Hosting Memorable Virtual Events

I’ve been thinking about this topic lately, because I recently wrote a blog post for Zulily with tips on hosting a virtual baby shower. (Speaking of baby showers…if you’ll be hosting one of those soon — either virtual or in person — here are some shower favor ideas that guests can actually enjoy after the event!) Though I haven’t had the opportunity to host an especially significant virtual event during the pandemic (yet!), it did get me thinking about what makes for a successful event in that format.

We did have Maggie’s third birthday party on Zoom back in March, but that was 1) VERY early on in the pandemic, before these things were normal and 2) a 3-year-old party, so the attention span was a bit limited. 🙂 But my mom and a friend of hers co-hosted a bridal shower for the friend’s daughter that was a huge hit, and it reminded me of the importance of really thinking these things through and prepping accordingly.

So anyway, if you’ll be hosting a virtual event that you really want to make special and memorable, I thought I’d share a handful of tips that should help it come together well:

  1. Map it out. This takes me back to our wedding planning days, when our caterer (he was so great and went far beyond the duties of caterer!) suggested we put together a script of not just the wedding itself but the whole day. We charted when bridesmaids would arrive for hair and makeup, who would be at the venue to supervise set-up, who would bring suitcases from the hotel to the venue for the wedding party, etc. Was it very Type A? Yes, it was. Did it help the day go extremely smoothly because everyone knew what needed to be happening when and ensured we’d thought through the scenarios of the day? Yep, it sure did. Do the same for your virtual event, including pre-event elements like invitations and sending out any activities or favors to the attendees prior. You’ll be so glad you did!
  2. Do a good job with pre-event communication. Send out digital invitations with the link to the event clearly listed, and if there are instructions the attendees should be aware of (e.g., send your gifts to the guest of honor’s home by a certain date or be on the lookout for something in the mail from the host), include those details, too. You might also want to include a quick 101 tip sheet on how to access the event for attendees who might be less than confident when it comes to technology.
  3. Give the hosts and guest(s) of honor clear roles. Who will be introducing the attendees? Is that the guest of honor’s job? And who will be kind of the emcee of the event, helping to move things along throughout the event? Make sure you’ve assigned those responsibilities beforehand.
  4. Remember that there are parts that aren’t at all like an in-person event. For example, small talk between two party attendees can’t happen in a virtual setting in the same way it can in an in-person one, so as host it will fall to you to kind of move the conversation along in a group-oriented way. Be ready for that!
  5. Include an activity or two. No, this doesn’t have to be a cringe-worthy shower game or anything, but incorporating a couple of activities will keep the event lively, help attendees have a role in the event, and allow the event to last a bit longer. You can send out things in advance for a game, you can have the guest of honor unwrap gifts during the event, you can all go around and share a piece of life advice for the guest (make sure attendees are aware of this before the event!), etc.

If you’ve hosted a virtual event over the past few months, I’d love to know other tips you used to make it a success!

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