The growth of online events is accelerating, and with it, the online entertainment industry such as virtual live concerts, online movie sessions, and game breakouts. To get on your target audience’s radar and fulfill your business and revenue goals, you have to offer new motivating experiences with the event's attendees' needs and interests in mind. To this end, at Balloon, we believe that no virtual event should roll by without some fun — especially when there are so many virtual event entertainment activities to choose from. We have put together a complete entertainment ideas list to help you organize an engaging online event that is nothing of a snoozefest.
1. Virtual Magic Shows
Virtual magic shows are fun and memorable entertainment solutions that will bring tremendous energy and the element of surprise to your online event. Invite a magician to your event to perform a show specially designed for live viewing and participation through virtual events’ platforms like Balloon. Amaze your audiences with mind-reading, illusions, and sleight-of-hand acts and bring all sorts of incredulous reactions to your online event for high-level audience engagement.
Magicians get with the times and adapt their magic shows for online audiences, offering an interactive virtual experience. It’s straightforward to book an online magician and let the magic happen to your online event. While everything is possible if you let your imagination flow, we recommend keeping the following in mind when reserving a magician.
- Have they pulled off a show for online audiences before?
- Are they willing to work with you on a script that matches your event’s theme and goals?
- Are they able to insert your online event’s message into their performance?
- Are they taking into account the types of audiences and other stakeholders and achieving engagement?
2. Virtual Games
Virtual games are a fun way to bring your brand or exhibitors forward while connecting with your event’s attendees. Games can be simple quizzes, classic board games, or emceed sessions, and can take place more than once for multiple-day events. It’s up to you when to throw virtual games into the mix. Event’s speakers can use games to liven up their speech, raise curiosity among the audience, and prepare the ground for knowledge receiving. Virtual games can also function as breakout sessions. On Balloon, breakout sessions are easy to create (you can also watch our interactive tutorial). We offer three types of sessions: General, Roundtables, and Meetings. You can choose the most suitable session type depending on the number of participants. Breakout sessions on Balloon can be public, private (by invitation only), ticket-specific, and unlisted (for attendees with a link).
Besides bringing joy and creating a bonding experience, virtual games can be a source of data, helping you and your sponsors make business decisions and generate more revenue. With that in mind, bring games relevant to your event’s content, product or services, and event’s purpose. For example, if you hire professional game presenters, enquire about customized aspects such as game themes, brand logos, and graphics. Some of our favorite games are virtual escape rooms, role-playing games where different characters work towards an objective (i.e., building a zero-carbon city) displaying individual strengths and team-work skills, and word games like the all-time favorite Scrabble.
3. Virtual Concerts
According to the World Economic Forum, live music performances are one of the pandemic’s biggest collateral damages. Include a virtual concert in your event planning to enliven your event while supporting the music industry. You can invest in a well-known artist and expect to see a higher return on investment. If you are on a small-scale budget, you can invite an amateur artist or a newcomer to perform at your online event. Whatever you decide, choose the artist with your audience in mind — average age, interests, and region. The latter will also help you pick the most suitable time for the concert, securing maximal attendance. The concert can be live or pre-recorded, but let’s be honest, live online concerts are more exciting and the closest thing to a physical show.
On Balloon, you can create online stages for up to 100,000 viewers with backstages where organizers can test and rehearse, and the possibility to record. You can live stream from a professional studio, or using professional broadcast software, via Balloon's RTMP functionality. During the performance, you can enable comments on the chat to catch the pulse of your audience. Before the concert, check whether the artist(s) have any questions about navigating the virtual event’s platform and ask them to do a soundcheck to ensure tip-top acoustics. To enhance the concert experience, discuss possible “stage” settings, even if there isn’t really a stage. To promote the concert and attract audiences, give it a name that you can hashtag for social media marketing.
4. Mental Health Activities
In a world where professionals often feel unable to find the balance between work and personal life, your event’s attendees will appreciate an activity that helps them overcome screen fatigue and recharge while remaining engaged with your event’s subjects. However, keep in mind that not everyone is open to discussing mental health or admit struggles. To this end, be gentle and discreet when you introduce mental health activities, and rely only on experts and professionals to deliver mental health-related breakout sessions.
Here are some well-being activities for mental clarity to choose from for your next virtual event.
- A yoga session or a talk by a yoga therapist about the psychological benefits of yoga.
- An awareness session about burnout and preventive self-care measures and coping mechanisms.
