8 Virtual Event Examples for Planning Your Next Online Event

September 11, 2023

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When we surveyed our audience earlier this year*, we found out that almost 75% of marketers thought digital events would play a major role in future event marketing strategy.

At the same time, only 10% felt okay saying that their digital event experiences so far were "excellent."

Clearly, there's a huge gap between the potential of events and their current state! And, with so many events out there for attendees to choose from, it's more important than ever to stand out from the crowd, offer value, and stay creative. The good news is that there are plenty of examples of companies doing all of those things—and doing them well—that we can use as inspiration!

Here are the virtual event types we'll be covering:

  • Virtual summits
  • Virtual conferences
  • Virtual networking
  • Product demos
  • Customer awards
  • Ongoing live series
  • Virtual training and workshops
  • Exclusive hands-on virtual experiences

We’ll not only run through the details of these virtual event types, but also share examples from companies we think are executing quite well on delivering an "excellent" digital event experience.

*If you haven't read through our Attendee Sentiment Report in its entirety, it's worth a look. You'll hear firsthand from 500+ industry professionals about what they want from your events!

8 types of virtual event ideas—and real-world examples!

We define a "virtual event" as anything you host online in an effort to gather people together for a specific purpose. That is a big umbrella, which means virtual events can include everything from a standard webinar to a multi-day annual company extravaganza!

We know nothing gets the creative juices flowing like seeing actual examples—which is why below, under each type of virtual event, you'll find a successful event and learn why it worked well.

1. Virtual summits

Virtual summits are a great option to create excitement among your audience and rally them together around a common theme.

A virtual summit is essentially the online replacement for a traditional national conference or trade show. Summits can last half a day, a full day, or span multiple days, and you can draw in a lot more people than you can with a physical event. There's lots of flexibility here!

AI Summit image

Goldcast is hosting a half-day virtual summit, AI Summit: How Marketers Can Harness the Power of AI, on October 18.

Compared to your one-off webinar, event planning for virtual summits takes substantially more time and resources to plan. You'll need event content (whether live and/or pre-recorded sessions, presentations, panel discussions, networking events, workshops, or other types) to fill your entire schedule.

Typically, you'll enlist the help of in-demand industry experts and leaders to lead the talks at a summit. Just as you reach the peak of a mountain when you "summit" it, you want people to feel like they're reaching new heights when attending your event!

No matter what type of virtual summit you're planning, check out the Goldcast Virtual Summit Platform. Companies like Modern Health, Drift, and Toast host quarterly and annual summits using our virtual event platform and have been blown away by the event engagement features, as well as the built-in CRM integrations to empower your sales team.

Real-world virtual summit example: Productboard's Virtual Excellence Summit

For four years now, Productboard has hosted an annual Product Excellence Summit. The company invites product experts, leaders, and industry innovators to talk about best practices. Attendees walk away with new ways of approaching problems and a deeper understanding of how to "Make What Matters."

The Product Excellence Summit 2023 will be held in mid-October for one day only, and it's jam-packed with valuable sessions. The day kicks off with a chance to hear from Guy Kawasaki of Canva. From there, the action continues, with multiple sessions being offered at each time frame, giving virtual attendees maximum options to choose from.

See the full agenda for the Product Excellence Summit 2023 here.

No matter which track you take throughout the day, everyone comes together to discuss Productboard announcements and to close out the day together, with final remarks from Productboard's Founder and CEO.

2. Virtual conferences

While conferences and summits share some similarities, we like to think of conferences as a larger version of a summit. Conferences are usually at least one day long—sometimes they even span a week!—and many offer both virtual and in-person options.

That said, summits and conferences do share a number of features, and some people might even refer to them interchangeably.

As a general rule, we find that conferences are more robust regarding content options and usually capture a larger audience. You can bring people together to discuss product updates, industry challenges, or to foster a stronger sense of community within your brand.

You'll need to make sure your event platform allows for robust networking opportunities, as this is a critical thing people want out of conferences (particularly when they're multi-session or multi-day). For example, Goldcast offers 1:1 messages, booths, and rooms, all which facilitate more organic connections in a conferencing setting.

Real-world virtual conference example: Assent's Evolve 2023

Assent is currently experimenting with a hybrid approach for its conference. This year's Evolve conference will happen in-person in select cities later this year, while the virtual on-demand event is already available.

Evolve 2023 hosts 35 speakers across their multi-session conference.

