand Out

If there’s one thing we can agree on, it’s that the internet is filled with a lot of digital noise. This can make it challenging for businesses to rise above it all and attract their core audience. So you’ll need to implement unique techniques to make this happen.

Here’s a quick checklist to plan your virtual conference:

  • Make a plan, complete with goals (how many people you wish to attract, what do you wish to accomplish, etc.).
  • Choose a format — popular options include breakouts and world cafes, roundtables, whiteboard sessions, etc.
  • Make sure your virtual event format matches your goals. For example, if you want to attract 4,000 leads and get 2,000 viewers, then hosting breakout rooms of 12 wouldn’t be able to handle the volume of attendees you’re trying to engage.
  • Design an experience (maybe rent out a stage vs. sitting on a couch in a small room).
  • Know your attendee takeaways in advance.
  • Use the right platform for your virtual event that’s easy for you and your attendees to use.
  • Keep the conference sessions short (no more than 25 minutes). Break it up into smaller sessions if it’s longer.
  • Have speakers use video and slides.
  • Use different formats (mix up live sessions, pre-recorded snippets, fireside chats, etc.)

You want your online event to come off as exciting, so people will want to attend. So here are some fun virtual event ideas you can use to make your online conferences more engaging.

Fun Conference Ideas to Make Your Virtual Event Engaging

Odds are, you’re going to host more than one virtual event going forward. So you want to build a reputation for hosting some of the most engaging and fun conferences out there.

Here are some ideas for virtual conferences that can help achieve this:

  • Host live competitions and games (ask attendees to vote)
  • Have a virtual concert, comedy show, or other entertaining act for the “halftime” show
  • Do a fun workout break (or other activity) midway to get everyone up and moving
  • Give out company swag to attendees who pre-register (or to everyone)
  • Use gamification via a mobile event app (during the online event)
  • Allow attendees to self-schedule meetings with exhibitors and sponsors before the event
  • Create follow-along workshop attendees can do at home (i.e., cooking lessons, mixology lessons, etc.)
  • Offer a panel of speakers and offer live Q&A with attendees

Now, these are just some online event ideas that can make the conference fun. Next, let’s dive deeper into virtual conference ideas you can use for your upcoming event.

41 Ideas for Virtual Conferences to Try in 2022 (and Beyond)

Alright, so you’re ready to start making plans for your virtual event. The good news is there are plenty of things you can try. In fact, we urge you to try different things, so your events are always fresh and engaging.So let’s jump right in.

1. Host a Social Media Challenge

Use platforms like Instagram and Tiktok to host a challenge. This will build awareness and can work wonders if you’re trying to raise funds. Think of a fun competition people will want to join.

2. Send Attendees Virtual Swag

gift cards for virtual events

Local conferences are known for having company swag bags for attendees. But now that events are digital, you can focus on virtual swag (i.e., eGift cards, virtual fitness classes, virtual meditation sessions, etc.).

3. Offer Speed Networking

This is a spin on speed dating, where you pair attendees in private chatrooms to connect with one another. These sessions are only a few minutes, so there’s a ton of networking happening.

4. Birds of Feather Breakout Sessions

These are targeted breakout sessions that allow your guests to meet and discuss matters on a specific topic. This helps to connect like-minded people who may have never ended up meeting up otherwise.

5. Include a Pre-Event Chatroom

This will allow attendees to begin connecting and introducing themselves before the event starts. Building a community around your event is vital to making it feel comfortable and engaging.

6. Use Audio-Only Discussions

Zoom fatigue is real, thanks to over a year of working from home due to the pandemic. With audio-only sessions, your speakers can attend the online event while taking care of other matters (i.e., children, pets, cleaning, etc.).

7. Have Sponsored Games During the Event

This enables you to engage your audience while also promoting your sponsors. You can host games like raffles, drives, or team-based activities.

8. Host a Giveaway

Another way to reward attendees is to host a social media giveaway. For example, ask attendees to share something about the event on social media. Make sure to have a hashtag they can use and criteria or rules to follow.

9. Surprise Guests with a Home-Delivered Gift

Just because your event is virtual doesn’t mean your gifts have to be. If you’re collecting addresses from attendees, then you can surprise them with a home delivery gift. It can be a free meal or a gift box of goodies.

10. Send a Post-Event Thank You Gift

branded cookies for virtual events

Aside from using company swag during and before the event, you can send attendees gifts afterward as well. You can focus this on attendees that participated in the online event or a challenge you created afterward.

11. Hire a Performer for the Online Event

There’s nothing more engaging than watching entertainment. This is why you’ll find this at every sports event. You can do the same by hiring a comedian or band to perform during the conference.

12. Use Livestreaming and On-Demand

You want your attendees to arrive before the start of the online event, but life happens. A quick fix for those who missed the show is to allow on-demand streaming of the conference.

13. Tag Sessions So Attendees Can Choose What to Watch

There may be certain parts of your online conference your attendees want to see. So to help them out, you can tag content, so they know which sessions to watch.

14. Turn Your Conference into a Certified Training Course

People love to learn. If you can offer knowledge and a certificate, you’ll capture more attention and knowledge-thirsty attendees. Consider turning your online event into a master class series.

15. Add Live Polling into the Mix

If you want to engage your audience, then have live polls throughout the online event. This will keep them involved until the end, and it provides you with valuable data you can potentially use.

16. Use Push Notifications

It’s common for conferences to use push notifications to notify attendees at a local event. But you can still make use of them for virtual conferences. Break up your panel and send out notifications five minutes before each one starts.

17. Implement Spirit Days

If you’re hosting an online event that spans several days, then using spirit days can keep attendees engaged (and present). For instance, one day can be jersey day, and another can be pajama day. Then turn this into a social media challenge to further the engagement.

