How to Make the Most of Online Events & Virtual Conferences

Knowing how to make the most of online events probably won’t be that important in a post-COVID marketplace, right?

Well, not exactly.

Brands were already trending toward online marketing events before anyone had even heard of COVID-19. The value of global virtual events was worth nearly $78 billion in 2019 and shot up to $94.04 billion in 2020.

Forecasts estimate that the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of online events from 2021 to 2025 will be approximately 33%, rising to a value of around $269.20 billion.

Infographic of global virtual events market forecast for 2021-2025

What do all of these numbers and forecasts mean for businesses and prospective attendees?

Online events aren’t going anywhere, so it’s important to learn how to make the most of them.

Big ideas

  • Virtual events are more convenient, cost-effective, and safer than large, in-person gatherings.
  • There are many different types of online events, each with a specific purpose and type of audience.
  • Your preparedness, engagement, and mindset largely determine the success or failure of attending an online event.


What is a virtual event?

Virtual events are gatherings on online platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, and even social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

During the pandemic, virtual events became a popular alternative to large-scale gatherings because people feel safe attending the digital rendezvous from the comfort of their own homes or offices, no mask required.

Online events are also more cost-effective and convenient, saving on travel time and expenses, lodging, meals, etc. The cost savings apply to everyone normally involved in large events, including attendees, sales representatives, vendors, and hosts.

With these benefits, it’s easy to see why people were already attending online events before mask mandates and social distancing.


Most common types of virtual events

Like in-person events, online events are carefully planned and scheduled ahead of time, serving a specific purpose. Virtual events commonly include:

  • Conferences and networking events: An opportunity for guest speakers, industry professionals, and attendees to deliver presentations, participate in expert panels, and network with one another.
  • Job fairs: Virtual hiring events for interviews, companies looking for qualified candidates, and people who are weighing their options when choosing a career.
  • Trade shows: An online exhibition of businesses, companies, and vendors within a particular industry to demonstrate their products and advertise their services.
  • Fundraising: A way for nonprofit organizations to reach more people and raise money for a cause.
  • Team building: Company-sponsored virtual meetings where employees can interact with one another, build relationships, and find common interests, even if some or all of the employees are working remotely from home.
  • Shopping: An accessible online live stream to demonstrate products, offer exclusive deals for attendees, and boost eCommerce revenue.
  • Meetings: Virtual meetings ranging in scale from one-on-one discussions to hundreds of attendees tuning in for a presentation.



7 ways to make the most of online events

Whether you’re getting ready to attend your first virtual event or you’re a seasoned pro with dozens under your belt, it’s important to take time to properly prepare.


1. Dress to impress

Just because an event is happening online and not in a conference hall doesn’t mean you should log in at the last moment still wearing your pajamas.

Even if your webcam is off, what you wear can affect your mindset. That’s not to say you need to bust out a formal suit and tie or fancy dress, but making an effort with your attire helps you get into the right headspace and even affects the way you present yourself.


2. Minimize distractions

It’s hard to focus when dogs are barking, the phone is ringing, and the kids are screaming while chasing each other around your desk.

While you can’t remove every distraction, make an effort to minimize the ones that you can. Mute your phone, turn off the TV, close the door, log off of social media, and focus your attention where it needs to be.


3. Be prepared

Don’t log in at the last possible moment with no idea what the virtual event schedule is, who will be speaking, and what topic discussions will occur.

Do at least a little research beforehand. Try to log in a few minutes early and be prepared with anything you might need—a notebook, glass of water, a working pen. Run a quick system check to ensure your camera and microphone are working.


4. Take notes

Many online events have downloadable resources, but jotting down quick notes will help you retain important information (and keep you awake if you start to doze).


5. Network

Online events are usually designed with networking in mind. It may feel strange to attend a virtual conference while sitting alone in your home office, but don’t forget about live chat. Be proactive by meeting and networking with other participants.


6. Block off some time before and after

For the sake of your mental health, it’s a good idea to take at least a few minutes before an event to compose yourself and a few minutes after an event to process all of the information you’ve just absorbed.

If your online event features multiple keynote speakers or sessions, try to avoid back-to-back scheduling obligations.


7. Actively engage

Be an active part of the online event. Have a question that a keynote speaker didn’t address? Ask!

If you can participate in a poll, answer a question, or volunteer, do it! You’ll get more out of it, and participation keeps the schedule moving forward, so you aren’t stuck watching a floundering speaker stare at a silent, inattentive audience.

Most attendees want to be actively engaged, as evidenced by these survey results:

bar graph showing survey results of how attendees want to engage during online events


You have the power to make an online event a valuable experience

While it’s true that some factors, such as presentation topics and keynote speakers, are outside of your control, your takeaways from a virtual event largely depend on your mindset and engagement.

If you logged in wearing the same oversized, crumpled T-shirt you wore to bed, sat idly in your chair only half-listening, and didn’t bother to network or engage with speakers or fellow attendees, how much value do you think you’re going to get from an online event?

Not much.

If you arrive with a positive mindset, ready to learn, engage, and network, you’ll make the most out of online events every time. Some events may not be as good as others, and that’s okay. As long as you have at least one valuable takeaway, you can count it as a success.

We’re all about positive people ready to invest in themselves! Learn more about us.