For on-demand viewers, there's a ton of info to catch up on, including two days' worth of discussions around sustainability, regulatory requirements, and market risks. Featured speakers included Erin Brockovih, well-known environmental activist, as well as Assent's CEO, Andrew Waitman.

This conference helps industry professionals understand what they should be focusing on, keeps people on the same page, and allows complex manufacturers to get relevant information they can't easily find elsewhere.

3. Virtual networking

Networking is a BIG deal to attendees, with 90% of our audience saying it's the top reason they attend in-person events.

Many virtual event planners have found it hard to generate the same level of in-person networking when it comes to online social events, which is why we've built unique functionality into the Goldcast virtual environment to encourage people to mingle, meet, and exchange info.

For example, we make it super easy for attendees to share their LinkedIn contact info with each other. With just one click, people can connect on social media and continue the conversation, post-event!

But we digress! A bit more context about virtual networking events: These events make creating connections amongst attendees a top priority. Typically, the invite list is more curated because you want people to walk away with meaningful insights and connections. So, you might decide to invite just salespeople, so that you can have a more focused conversation than you could if you had a ton of job roles there.

Interactivity spurs conversation, so think breakout sessions, roundtables, Q&As, networking lounges, or even speed networking events, where attendees meet a new person every so many minutes and exchange insights and contact info.

Real-world virtual networking example: Goldcast's Event Marketers Live

This one is a creative take on virtual networking, revealing that content and conversation can fuel connection. You don’t just have to stick with traditional virtual networking to build relationships with (and across!) your audience.

Our ongoing Event Marketers Live series features a different B2B event marketing expert each time, in conversation with someone from the Goldcast team about a relevant topic. When you tune in, you know that you'll be joining a targeted group of other people interested in marketing and virtual experiences. Together, you'll learn, ask questions, and even have a chance to meet one another!

Roughly half of each event is dedicated to time for Q&A, and our hosts typically post questions on stage, meaning that you'll get to learn what's on other marketers' minds and use that as a starting point for further conversation. You might even take your chat right over to The Event Marketers Club, our online community for B2B event marketers!

👋Hey, you! Want to see even more examples of top virtual events? Check out this year's Goldies winners to see the crème de la crème!

4. Product demos

Virtual product demonstrations are one of the best ways to show people exactly what it would be like if they were your customer. You're able to get in front of your audience, showcase your product (or service), answer questions, and even share testimonials or client success stories.

You can offer product seminars regularly throughout the year, so that anyone who wants to learn more about your product can attend. You can also schedule demos around new product launches or product updates, so that current and potential users understand how to use the new functionality.

If it makes sense, allowing attendees to play around with your offering in a hands-on way can really elevate the digital experience. As you'll see in the Couchbase example below, they decided to do just that with their lab workshop!

P.S. On-demand product demos can also be a part of your strategy! Although viewers can’t ask questions live during these types of product demos, they are a great way to allow prospects to see your product quickly and on their own time. You can see Goldcast’s on-demand product demo here.

Real-world product demo example: Couchbase Capella™ Workshop

The free Couchbase Capella™ Workshop events allow customers (or potential customers!) to set up a Capella account and start interacting with data right away. Trainers are on hand to demonstrate how to get the full value from the product and answer any questions that come up.

Example of an upcoming Couchbase Capella™ Workshop agenda.

The workshop is geared toward developers, architects, DBAs, and DevOps engineers. This ensures that anyone who shows up has a foundational understanding of database and SQL concepts so that the group can jump right into more advanced concepts and maximize their shared "lab" time.

💡These are some really great examples, right?! If you're curious about the ROI behind virtual events like these, check out our Virtual Event ROI guide. You'll get a clear cost-benefit analysis and an easy-to-use calculator you can try today!

5. Customer awards

If you want to celebrate your customers for a job well done, customer award events are a good choice. You can highlight members of your community who are going above and beyond or using your offering in exceptionally creative ways; this not only encourages brand loyalty, but allows other customers to come up with new ideas.

And it just feels good to appreciate your customer base! They've trusted you with their time and resources, and it's a great feeling to be able to show them you've taken note of their hard work. You might even find that in years to come, customers race to be even more creative than last year because they want to take home this year's award!

Real-world customer awards example: The Goldies by Goldcast

Last year's Customer Awards event was so much fun! We got to gather tons of our customers and celebrate some of the best marketing the event industry has seen to date. While this event was one of our hybrid events, you can definitely make this work in a strictly virtual event format. If you want some inspiration, The Goldies 2023 will be completely virtual!

