How to host a successful virtual

January 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought significant changes to the live event industry. From cancelled events to our new normal, virtual events, organizations and our nonprofit partners, have had to strategically pivot to execute their annual fundraising events entirely online, while still meeting the needs of their communities.

Since March, many organizations have embraced the virtual world as we’ve seen numerous creative alternatives surface. For example, organizers of some of the largest galas, conferences and festivals have all found new ways to safely host events online while reaching their target communities. Some organizations have even mentioned maintaining a virtual component to their events moving forward.

While live events remain on hold indefinitely and virtual events become the new norm, you may find yourself asking how can you ensure your online event is successful? As an event host, how can you overcome Zoom fatigue in a time where many people are craving in-person event energy? How do you stay top of mind in a market that is rapidly evolving?

Thus far, the team at Fluid has hosted various large-scale virtual events including galas (, corporate holiday parties and numerous educational webinars. Our plan for the new year is to keep the momentum pushing forward and ensure our amazing nonprofit partners still fundraise. Keep reading to learn how you can host a successful virtual event in 2021.

1. Hire an event producer and/or advisor

Many people feel that an event producer is no longer required when hosting a virtual event. People tend to treat the new virtual format as a creative Zoom meeting and fail to see the technical requirements (managing breakout rooms, video transitions, live and pre-recording content, show flow, etc.) associated with hosting a successful and engaging event.

By hiring an event producer and/or advisor you are bringing an experienced professional onboard who can provide you with the ins and outs of hosting a successful virtual event. This expert can also provide support in creating an appropriate show flow, manage the recorded and live content, as well as help everyone navigate this new world.

“A virtual event is NOT a Zoom meeting. It’s a complete experience that captures and holds guests attention and inspires them to connect with your cause in a deeper more meaningful way.”  - Sabrina Roy, CEO & Founder, Fluid

2. Be strategic with your event time and date

You are no longer just competing with a booked date in someone’s calendar. You are now competing with the everyday demands of attendees working and living at home. One of the biggest challenges with virtual events is getting someone back online after work, giving their full attention.

According to findings from the Event Leadership Institute and Intrado, the average view time of a 60 minute webcast event is 31 minutes and a large percentage of attendees are more likely to tune into an event during the week as opposed to on the weekend. Although this is a major shift for the events industry, the two above findings are crucial to consider when planning your next online event.

Although we are moving to shorter programming, one of the biggest advantages of a virtual event is the ability to broaden your reach to a completely new donor base. You no longer have to consider only reaching those in close proximity to your venue. Instead, it’s time to consider increasing your event footprint and potentially expanding your event nationally or even internationally. With that being said, in order to take advantage of this, you must be mindful during the planning stages and consider other time zones. If this is not possible, consider making the event accessible post-event either on your company website or your social channels.

3. When possible, pre-record your content  

We all know what it’s like to experience technical troubles, whether it’s poor internet connection or sound drop off. Although these troubles are typically beyond our control in the virtual world, it’s important event planners take advantage of what they can, specifically, pre-recorded content.

There are several benefits in pre-recording your program’s content including full control over message delivery, little chance of going off script and most importantly, the ability to deliver your organizations mission and impact in a more concise manner.

With the average view time being only 31 minutes, pre-recording your content will allow you to keep to a tight show flow and ensure messages are delivered when the audience is most engaged. While it’s important to control your messaging with pre-recorded content, it’s equally important to have a host or facilitator who is live to keep the feel of an actual event and to keep the show moving forward.

4. Engagement and interaction remain at the heart of your success

No one wants to attend an event with just a bunch of talking heads. Now more than ever, attendees are longing for opportunities to engage and interact in safe but creative ways.

Fortunately since COVID-19 hit, virtual platforms have taken the industry by storm and continue to evolve almost every day with new engagement opportunities. Some creative strategies I have implemented are breakout rooms as ‘tables’ for cocktail hours or as speed networking sessions, polling, live question and answer periods, as well as social media walls.

In addition, to ensure your event meets the wants of your donors, I recommend creating your programming around the three F’s – fast (short, more concise programming), fresh and fun, in order to distinguish itself from an everyday Zoom meeting and to create a deeper more meaningful connection with those tuning in.

Zoom rooms used as tables for a virtual cocktail hour
Zoom rooms used as tables for a virtual cocktail hour

5. Get creative with your value-adds

Prior to COVID-19, attending the live event was the draw. Today and moving forward, much more thought has to go into value-adds to guarantee your attendees are tuning in and that the standards of your traditional event are being met.

Attendees are not looking for another box of miscellaneous swag. Instead, it is better to strategically consider the items going inside your box by connecting it to the program and your organization’s mission. A few creative suggestions include meal boxes, cocktail kits and event boxes delivered directly to your supporters homes. Food vouchers are also an easier alternative and a great way to support local businesses.

Our artfully curated and mission-focused event box sent to True Patriot Love Tribute gala guests. Added bonus for the boxes - great tool for social sharing and a way to connect with your audience!
Our artfully curated and mission-focused event box sent to True Patriot Love Tribute gala guests. Added bonus for the boxes - great tool for social sharing and a way to connect with your audience!

As we can see, despite having to navigate restrictions on gatherings and attendees comfortability, there are still many ways to host successful fundraising events and stay connected with our biggest supporters.  

Please reach out to to learn more about our virtual event service offerings!