How to host a virtual event that boosts participation and engagement

How to host a virtual event that boosts participation and engagement

Learn how to host a virtual event and discover best practices and tips to boost participation, drive engagement, and deliver value.

How to host a virtual event that boosts participation and engagement

Learn how to host a virtual event and discover best practices and tips to boost participation, drive engagement, and deliver value.

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Effective planning can turn an ordinary event into a successful initiative that leaves a lasting impression.

With the right approach, you can host an engaging and memorable online event that encourages participants to return for future gatherings, buy products and services, or raise awareness and funds for a good cause.

Read on to learn how to host a virtual event and use best practices and tools to ensure success.

What are virtual events?

Virtual events are organized online gatherings, such as webinars, remote summits, and fundraisers. Virtual event planners use specialized technology to simulate an in-person event and create remote occasions for worldwide audiences to come together, participate, and exchange knowledge and information.

What are the benefits of hosting a virtual event?

Companies are increasingly choosing to organize virtual events over in-person gatherings. Virtual functions provide many benefits, including:

  • Global reach. Hosting a virtual event opens doors to a global audience. You can connect with participants worldwide without the logistical challenges and costs of in-person events. This increases your exposure and facilitates networking and collaboration opportunities.
  • Cost efficiency. Virtual events are often significantly less expensive than their in-person counterparts. Rental fees, travel and accommodation, lighting, sound, and catering add to the logistics bill — none of which are necessary for remote functions. Virtual event planners can reallocate funds and resources to enhance content quality and the event experience.
  • Analytical insights. Many virtual event platforms provide analytics and statistics — like attendance and participant engagement — to help you gauge your event’s success. You can gather in-depth insights into your event’s results, analyze these numbers, and use a data-driven approach to improve future planning strategies.
  • Flexibility. Whether participants are attending a live session, accessing recorded content retrospectively, or downloading additional post-session resources, virtual events allow participants to engage at their convenience by accommodating different time zones and schedules. This improves accessibility, making the event more inclusive for a broader audience.

What are different types of virtual events?

Every online event caters to specific goals and audiences. Here are some standard types of virtual functions to help you identify the kind of event (or events) your company should organize.


Webinars are content-driven discussions that allow panelists and subject matter experts to share insights, interact with participants through question and answer (Q&A) sessions, and share downloadable content or links to their brands.

Webinars are ideal for companies striving to launch products or share industry knowledge. Marketing teams typically spearhead these events to gather participant data like emails, ages, and geographic locations. This data helps identify attendees’ primary demographics, which lets teams personalize future communication and engagement to generate leads and nurture customer relationships.

Virtual seminars 

While webinars focus on experts sharing insights, virtual seminars tend to be more interactive and encourage attendees to have in-depth discussions.

These events suit educational institutions, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and industry thought leaders. Seminars help organizations build communities and facilitate knowledge-sharing in a welcoming online environment.

Virtual conferences

Online conferences are comprehensive, multi-session events that include keynote speakers, breakout rooms, and networking opportunities. Breakout rooms allow participants to split larger sessions into smaller groups to continue internal discussions in more manageable settings.

Virtual conferences are ideal for enterprises, industry associations, and event management companies to host large-scale events with a global reach.

Internal hybrid events

Internal hybrid events merge in-person and virtual elements to accommodate on-site and remote attendees. They’re ideal for events where all employees can’t be physically present at the same venue. By facilitating in-person and online team communication, hybrid functions boost collaboration and allow teams to circulate internal information.

Human resource (HR) departments often lead these virtual corporate events, which help ensure that remote employees and vendors understand project-related or company-wide activities.

External hybrid events

While internal events focus on engaging remote employees within the same company, external hybrid events cater to individuals who typically work on-site and can’t physically attend gatherings in other locations.

Event management companies use technology and high-quality video and sound production to simulate on-site functions so they can provide similar content quality and networking opportunities for participants.

Virtual fundraising events

These are charitable events held online to raise money for a cause. Virtual fundraising events typically include donation drives, auctions, and remote galas to raise awareness of an issue and bring in resources.

Nonprofit organizations and fundraisers use virtual events to spread their message, interact with contributors, and reach a wider audience by encouraging discussion around their cause.

Virtual exhibitions

Virtual exhibitions are ideal for showcasing products, services, talents, and artistic creations online. Attendees can experience an exhibition firsthand from the comfort of their screens while enjoying networking and potential buying opportunities.

For example, businesses, artists, and creative agencies can curate and display their offerings to a global audience and market their brands to boost user engagement, website and social media traffic, and conversions.

What are the key elements of a virtual event?