- A gratitude exercise where attendees acknowledge and write down some things they are grateful for — a person, a new skill they have obtained, or even something they learned at your event. Participants can optionally share their notes with the other participants to inspire and be inspired.
- A short mindfulness session by a specialist facilitator who will first explain what mindfulness is and accept participants’ questions to ensure everyone feels comfortable with the activity. Since mindfulness originates in Buddhist traditions, it is better to introduce a non-spiritual approach to avoid offending your participants’ beliefs or bringing into the conversation sensitive issues such as religion.
- A 20-minute guided meditation break for stress relief and invigoration. Invite attendees in a quiet room of their home with natural lighting and comfortable seating for better effects.
- A breathing exercise of deep and long breaths to relieve stress, control shallow and constrained breathing, relax the nervous system, and focus on the present moment.
5. Leaderboard Challenges
Everyone likes a bit of healthy competition, and this is what leaderboard challenges are for. You can also test your participants’ knowledge on your products, services, brand values, or previous event sessions. Appoint a moderator to ask the questions and attach a timer. Once the time runs out, the emcee will give the correct answer and eliminate the participants who didn’t get it right. The last participant standing will see their name on the leaderboard and receive an award (e.g., a coupon, voucher, or one-month free subscription) for extra motivation.
For small-group leaderboard challenges, the leaderboard can be updated manually by the emcee. If you involve many contestants, leaderboards require some technology offered by many software companies. A leaderboard challenge doesn’t have to be part of a game. It can begin and end with the event itself. For example, you can create a points system where attendees collect points for consuming certain content during the event, participating in the chat, showing up in breakout sessions, etc. Promote the leaderboard through your marketing channels to induce excitement among attendees, and involve the virtual event’s exhibitors and sponsors in the prizes to help them get more exposure.
6. Virtual Cooking Classes
Invite your attendees to discover or unearth their passion for cooking with a 60 to 90-minute virtual cooking class. Many top-notch chefs offer interactive cooking classes online and guide people through world recipes from the comfort of their kitchen. No matter your attendees’ cooking skills and dietary requirements, you can organize a yummy, hands-on, step-by-step experience with the help of professional chefs.
Before adding a virtual cooking class to your event’s agenda, research what’s on offer out there. There’s a lot of food for thought, from Japanese sushi and miso soup recipes to New York-style pizzas and Mexican street food. Cooking class organizers should be flexible to customize the class and meet the needs of your event. They should provide a shopping list, prep pack, equipment needed, and set-up tips in advance, and welcome questions from participants during the class.
7. Virtual Trivia Games
To teach attendees more about your brand and event’s goals, you can organize a quiz-like trivia game about your brand or exhibitors’ and sponsors’ products and services. In a fun and interactive way, participants will learn new things about your organization. To fuel engagement and return on investment, you can hire a live game host. They will help you customize the questions to highlight your brand and sponsors, and will add the questions (usually) into a mobile phone app that participants will download to play during the live trivia session taking place on your event’s platform.
Countdown trivia is even more exciting. Attendees have about 20 seconds to answer a question, and the faster the player is, the more points they earn. As time is ticking away, the points decrease. To boost participation and excitement, you can make the trivia part of the leaderboard challenge (#5). You can save trivia for the end of the event to test attendees’ knowledge about the event and determine how much of the useful information they have absorbed. Trivia organizers should provide you with data such as total questions answered, correct and wrong answers.
8. Latte Art Classes
Howard D. Schultz, long-standing chairman and CEO of the Starbucks Coffee Company, has said about coffee: “I was taken by the power that savoring a simple cup of coffee can have to connect people and create community.” Or, in fewer words, “Coffee is a hug in a mug.” For sure, an online latte art class from a professional barista is an excellent recommendation to bring your virtual event’s attendees closer.
Basic online latte art classes include an understanding of the ingredients and equipment, the chemistry of milk and foam production, the speed and height of milk pouring, and the latte art designs such as the heart, the tulip, and the bear. From the milk carton to the cup, a latte art class will result in many photos and Instagram stories, so don’t forget to encourage attendees to use your event’s dedicated hashtag for spontaneous event marketing and audience engagement.
9. Improv Comedy Shows
Adding some comic relief to your busy event will have a great impact on your event’s flow. Improv comedy shows are known for boosting energy levels, catching audiences’ attention, and bringing everyone in the moment while having a good time. There’s no script, which sometimes is hard to believe, and that is what makes an improv comedy show good. Improv performers take inspiration from the audience or their environment, and create a live (and alive) play on the spot, right in front of the audience. So, every show’s dialogue, plot, and story are unique.