18. Conduct Surveys and Tests

Want to see how well your online event attendees paid attention? Then let them know in advance they’ll be quizzed on their knowledge. You can even reward the highest scorers with virtual swag.

19. Acknowledge Attendees in the Chat

If you’re using a live open chat, then be sure to call out attendees by name when answering questions or reading/agreeing with comments.

20. Send Out Fun Invitations

Sometimes, a compelling invite can make people want to attend an event. Make it feel personal and exclusive so they’ll feel special.

21. Promote Team Fun

Include video breakouts as part of your online conference (during or after). This consists of having small groups of teams compete in challenges.

22. Create a Treasure Hunt

Have attendees compete individually or as teams to find clues or answers to riddles. Then have a leaderboard that shows who has the highest score.

23. Get the Family Involved

More people are spending their days at home with spouses and children, so why not include them in your online event? You can do this by inviting them on camera of the speakers. It adds a personal touch and humanizes your brand and event.

24. Virtual Cocktail (Happy Hour)

Branded wine bottles for virtual events

This can be an event all on its own. Send your attendees a wine or cocktail kit to enjoy a 90-minute event where attendees learn from a master mixologist. You can also have games and stories to make the event more fun.

25. Create Social Media Groups for an After Party

Once your online event is over, your attendees can join your social media groups where they can continue the conversation. It’s also a great place to share photos, stories, and insights.

26. Host a Pet Event

Pets are family too, so why not include them by hosting a pet event? This can entice more people to attend and show off their wonderful furry friends. You can also send attendees pet goodie bags with treats and toys.

27. Allow Users to Select Presentation Paths

Choose your next speaker — it’s a great way to get your attendees involved and engaged. By allowing them to choose who presents next, they’re more inclined to pay attention to the presentation.

28. Create an Event Theme

Themes can make your virtual event more enticing, especially if folks get to dress up. Maybe Halloween’s right around the corner or Christmas. Ask attendees to wear their “ugly Christmas sweaters” or costume.

29. Live Art Show

People love creatives, especially when it comes to paintings and drawings. Invite an artist to the panel that can draw attendees in a latte or sketch on a pad in real-time.

30. Add Virtual Photo Booths

Photo booths have long been a part of local events. But now that conferences are going online, virtual booths are popping up. This is a great addition to your show because it can be branded, allows users to customize the images, and they’re shareable.

31. Include a Virtual Exhibition Hall

This is where you can highlight sponsors and enable attendees to browse through the booths as they would in an in-person event. Here, they can go to a sponsors page to watch videos and talk to exhibitors.

32. Have Sponsored Giveaways

Your online event needs sponsors, and people love getting free gifts. Tie the two together, and you have sponsored giveaways. This will give sponsors a reason to get involved, and attendees will be enticed to engage to win cool prizes.

33. Allow Attendees to Create Virtual Avatars

Attendees can’t show up to the event live, but this doesn’t mean their avatar can’t. Avatars are a great way to get participants to interact with the event and each other. The avatars should be customizable, so the experience feels personalized.

34. Use 3D Technology

The next best thing to going to a real live conference is showing up using 3D technology. This will create a more immersive experience for everyone. This would be perfect for a product launch or brand activation.

35. Hire a Production Company

You can turn your online event into a quality recording session with the help of a professional production company. This will ensure the highest quality broadcast with backgrounds, proper lighting, and high-end cameras.

36. Use Branded Virtual Backgrounds

Virtual backgrounds for virtual events

At a live event, everything’s branded. So why not bring the same feel to your online event? Have all the speakers using the same branded virtual background to create a cohesive look.

37. Create Hype On Social Media

You can use social media to hype up your online event before it occurs. For example, add a post with a countdown clock, create a challenge, use hashtags for the event, and do a social media takeover with keynote speakers. If you have a special participant, this would be a great time to reveal them.

38. Take Advantage of Global Speakers

In the past, you were limited to local speakers due to the cost of travel. But now that events are online, you can invite guests from anywhere. Take advantage of this opportunity to diversify your panel.

39. Offer Event Exclusive Products

Incentivize attendance for your online event by offering exclusive products or deals. For example, one-on-ones with featured guests, limited edition products and deals, and so on.

40. Send Food Delivery

One of the upsides of attending conferences was getting a free meal. But now that virtual events are held at home, this is ruled out. Or is it? You can partner with UberEats, GrubHub, or DoorDash and give attendees credit to order something to eat.

41. Send Registrants an eGift Card to Boost Attendance

Incentives are a standard part of the event world and that includes digital events like webinars. Just as in-booth swag can be used to drive visitors, so too can eGifts. Don’t believe us? Check out how a Sendoso client boosted their webinar attendance by 72% with this very method.

Make Your Virtual Events Memorable

Online conferences should be just as immersive as an in-person event. It may seem challenging to pull off, but you can definitely do it with the right virtual conference ideas.For example, if you want to send virtual gifts or ship swag bags to attendees, you can use a gifting platform. This is what our customers do with Sendoso, a B2B platform for corporate gifting.

Here’s how our process works:

  1. First, we’ll help you create your “sending strategy,” based on your virtual event and goals.
  2. Next, choose from limitless unique gift and sending options. Either eGift, physical swag bags, or a hybrid of both options, we’ve got you covered.
  3. Simply click to send from the tools you’re already using.
  4. Send Tracker shows you the progress of your send in every step, so you can confirm your registrants have everything they need prior to your virtual event.
  5. Finally, measure the effectiveness of your virtual or physical swag bags with our Analytics Dashboard, which lets you attribute conversions to the corporate gifts you send!

Ready to make your virtual conference fun and engaging? Request a demo today to learn more about incorporating a gifting platform into your next virtual event.

This article was originally published on February 20, 2021. It has been updated for relevance.

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