Regardless of the event type, you must incorporate several vital components to make your virtual function a success. These include:

  • Event website. A dedicated event website acts as a centralized, virtual hub to attract audiences and provide information to participants. It includes your event’s agenda and details, like the date and time, and sets the stage for marketing and announcements. You can also include links to your social media channels or a weekly newsletter to keep attendees updated on the latest happenings, like new speakers at a webinar or products at an expo.
  • Event registration. Improving participation starts with a quick, seamless, and user-friendly registration process. Collecting information in an organized fashion lets you retarget attendees with personalized communication.
  • Live presentation content. Whether keynote speeches, panel discussions, interactive content, or product launches, live presentations create an immediate and real-time connection with the audience. Use compelling stories, engaging visuals, and immersive soundtracks to deliver dynamic and impactful content that keeps participants interested and eager to explore your brand.
  • Recorded content. Participants appreciate when you consider different time zones and busy schedules, especially if they can’t attend live. It’s important to provide recordings of events to accommodate their needs and allow them to watch or review content at their convenience.
  • Interactive video conferencing. A successful virtual event engages participants, creates a lively and participatory environment, and encourages attendees to join future online or on-site gatherings. Interactive video conferencing tools allow for real-time communication, Q&A sessions, fireside chats, and networking opportunities.

Feedback surveys. If you want to keep improving events, you must collect participant feedback. Adding surveys to your event’s flow allows marketing and organizing teams to collect insightful reviews and identify improvement areas for future functions.

Unforgettable event experiences

Learn how Webflow's team built an all-in-one, customizable event platform complete with on-site tools, reporting, and integrations.

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Unforgettable event experiences

Learn how Webflow's team built an all-in-one, customizable event platform complete with on-site tools, reporting, and integrations.

Watch now
Watch now

8 tips and tricks for effective event planning

Like in-person events, virtual functions require careful planning and execution. Here are eight virtual events best practices to implement for a memorable occasion.

1. Create a unique event agenda

Craft a well-structured agenda and event flow that balances informative sessions, interactive elements, and breaks. This provides a road map for organizers and creates a timeline that keeps participants engaged without becoming overwhelmed.

For example, a product launch agenda could feature keynote speeches, user-generated content, and hands-on demonstrations with lively visuals and upbeat music.

2. Use a virtual event platform

Invest in a reliable virtual event platform with essential features like branding customization, integration capabilities, analytics, engagement features, and content delivery. Hopin, vFairs, and Accelevents are popular tools, but you can research more virtual event platforms that suit your needs.

3. Consider the date and time

Choose a date and time that aligns with your target audience’s schedules and preferences, and consider time zones if you host a global event. The ideal time can attract more participants and increase attendance. Additionally, ensure your event doesn’t conflict with similar initiatives from competitors. This could result in potential attendees opting for events hosted by other organizations instead of yours.

4. Focus on audience engagement and networking

Include interactive elements, like fireside chats, breakout sessions, virtual lounges, and polls, to encourage real-time participation and networking. Getting people involved turns a one-way livestream into a two-way conversation and livens your event’s atmosphere. It also mirrors in-person events by allowing participants to discuss the event’s agenda and related themes with speakers and other attendees.

5. Create engaging visuals

Create an immersive and visually appealing atmosphere with live presentations, slides, graphics, and videos to capture attention and engage audiences. You can also create a dedicated visual identity for a specific event and align colors and themes on your event website and social media channels for a cohesive experience.

6. Prepare speakers thoroughly

Confirm your panel well in advance and familiarize your speakers with the virtual event platform so they’re comfortable and well-prepared.

Speakers are more impactful when they’re articulate, well-rehearsed, and in sync with their presentations and other panelists. Setting them up for success ensures a smooth process during sessions and creates a polished and professional atmosphere.

7. Provide technical support

Dedicate a technical support team to help participants and organizers with platform-related issues. Technical glitches can disrupt your event’s flow and frustrate participants, causing them to leave or write negative reviews.

8. Promote your event

Create your event website and use social media, email campaigns, and sponsorships to generate awareness and drive registrations. You can achieve this by creating teaser videos, sharing speaker profiles and achievements, and offering early-bird discounts to increase sign-ups and buzz before your event. Effective promotion helps boost attendance and encourages participants to spread the word.

Host a memorable online event with Webflow

With an event strategy, you’re ready to organize a successful event — and a well-planned event needs an equally impressive website. To create one, you need the right tools to direct attendees to your brand and encourage future participation.

Webflow offers everything you need to create an effective event site with all the necessities like registration and information pages, agendas, and visually appealing promotional content. A robust suite of enterprise-level resources and collaborative functionality lets you create impactful digital channels that drive traffic for your event. Not only can you design stunning websites using Webflow’s solutions, but you can also streamline processes behind the scenes to ensure your team efficiently organizes any event. 

The 2024 State of the Website

Discover key challenges today's marketing teams are facing, as well as opportunities for businesses in 2024.

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The 2024 State of the Website

Discover key challenges today's marketing teams are facing, as well as opportunities for businesses in 2024.

Read the report
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Last Updated
February 14, 2024
The 2024 State of the Website

Discover key challenges today's marketing teams are facing, as well as opportunities for businesses in 2024.

Read the report
Read the report