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The Complete Guide to Virtual Events

For many organizations across the globe, virtual events have provided a vital lifeline in recent years. In fact, in a recent worldwide survey, 99% of businesses claimed that virtual events such as webinars were a critical element of their marketing plan, and were outperforming their other channels when it came to creating qualified leads. Jokes about mics being switched on aside – virtual events can dissolve barriers separating speakers from their most avid listeners. When time, money, and distance aren’t an issue, what’s left to prevent you from engaging your audience? 

Virtual event management is becoming more and more sophisticated as people explore the potential and possibilities they present. This is where virtual event platforms come in. Platforms such as ON24 revolve around enabling their customers to provide the best engagement experiences possible for their audiences, and to come away from those events with insightful data. 

In this guide we’ll walk you through all things virtual events, explaining exactly what they are, what they can do for you, and how to get started with your own. 

What are virtual events?

The term “virtual event” can cover a wide range of experiences. When we use this term, we are most likely referring to:

  • Webinars
  • Specialized landing pages
  • Content hubs
  • Digital experiences

Virtual events can be used as a feature of in-person events, or as standalone engagement opportunities. With technology advanced enough to ensure a seamless experience, the inclusion of innovative features, and networking opportunities, virtual events can provide exactly the same opportunities that in-person events can. In fact, they can give you more.

Where virtual events truly shine is the fact that they allow for advanced analytics and the gathering of extensive amounts of data, in a way that isn’t always possible with face-to-face experiences. This is one of the reasons why virtual events can successfully generate so many leads. Let’s look at each of the above events in more detail.


A webinar is an educational online event, platforming single or multiple speakers to an audience who can watch from anywhere around the world. A webinar solution can include features like polls, Q&A sessions, and other forms of interaction and feedback – far from simply speaking at a screen, they provide an excellent opportunity for real-time engagement and data collection. Webinars are a great way to share resources with your audience, as they can be recorded and shared after the initial event itself. Ideally, viewers will come away from the session feeling that they’ve gained something from your expertise.

Specialized landing pages

When we use the term “event” it can often conjure an image of some kind of ticketed gathering, lecture, or social situation. So why then do specialized landing pages come under this umbrella? Simply put, a visit to one of your landing pages should be seen as an event. Visitors should be greeted by multimedia content, a personalized experience, and engaging ways of interacting with your organization – after all, the extent to which they enjoy this experience may influence whether or not you can convert them. This criteria could be applied to all virtual events

Content hubs

We mentioned previously that virtual events need to provide your audience with value. Content hubs are an excellent way of doing this. A content hub is a collection of useful resources and information pertaining to a particular topic; a place that you can direct people to, not only to learn more about a subject, but also to see more of what you have to offer. You can simultaneously flaunt your knowledge and help your audience to improve their own.  

Digital experiences

Digital experiences refer to a collection of virtual events experienced in tandem. For example, watching a webinar and then being directed to the relevant content hub – multiple touchpoints are used, and the information the user receives has been personalized to cover exactly what they’re looking for.

Why are virtual event platforms so important?

A virtual event can only be as good as the platform it is hosted on. Poor connection, limited opportunities for interaction, inaccurate and unreliable analytics; all of these things will result in disappointing experience not only for your audience but also for you. 

A good virtual event platform will be able to assist you in every aspect of your events. By helping to deliver a seamless experience in everything from planning, promoting, hosting, and to eventually analysing your event, virtual event platforms can increase the effectiveness of your efforts from start to finish. You may have wonderful, creative ideas, but without the right software and support to help bring them to life, you can’t guarantee that they will make the impact you need them to. 

There are a wide variety of virtual event management software available to choose from, each with features that can bring new layers of innovation to your event offerings. They key is finding the platform with the right selection of tools. The best platforms will be able to enable you to present your audience with a rich experience in a way that isn’t difficult to consume or interact with.

How to choose the right virtual event platform

Once you understand the benefits of virtual events you’ll probably want to dive in and get started with organizing your own as quickly as possible. You’ll find yourself swimming in a sea of hundreds of potential choices, all of which will be vying for your attention. This is a market experiencing exponential growth, and it’s easy to find the possibilities overwhelming. Here’s how to narrow down your options.

Consider the essentials

Depending on the nature of your event there will be specific platform features that will be important to you. However, before focusing on the details, look at the broader applications of what’s on offer.

Customization is a huge consideration – you need your virtual event platform to be able to accurately reflect your brand. The more potential for customization, the less risk of your event presenting as generic and forgettable. 

