Virtual events make money (just like everything else that’s good on the internet).

Sometimes it can be unclear what the virtual event world is selling. There’s no swag, or convention halls, or continental breakfasts (unless you own a waffle maker). But in reality, virtual events offer tangible, authentic, and highly useful services. All of which attendees can purchase instantly online. Here’s our forecast for all the best virtual merchandise that you can offer at your next event.

Sell a service
Coaching and subscriptions.

Apple Watch Advertisement showing people doing yoga, running, cycling, and rowing

It all starts with a good coach…

After enough time at home (and maybe rewatching Breaking Bad for the third time) everyone starts to look for something a little more productive in the virtual world. Think Peloton, Apple Fitness, Headspace…  The point is, people have some time right now to catch up on skills — and they are willing to pay for good services. Given this, we recommend offering virtual coaching sessions led by keynote speakers and panelists. Coaching is a tangible service. It has a clear goal and value. And most importantly, it feels good to improve at stuff… right after one more episode of Breaking Bad, of course. 

GIF of the Netflix opening sequence: Big Red N zooms in to become a mix of colors

Subscription based events

Yes, we’re talking about organizing more frequent virtual events. And yes, we know virtual events are stressful enough to set up. And lots of days of work. And there’s hours and hours of content to sort through. But hear us out. Think of your event as a subscription service. Like Netflix, Hulu… all that. And instead of one big event a year, consider organizing multiple, smaller events, spaced out, and paid for by attendees, at quarterly, monthly, or maybe even weekly intervals. Things are uncertain right now. And there’s some comfort in knowing an event will happen at regular frequency. Especially if this event can keep people connected and updated on industry news. And a bonus: the more frequently you do virtual events, the shorter they can be! 

Everything exclusive.
Shoutouts, premiers, and boutique experiences.

Bill Gates sitting on an in person presentation stage, FaceTiming a man that is being projected onto an LED screen

The keynote speaker shoutout.

One thing that people love buying is something fun for someone else. This is why apps like Cameo, which allow users to buy their friends shout-out videos from celebrities, have taken off recently. Assuming you have some keynote speakers that are up for it, it could be a lot of fun to sell inspirational gift videos that attendees can buy for each other. Maybe a friend or a co-worker, or someone they haven’t seen for years. Or better yet, someone they just met at the virtual event. Gift videos from speakers or vendors are a good way to send something meaningful to someone. And maybe even a little silly. Which are sometimes the best gifts anyway.

The Trail Running Virtual Film Festival GIF montage of people hiking, running, and enjoying nature.

Be the only game in town.

The distribution of movies, documentaries, plays, and really any kind of performance or art is pretty up in the air. Film festivals (like the Virtual Trail Running Film Festival pictured above) are selling tickets to virtual movie premiers outside of major streaming systems like Hulu, Amazon, and Netflix. Live music and museums have also gone virtual. The point is, all of these things need distribution. They need an event to align with and keep the economy of events going. There may not be a direct parallel to your virtual event and the next Batman or Fast and Furious movie, but there might be a documentary or an indie film that you can align with for an exclusive, virtual premiere. And that could be a pretty cool thing.

Shia Labeouf and Brad Pitt on a virtual call with another actor

The boutique experience

One thing we noticed with the recent virtual reading of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, was that everyone on the screen was completely engaged and having a blast. And it got us thinking that maybe that’s all a virtual event has to be. Organizers might want to consider arranging a smaller event like this. Where everyone plays a part on screen. Possibly for a single business, or a small group from past event goers — with significantly more speaker, vendor, and attendee engagement. Basically, the goal is to create a stellar, boutique experience, for just a handful of people. If you can do that, word will travel, and your next event will sell itself.

GIF of a man playing Pokemon Go with a real life Squirttle with him

Sell some sunshine.

So much of virtual events is about looking at screens, video feeds, and talking heads. And all that stuff matters for sure. But one thing that we know people would definitely buy – is a good excuse to get away from the computer. This might take a little out of the box thinking, but we can envision a virtual event that people can enjoy fully outdoors. Walking around. Listening on headphones. Or texting. Maybe even AR. Like Pokemon GO meets TED talks… All we know is that the brain works better when it gets some movement. And especially some sunshine.

Sell an experience, any experience

When we think about what sells at a virtual event, it all comes down to unique experiences. Like a virtual pep-talk from a keynote speaker. Or an immersive outdoor nature walk. It’s about selling something that feels original, useful, and a little surprising. Which is really what we want out of any event.

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