You can book celebrity improv comedians and actors or upcoming artists, depending on your budget. However, improv is a special art that can go wrong if the artist isn’t your cup of tea. Maybe ask to see a demo and book a meeting with the comedy show organizers to discuss your group’s size, the level of audience interaction you want, and the stage set-up. Improv shows ease anxiety, inspire creativity, and develop listening skills. This is probably the only time during your event that anything goes (unplanned), and you should go along for the ride.
10. Virtual Murder Mystery Games
Virtual murder mystery games are detective games of conspiracy and murder that you can play on different online event platforms like Balloon. Virtual murder games make for an excellent online event activity because, besides being mind-boggling and fun, they bring out everyone’s creative and collaborative side and critical thinking. Solving a crime is one thing; organizing everyone involved is a whole different (and stressful) job, which we recommend you assign to a murder mystery professional, however spooky that sounds.
A professional virtual host is an actor who will set the mystery vibe, guide your participants through, and facilitate the game, which usually takes about two hours. Let’s say you have 200 participants. Each will be assigned a character and supplementary materials a few days before the game, so the excitement builds up among participants. At the beginning of the game, all players will watch a video together and will have the chance to ask the host questions. As the game unfolds, the host will be presenting new clues and information. To customize the game and use it as an event’s promotion tool, you can give a prize to the winner from one of your sponsors and ask the game organizers to adapt the theme of the game to your event’s theme.
11. Virtual Photo Booth
A virtual photo booth is an excellent event tech, entertainment, and marketing solution that allows you to engage your event’s attendees longer. Virtual photo booths are fun, simple to use, and customizable to suit your event’s theme and brand’s colors. You can add your logo and event’s dedicated hashtag on or around photos, create GIFs, include digital props, set different backgrounds, and provide unique effects to those who want to try new looks. Usually, the virtual photo booth company allows you to embed the photo booth into online event platforms and share customized URLs with attendees to access from any browser and device.
Encourage attendees to share their photo booth productions on social media to generate buzz around your event. After the event, you can create a mosaic with the images from the dashboard, to bring people together even when they weren’t physically together. Besides being great memorabilia, seeing their pictures, attendees will feel an indispensable part of your event.
12. Social Media Challenges
Social media challenges are fun and easy to participate in competitions on social network channels. They will help build awareness of your event and meet the event’s objectives, such as audience engagement and leads generation. Before creating a social media challenge to get the word about your brand out, keep in mind that each medium has its own rules for running contests, and countries have rules too for awarding competition prizes. Do your research and include terms and conditions on your post if necessary. Also, give an award that is enticing enough for audiences to participate, and matches the required level of effort. Last but not least, don’t forget to include at each social media challenge your online event’s dedicated hashtag for extra audience engagement.
Some tried out social media challenges that will keep audiences on their toes while bringing your products and services to the fore are:
- “Like and comment” social media challenges, which can stand on any social network. Create a post and explain to audiences what they will win if they like and comment on this post. Also, be clear about how much time they have to participate and when will you announce the winner. Don’t forget to wish everyone good luck!
- “Tag a friend” challenges are widespread on Instagram. They are based on the ripple effect where one person brings your event to the attention of another.
- “Give a caption or a tagline for a photo” challenge is great for tickling your audience’s creativity. Since it requires a bit of thinking, you should consider giving a worthy prize, which may link to one of your sponsors.
- “Your vote matters” challenges are about presenting audiences with several options and asking them to vote in the comments (Instagram stories have virtual polls but remember that stories disappear after 24 hours). These challenges are great for collecting feedback from your target audience about a new product you want to launch, for example, or a session topic for your event.
- “Retweet” challenges don’t need much explanation. They are for Twitter users and worth considering if your target audience is big on this social network.
- “Record yourself” challenges are very motivational and engaging but addressed to an outgoing and extroverted audience. Not everyone is keen on introducing themselves publicly via amateur videos unless you can convince them otherwise!
Whichever challenge or challenges you go for, we recommend setting short deadlines to introduce a sense of urgency and fear of missing out.
13. Virtual Fundraising Gala
A virtual fundraising gala can be a stand-alone event or an event within your prime event. To this end, you need to do separate event planning for the gala, organize the production, integrate sponsors, and engage audiences, precisely as you would do for the main event. The goal of a fundraising gala is, of course, to raise funds for a good cause. However, if it’s a satellite of your big event, it can also act as a marketing tool and increase the leading event’s revenue.