Before the event, we decide on award categories, like "Best Virtual Event," and then select Goldcast clients who stand out in those specific ways. For example, last year we loved SnapBar's idea to embed a photo booth into their event, allowing attendees to leave with a brand new headshot. This won them the award for "Most Creative Engagement at an Event!"

This event accomplished many things. It introduced Goldcast clients to each other, it inspired customers with success stories (just like this blog post is hopefully doing for you!), and it allowed us to create a fun experience for the community we love so much and celebrate them for their hard work.

6. Ongoing live series

Ongoing live series (which are also hosted on-demand, after the fact) are good fixtures to have on your event schedule. They allow people to rely on the consistency of your event, which can boost your chance of having repeat attendees over time.

Ongoing series also boost your brand presence over time and build credibility as you continue to speak out about a specific topic. You can use these events to dive deep into a topic, but spread out the talks over a range of time—this allows you to "relax" a bit more into a subject, versus rushing to get all of the info out in a single session.

Real-world example: Goldcast's Donuts & Demand

In our newest live series, Donuts & Demand, we're serving up some piping hot sweetness for demand generation marketers! Things kick off September 19, with every new session happening the second Tuesday of the month thereafter.

Each monthly session will cover the latest tactics, strategies, and trends in the demand gen space. Tune in to hear from marketing leaders across industries and get new ideas to grow your own pipeline, starting with LaShanda Jackson from Intuit Mailchimp and Chris Walker from Refine Labs!

📚Read Next: Top Demand Generation Series to Bookmark

7. Virtual trainings and workshops

These online experiences have some crossover with product demos, but virtual trainings and workshops can cover topics far beyond just your product offering. Hosting an educational session online allows you to reach a wide audience and show people how to gain a new skill or uplevel their current skill set.

Because everyone is together at the same time during the live event, you can answer questions that come up during the training and tailor the content accordingly. People are able to get real-time feedback, which is helpful for learners.

Real-world virtual training example: Drift's Bot-sultation

In Drift's helpful workshop, "Level Up Your Chatbot in 45 Minutes," attendees got to ask questions related to chatbots and even submit their own bots for a quick consultation review. The speakers, who are both professional service consultants at Drift, shared ideas on how chatbots can help improve customer experience and drive engagement.

People in the audience were able to learn by seeing other chatbot examples dissected, and everyone gained an understanding of how to boost conversions through bots.

8. Exclusive hands-on virtual experiences

These special, high-touch events provide a way for you to build community and nurture your most important leads. Exclusive events are more intimate and personalized, and they offer something beyond a presentation and Q&A: a shared, hands-on experience in a virtual space.

Whether it's following a recipe together or learning a breathing technique to release stress from the body, attendees get to focus on something other than work for a while—and then after, they're able to bring a more energized perspective to the marketing talk!

These events could take the form of:

  • cooking lessons
  • happy hours
  • candle-making classes
  • Yoga, Tai Chi, or other exercises
  • arts and craft tutorials
  • quick jam sessions
  • or another idea of your choosing!

Think about what interests your audience likely has in common, and brainstorm from there. Just remember not to get so focused on the uniqueness of the experience that you forget to add something of value or relevance as it pertains to your company!

Real-world exclusive event example: Goldcast's Sip & Share series

We start each Sip & Share with an interactive cocktail (or mocktail!) making demo. From there, all attendees participate in a discussion that relates to the challenges of modern marketing.

Our first one was a rousing success and explored the most strategic ways to infuse gifting into your events!

‍For the first event, we upped the exclusivity factor (and the urgency to register) by sending the first 50 registrants a special summer cocktail experience kit, complete with the ingredients they'd need to make the event cocktail. Anyone who registered after that received the ingredient list so they could shop well in advance of the event!

Ultimately, people walked away from Sip & Share with an awesome new cocktail recipe to close out the summer season, solid marketing advice they could take back to their teams, and a list of new contacts.

And these only scratch the surface of the types of virtual events your organization could be running. If you want to keep the examples coming, be sure to sign up for our newsletter, which is chock-full of virtual event examples and event marketing tips!

Ready to reinvent your virtual events?

If you're looking to pull off creative, engaging experiences like the one you saw above, give Goldcast a whirl. We're the only platform built around the needs of B2B marketers, and we offer transparent, easy-to-understand pricing.

Whether you want to try your hand at a virtual summit, host a fun customer awards session, or plan some exclusive live stream events, Goldcast's event technology can make it happen!

If you're interested in seeing what Goldcast can do for you, let us know! We're standing by and ready to get you set up with a free demo so you can see the platform in action.

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