Usability should be another key factor, not just for you and your colleagues but for your attendees. The less friction they experience in navigating your event, the more they will be able to sit back and enjoy what it is you have to offer. 

Technical support resources should be provided by your chosen platform, including customer service and troubleshooting. Responsive support can make or break an event should a problem arise.

Security features are crucial, as you need to ensure that you can provide a safe environment for your attendees and speakers. Make sure that any platform you decide to use is aware of and up to date with compliance and data protection regulations. Not doing so could have lasting consequences.

Data and analytics features should be high on your list of priorities. Without this information, how can you prove to investors and sponsors that your event has been a success? And how will you know what you can improve to ensure more virtual event engagement next time around?

Reviews are an invaluable tool for narrowing down your options when looking for the right platform. What platform are your competitors using? What virtual events have you attended recently, and did you believe their chosen platform to be a help or a hinderance in making a lasting impression?

As well as the key focuses outlined here, consider the limitations imposed on your event by budget, scale, and whether or not your event will be pre-recorded or live.

What makes a successful virtual event?

Before your event has passed, and all you can do is use data to confirm the success of your educated guesses and best laid plans, there are other things you can do to help ensure it’s a hit. We’ve got tips to help you lay the best foundations, as well as some innovative features you might want to include to help your event stand out from the 1000s taking place every week.

Setting goals and objectives

  • Know your audience – when the goal is to engage your audience, you need to have an idea of who it is you want to speak to and what sort of content is likely to draw (and hold) their attention. Who is your event for? And why are you choosing this method to communicate with them? How large is the demographic you want to speak to? Virtual events make it easy to communicate with vast amounts of people all around the world, but that doesn’t mean that your message should be any less precise.
  • Set goals; for you, and your attendees – what you hope to gain from your event and what your audience wants to gain will likely be two separate things. By making these aims specific instead of vague, you stand a better chance of both parties achieving them. 
  • Prioritize eye-catching promotion – experts from Forbes suggest using examples of the content your event will feature to promote it in the days and weeks beforehand, instead of generic advertisements. These teasers, which can be anything from interview excerpts to relevant reports and whitepapers, will help to lure in attendees and show you have information that’s too good to miss.
  • Try a dress run – don’t just assume that everything is going to run to schedule and that all the tech involved will work faultlessly. If you’re able to organize one, a rehearsal can help to prevent easily-averted mistakes from ruining your event on the big day. 

When it comes to the actual content of your event, there are a few features that have risen in popularity over the past few years. There’s an obvious focus on elements focused on interaction and engagement – not just between you and your audience, but also between your attendees themselves. 


Gamification refers to the practice of adding gameplay elements to an activity to encourage engagement. Being able to score points, partake in quizzes, or win or lose something are all examples of gamification that can be easily incorporated into virtual events. These elements give your audience a chance to interact with you and each other in an entertaining way, and are a great tool for providing real-time feedback opportunities. Gamification has even been proven to help with cementing new skills – perfect for ensuring your event is informative, and improving the likelihood of your attendees retaining what they have been taught.

Breakout rooms

Including breakout rooms in your event scheduling gives your attendees a place to reflect on the discussion and share their opinions with your hosts and each other. A breakout room that has been optimized to encourage engagement is a great way to break up long periods of passive listening and provide a chance for networking. You can even create multiple breakout rooms for different topics.

Accessibility considerations

If you’re not taking accessibility into account in your virtual event planning, you risk alienating a huge segment of your audience. Making your content available in multiple languages, providing recordings and transcripts, and ensuring that your event can be appreciated by people with varying digital set-ups (no camera, no microphone) are good places to start. 

Give your audience an encore

There are dozens of reasons to offer multiple follow ups centered on different elements of your main event – and they don’t have to be simple reminders of what was covered on the day. If one topic proves particularly popular, why not host a follow-up webinar delving into it in slightly more detail? Follow ups are also a great opportunity to gather qualitative data on your event’s impact and illuminate what worked and what didn’t. 

ON24: Pioneering virtual engagement solutions

At ON24 we know a thing or two when it comes to virtual event solutions. Our hosting capabilities are first-class, and our performance analytics give our partners the power to demonstrate the effectiveness of virtual events to anyone that still needs convincing. 

Between our Intelligent Engagement Platform and AI-powered Analytics and Content Engine, we’re using the latest technology to allow you to create and host the best virtual experiences possible. While we’re proud of our features, we think that you should be the star of your own event, which is why we have extensive customization options available to work with – that can be optimized for both mobile and browser use. 