The agenda of a virtual fundraising gala can include a presentation of the cause and the mission, speeches, live performances, and video messages from donors and sponsors. If you have a hefty budget, you can hire a professional gala host and a studio from where you will broadcast the gala. Alternatively, you can skip all the traditional gala traits and focus merely on raising funds and your main event’s ROI. In this case, you can run an online fundraising campaign, which your supporters will share with their peers and reach out to them to ask for support for the cause. This peer-to-peer or social fundraising technique is an excellent way to spread the word about your event through social media and receive funds without exploiting audiences’ personal time by asking them to follow a schedule. The most crucial element here is to guide audiences to a simple and informative donation page.
14. Virtual Speed Networking
Speed networking is a fast and straight-to-the-point way for professionals to connect and find potential employers, employees, business partners, and clients. What differentiates speed networking from traditional networking is the short time two people have to introduce themselves within a one-on-one session. And what differentiates virtual from physical speed networking is the highest possibility to meet international people and diversify your network. A speed networking session requires a host who will assign two people at a time to a private online room. Every seven to eight minutes, the host will rotate the group until everyone has met and noted down who they would like to follow up with. When the selections of two people match, it’s a success.
Networking is a core feature of Balloon where you can organize a breakout speed networking session. As an organizer, you can set the minimum and the maximum duration for the networking one-on-one rounds so that attendees keep rotating and getting matched with new attendees. You can create matching rules based on ticket types, or else attendees can get matched randomly. Alternatively, for spontaneous speed networking, attendees can gather around Balloon’s virtual cocktail tables made for up to four people with the possibility to be locked at two people so no one else can enter.
15. Virtual Event Gamification
Gamification keeps your attendees engaged while competing in a game, completing challenges, participating in fun activities, and collecting points to win awards. In other words, you turn event functions into creative and strategic learning experiences to achieve your event’s goals and objectives. For instance, you can encourage participation in your event’s sessions by awarding gamification points to those who keep their camera on or post a comment in the event’s chatbox. Or you can award points to those attendees who have shown up at breakout sessions organized by sponsors. Another initiative that may turn into a game is inviting attendees to watch an exhibitor’s demo with the launch of a new service, give their feedback, and earn points for their effort. To this end, add exhibitor booths and encourage exhibitors to run interactive sessions from their booth for bigger event monetization and new qualified leads for exhibitors.
To make the most of gamification, promote competitions, set clear rules, include sponsors, be transparent with how close to the top each participant stands on the leaderboard, and give awards. A coherent gamification strategy increases audience engagement, promotes networking, boosts your event’s social media presence, and helps sponsors get more return on investment. Here are some other gamification ideas we propose:
- On Balloon, it’s easy to create VIP sessions for exclusive event attendees who have purchased a higher-tier ticket. During the event, you can begin a points collection process, which will unlock a VIP experience for the attendees who collected an x amount of points.
- In collaboration with speakers, integrate trivia games (#7) into the event’s sessions and award points to attendees who give the right answer. This is a great practice to redirect attendees’ focus back to the session every time their minds begin to wander.
- Social media challenges (#12) is an excellent incentive for attendees to spread the word about your event and individual sessions on the event’s or their individual accounts, as long as they use the event’s dedicated hashtag.
- For sessions made of small groups, you can award punctuality points to avoid disruptions caused by late logins.
16. Online Chat Rooms
An online chat room is a fast and easy way to connect with your attendees in real-time. Think of the chat as a medium to talk with attendees instead of to attendees. You can engage in live-group or one-on-one conversations and provide information about the agenda, your sponsors, speakers, and anything else that may come up during the event and requires immediate attention. Real-time support is vital for your event’s smooth flow. You will be impressed how much a simple tool like a chatbox can improve your event’s ROI thanks to high efficiency and positive feedback from participants. Before starting a session, speakers and moderators should explain to attendees how and when to use the chatbox within the session. For example, they can advise attendees to save their questions for the Q&A at the end of the presentation and either drop their questions on the chat box, or use their camera and mic.
On Balloon events’ platform, we have an advanced chat function, which is active throughout the event, allowing attendees to introduce themselves, network, and ask questions to event organizers or one another. You can pin messages at the top of a chat group, to make them prominent for attendees, so that they don't miss them. Pinned messages can be about housekeeping rules, something that is happening right now and you want to drive traffic to, or a general question to the audience. Besides, you can move from the public event’s chat to a private conversation with the attendee or attendees that you choose to invite. On this private chat window, you can either type or tap the audio/video call icons and use the camera and microphone.
