8 of 2020’s Most Impressive and Unique Virtual Event Examples

Virtual events are growing in popularity, and it doesn’t appear as if that’s going to change very soon. But as planners, venues, on-site teams, and everyone else involved in an event’s life cycle plan for a future full of virtual and hybrid events, there’s still a lot of unknown. That’s where these virtual event examples come in.

The following examples of virtual events span across multiple industries and vary in size, length, and technology. But they all have one thing in common: They took place in 2020, as the need for organizations to pivot to virtual events skyrocketed.

So whether you’re a planner in charge of putting together your first virtual event, a venue manager getting set to host one, or anyone in between, we hope these virtual event examples provide you with some inspiration and maybe even spark some new and innovative ideas.

Explore 8 of our favorite virtual event examples from 2020:

1. Salesforce World Tour Sydney Reimagined

Salesforce was one of the first organizations to pivot to virtual events due to COVID-19, doing so for its World Tour event in early March. In a statement on its website, Salesforce wrote: “The safety and wellbeing of our employees, customers, and community is our number one priority. By making World Tour an online experience, it eliminates the need for attendees to attend in person and travel to Sydney while enabling them to still benefit from the event content.”

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The event was a success. In addition to 80,000 livestream viewers, Salesforce said the one-day event brought in 1.2 million video views across social channels. Perhaps most impressive, though, was the turnaround time. The decision to make the World Tour virtual-only was made in mid-February. So, according to Salesforce vice president of marketing, Renata Bertram, the team “in just 10 business days reimagined the way (they) deliver (their) annual flagship event in Asia Pacific.”

But the event was much more than a livestream with on-demand videos made available after its conclusion. It was an interactive experience for the audience, too, which is one of the most important virtual event success factors. Take the AppExchange Demo Jam, for example. During the session, participants were given a three-minute window to showcase their apps via a real-time demo. Audience members watched the presentations and then were given the chance to vote for the winner. A simple concept, but a successful one nonetheless.

2. The NBA restart

This may not seem like a virtual event, but the restart of the 2019-20 NBA season is just that. The season, which picked up on July 30 after shutting down for more than four months, has been far from normal. But with no fans allowed to enter the league’s “bubble” in Orlando to attend the games in person, the NBA opted for something different. Through new technology, the NBA is giving fans the opportunity to watch games while being projected on in-arena video boards for players, coaches, and anyone tuning in around the world to see. This virtual fan experience is created using Microsoft Teams’ Together mode, which “uses AI segmentation technology to bring people together into a shared background like a conference room, coffee shop, or arena.”

“We wanted to create something that would bring our fans to the players,” Sara Zuckert, the NBA’s head of Next Gen Telecast, told The New York Times. “It’s also a way to give fans the opportunity to feel like they’re interacting while enhancing the broadcast for everyone else at home.”

Additionally, the NBA made tons of changes to help enhance the at-home fan experience. These changes included:

  • Dozens of cameras repositioned closer to the court to showcase never-before-seen camera angles.
  • Microphones placed around the court to capture enhanced sounds, such as sneaker squeaks and ball bounces.
  • DJs and announcers on site to replicate the sounds teams and viewers are used to.
  • A virtual cheering experience. This allows fans to digitally “cheer” for a team through the NBA App, NBA.com and Twitter using team hashtags. Those “cheers” are then portrayed on in-arena video boards via graphics and animations to “capture the level of fan engagement around the world.”

3. SBC Digital Summit

The virtual betting and gaming industry event, which took place from April 27 to May 1, was designed to give attendees an interactive experience. And it did just that.

The SBC Digital Summit utilized “an advanced digital platform (to provide) delegates of (the summit) access to a full-on virtual event spaces, featuring many of the benefits of a physical conference and exhibition.”

Virtual attendees “arrived” at the Lobby Area and were then granted access to various rooms throughout the virtual venue. These rooms included the Exhibition Hall, where attendees were able to visit booths, meet with exhibitors, and view products. There was also the Conference Auditorium, where attendees listened to speakers’ panels and presentations, and the Networking Lounge, where attendees were able to interact with each other, either privately or in group conversations.

4. Sports Backers’ Great American 5000

The Great American 5000 takes fitness to a whole new level, giving people the opportunity to participate in a three-month virtual run from San Francisco to New York. Here’s how it works:

  • Registrants assemble a team of up to 12 or 24 people and run (or walk or hike) a total of 24 hours a day to progress along their 3,107-mile (5,000 kilometer) trek.
  • A virtual map tracks each group’s cross-country progress, and a leaderboard shows the standings each day.
  • Runners are tracked via GPS apps such as Strava, Map My Run, etc.
  • Teams are given a maximum of three months (June 14th to September 14th) to complete the journey.
  • Additionally, teams are encouraged to make their run “mean something even more” by donating and raising funds for Feeding America, the race’s official charity.