Take a look at some of our case studies for detailed examples of what we’ve achieved for our customers so far, from increasing conversion rates and revenue to helping with scaling, lead generation, and member enrolment.

The future of virtual events with ON24

We like to stay on top of the trends and technology being used to enhance the virtual event industry all over the world. 

From our experience, here is where the future of virtual events is taking us.

AR/VR experiences

Everyone is looking for more opportunities to experience immersive events. As virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies continue to improve, they present exciting possibilities for virtual events. Imagine being able to welcome your guests to simulated virtual event spaces, with all of the sensory experiences of a physical event but none of the limitations. 

Improved hybrid integration

Virtual events had a massive surge in popularity at a time when for many they were the only option. Now that people are willing and excited to travel, there is an increased demand for hybrid events. Making sure that physical spaces are also able to accommodate virtual attendees can ensure that everyone who is interested in your events has the chance to attend, whether in person or via livestream. We expect to see a big focus on being able to ensure that whatever content it is that you’re sharing can be delivered seamlessly both in-person and virtually.

Security advancements

Without proper security virtual events can be rich hunting grounds for cybercriminals. Blockchain technology will likely be employed more widely to enhance security and reduce the risk of fraud. Because blockchain technology allows for transparency as well as security, it’s useful for situations where trust is important – such as virtual events where resources and personal information may be shared.

Invite opportunities

If you’re not hosting virtual events, you’re missing out on all of the benefits that come with virtual event engagement. We have an extensive library of resources to help you understand virtual events at every level from conception to after party, and the tools to allow you to play host to just about anyone. You already have the passion and the expertise – we can give you the platform. For in-depth information on any of the above, feel free to visit our virtual events page to find out more.

Virtual Event FAQs

A virtual event is interaction between people and a platform, or people and each other, in an online space. A virtual conference, a webinar, a networking opportunity, a content hub, or a specialised landing page could all be classed as a virtual event. Virtual events have risen in popularity due to the fact that they are often more cost-effective and scalable than in-person events, especially at a time when so many people work from home. Virtual event features can be used in conjunction with in-person events, known as a hybrid event.

Hosting a virtual event is a great way to bring everything you have to offer as a brand to a large audience for a fraction of the price of in-person events. Some of the best benefits of  virtual events include:

    • A high ROI.
    • The chance to familiarize your brand with a global audience.
    • The opportunity to cement your expertise and authority in your industry.
    • The production of high-value, reusable resources (e.g. webinars that can be recorded and distributed after the event). 
    • The ease with which you can measure the success of your event and collect data to support this, and for future use.
    • Opportunities to engage and enthuse existing talent within your team e.g. speaking opportunities.

Research shows that the most popular reasons for attending virtual events are to learn more about the organization hosting the event, to network and build new relationships, and to be educated on a new topic. When hosting a virtual event, you should want your audience to come away with at least one (but ideally more) of the following:

    • A better understanding of your organization, who you are and what you have to offer them.
    • Your authority and expertise in various topics/industries and how that could benefit them.
    • New, promising connections, either with your organization or with other attendees.
    • New knowledge to take away and apply to their own work, attributed to your thought leadership.

Virtual events can include:

    • Webinars – a webinar is an online event hosted by one or multiple speakers, usually for educational or inspirational purposes, centered around a particular topic.
    • Virtual conferences – an online version of traditional conferences, virtual conferences often involve multiple sessions and can be made up of a variety of virtual events, such as workshops and webinars.
    • Virtual career fairs – an online event designed to connect people looking for a job with relevant hiring managers and organizations. 
    • Networking opportunities – a virtual networking opportunity could range from an informal group discussion, to a break out room as a part of a larger webinar or conference.
    • Content hubs – a collection of resources pertaining to a specific subject, hosted by your organization.
    • Digital experiences – a combination of virtual events involving multiple touchpoints e.g. a conference involving multiple webinars, and access to a relevant content hub.
    • Specialized landing pages – a landing page specifically designed to engage visitors and provide them with a personalized, valuable experience.
    • Virtual workshops and training sessions – interactive lectures, webinars or livestreams centered around educating the audience on a particular topic, sometimes with the potential for certifications to be awarded afterwards.
    • Broadcasts, using livestreaming and webcasting technology  – interviews, lectures, or podcasts that viewers can stream to their own devices. 

When choosing a virtual event platform you should consider the following:

    • Data and analytics capabilities
    • Features and customization options
    • User experience
    • Integration options
    • Pricing structure

Depending on the event you wish to host, some of these factors may be more important than others. Identify your priorities and look for a platform that can support you in achieving your virtual event goals.