17. Event Giveaways and Virtual Event Swag Bags
Online event giveaway items and swag bags are these little presents that no one uses that much, but everyone gets super excited to receive. If you care about making a good impression and strengthening your relationship with your event’s attendees, then swag bags are just right for you. Swag bags are delivered a couple of days before the event to build anticipation and excitement. At the same time, they show attendees that you are also looking forward to meeting them during the event and presenting what you have prepared.
What you will put in your event’s swag bags depends on your budget, brand, the event’s mission, target audience, time available, and season (you don’t want to give touch screen gloves in the summer or beach towels in the winter). Some ideas for swag bags and giveaways are chocolate, tea, and coffee because we don’t know anyone who doesn’t like at least one of these. Other ideas are welcome to the event cards, badges, tote bags, magnets, journals, water bottles, mugs, and now hand sanitizers.
If you don’t want to use physical items and send the bags by post, you can curate virtual swag bags with coupons, vouchers, online gift cards, free trials for software, online courses, virtual gym subscriptions, promo codes, and discounts. Giveaways and swag bags are also an opportunity to engage your sponsors, who can select and sign the items. Also, giveaways lead to social media engagement because people love posting about being treated well. If among your attendees are social media influencers with K or M numbers of followers, you may increase your followers before you know it.
18. Virtual Tours
Virtual tours or 360-degree tours are a compilation of panoramic pictures giving viewers the impression they are walking inside a room or a building or an outdoor space. Virtual tours are live video feeds from a place, and can take place on a Balloon stage or session. A virtual tour is the closest imitation to the physical presence within an area. You may think that virtual tours are only for tech-savvy brands and consumers. Still, this technological advancement is gradually gaining ground among all technology users and becoming widely accessible thanks to new applications and software that allow users to create virtual tours easily with ready-to-use features.
But how can you apply this digital tool to your online event? For instance, if you boast a smart office with the lowest carbon footprint in your country, you can walk event participants through it. Or, if one of your sponsors is a higher-education institution hoping to recruit new students at your event, you can suggest they do a virtual tour of their campus to capture potential students’ attention and stay in their mind long after the event, during the university applications season. Virtual tours help increase revenue but, of course, require investment in equipment (i.e., 360-degree camera, tripod, etc.) or experts who will undertake the project entirely. Virtual tours are usually given as links that can be embedded in any website or social media for broad promotion and access.
19. Cocktail-Making Classes
International, five-star mixologists have transferred their skills online to deliver cocktail-making classes that may cater to small and large groups. You can include this fun activity in your event’s agenda as a breakout or VIP session for select participants or make it available to all attendees. Cocktail-making organizers are usually keen on discussing personalization options, such as choosing recipes from a list of popular and not too complicated cocktails, including non-alcoholic drinks. Having said that, you can create a social media challenge (#12) with, let’s say, ten cocktails and ask your attendees to vote for their most favorite.
Most cocktail-making organizers have different packages, including packages that deliver to participants’ doors a kit with everything they need for the class (i.e., the equipment, premium spirits, and fresh ingredients). Regular cocktail-making classes last about an hour, and are usually funny and engaging with bartenders making sure that all participants are up to speed.
20. Virtual Health and Wellness Activities
The pandemic continues to remind us of the importance of physical health and wellness. At the same time, online work from home gives leverage in virtual wellness activities for physical and mental strength. If your online event runs across several hours or days, consider accommodating physical health activities in your agenda with 15-minute wellness breakout sessions such as stretching, strengthening, and balancing workouts. Focus and participation during event presentations and workshops are tiring. It is to your advantage to intentionally disengage participants from the event’s content and help them re-energize, so that they come back to it with new ideas and improved performance.
If a workout session isn’t appropriate for your event, you can move wellness activities off stage. For instance, you can create a wellness pack with links to workouts that participants can stream at their own time. However, to make it interactive, you can post workout challenges (i.e., steps’ challenge, HIIT) on social media and award participants with points for completing the challenge (#15). Wellness activities may not be relevant to your event’s theme or brand but don’t underestimate their value for participants, who are motivated to do something good for themselves that they wouldn’t do otherwise.
There’s no pressure to include all or most of these ideas in your virtual event. However, your participants will appreciate your effort to make your event fun, memorable, and engaging. To this end, take, not the most trending ideas, but those that represent your brand and participants will associate your identity with. For advice on how to include entertainment in your Balloon event, check out Balloon’s tips and resources for organizers, chat with our team on Balloon’s homepage, or contact us via email.