“With the creation of this new event, we want to help people connect with each other on teams and to still compete in an athletic competition,” said executive director of Sports Backers, Jon Lugbill, via NBC 12. “The Great American 5000 provides the opportunity to make the dream of running across the country a little more real while raising money for Feeding America and supporting those in need during this crisis.”

5. Tomorrowland Around The World — The Digital Festival

The massive Belgian music festival joined the virtual events trend in July, giving attendees a never-before-seen musical experience. In addition to performances from artists like Katy Perry, Steve Aoki, David Guetta, and Martin Garrix, Tomorrowland offered “activities, webinars, workshops, games and other interactive entertainment” for attendees.

The festival featured artists performing on virtual stages in front of thousands of virtual fans on a virtual 3D island. There were special effects, fireworks, laser shows, sound effects, and more — just like an actual music festival.

Tomorrowland created its stunning virtual platform in collaboration with Dogstudio, whose CEO and creative director gave some insight into the process a few days before the festival kicked off.

“We work hand in hand with Tomorrowland’s in-house 3D, creative and development teams to build a compelling, immersive, user-friendly, but also highly premium experience,” he said. “We are building a web-based experience and we are all really pushing the boundaries of what can effectively be done in a web browser. Our biggest challenge – besides being an obvious enormous technical challenge – is making sure festival visitors will be able to feel they are being part of something larger than their computer and their internet connection.

“People won’t only be immersed in Tomorrowland’s new universe, but they will also be able to communicate with other festival visitors. I can proudly say that we are setting new standards for web-based online music experiences, pushing the boundaries of the latest technology that is available, but on the other hand making sure that the platform is even working on a device that is a couple of years old.”

6. Zoomtopia

Right around the time Zoom was cementing itself as a must-have technology tool, New Yorkers Larry and Toby Milstein had an idea: Throw a charity gala using the booming video platform. So they did just that. Enter, Zoomtopia.

“(It) had all the trimmings of a real-life ball,” wrote Vogue’s Lilah Ramzi, who attended the early-April event. “There was a well-designed invitation, a guest list, performances, signature cocktails, a host committee, and charity — 100 percent of ticket sales went directly to World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Response Fund and the International Medical Corps.”

Before the event began, Ramzi spoke with the Milsteins about the idea and what to expect. “This is kind of uncharted territory,” said Larry Milstein, “so we’re trying to innovate in the constraints that we have and figure out how to make Zoomtopia feel like an occasion people are a part of together … and to try and transpose the environment of an event into the virtual space.”

Ramzi noted that the morning after the gala, the Milsteins told her that the money raised had already exceeded $20,000, while the event itself cost nothing to put together.

7. The Virtual Estate Experience

One of the most unique virtual event examples on this list, Quintessa’s Virtual Estate Experience brings you to the Quintessa Estate vineyard in Napa Valley, California for a one-of-a-kind tour. The tour is hosted via Zoom and features a private tasting of wines that are sent to registrants prior to the experience.

“I had been wishing for an in-person getaway for a visit, but this worked nicely as a substitute,” one TripAdvisor user wrote. “The gathering was professionally organized with tasting kits available for the ‘at home’ experience. … This was not a perfect substitute for the in-person glass pavilion tasting experience (which is fabulous), but it was a great distraction from COVID-19 distancing. Thanks for the creativity!”

8. Cvent CONNECT Virtual

Cvent’s annual conference went virtual for the first time in late August, and it was a massive success. But what makes this one of the more unique virtual event examples we’ve seen is that the event itself was hosted on Cvent’s newly-released product, the Virtual Attendee Hub. The platform was designed to power all types of events and provide organizations with a single solution to run their entire events program, so the fact that potential customers were seeing it used in real time was a win-win.

The event drew more than 42,000 registrants — a massive increase from the 4,500 people who attended the 2019 event in person in Las Vegas. In fact, it was the largest gathering of event and hospitality professionals in history.

“Putting our all-new product to the test for the first time by hosting an industry event with more than 42,000 registrants worldwide showed the unwavering confidence we have in both our product and our team,” said Cvent co-founder and CTO, David Quattrone. “We’ve had more than 1,000 technology experts working across the platform to help prepare for not just the successful launch of the Virtual Attendee Hub, but the many other product enhancements we announced at the conference. We knew we wanted to put the Virtual Attendee Hub on display at Cvent CONNECT, and we couldn’t be prouder to have been able to deliver such an impactful virtual event experience to tens of thousands of people around the world.”

Take inspiration from these virtual event examples!

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