Virtual Events – An Evolution

Pandemic aside, there’s no denying that events have changed substantially in recent years. As we plan for the year ahead, we are tasked with reimagining our events to fit the current circumstances. Organizations have been forced to restructure or cancel them entirely. We have quickly had to learn how to effectively turn in-person events into virtual ones. Learning how other organizations have tackled this challenge can offer valuable insights.

Walks, Runs & Rides

This fall we have seen annual walks, runs, and rides take a never-imagined virtual approach.  And with surprising success!

Lauren Holmes, the events manager for our client Boston Medical Center provided us with insight on how she was able to ensure that her team was still able to participate in the Rodman Ride for Kids. Team BMC has participated in The Ride since 2009 and they weren’t  about to let the opportunity to raise money in support of various pediatric programs slip by this year. The Rodman Ride successfully transformed the event into a virtual one where participants could bike, run, swim or choose their own adventure.

Holmes said, “We approached this ride similarly to how we have in past years, recruiting captains from our pediatric programs to help recruit other riders and raise funds for the programs they work in. Since these captains are very busy running pediatric programs in a hospital during COVID, we were worried that they might not have the bandwidth to add something else to their plates. However, we are happy to say that we saw many riders come back again this year, as well as several new additions. The Rodman Ride did a great job of incentivizing riders, which is crucial for a virtual event, and we tried to add excitement to that with some team specific incentives as well.” Participants secured their sponsors and set their own goals while Lauren and her event team made sure that everyone was able to participate with or without a bike, by adding options to choose from such as running, walking, doing lunges, yoga, or even baking cookies. Staying true to ride rituals, the team coordinators also sent out team performance shirts (designed by HGX!) for the participants to wear and sell.

Organizations like BMC have refused to let the pandemic stand in the way of meeting their charity goals. Holmes added that “The Rodman Ride also removed the fundraising minimum expectation this year, which put less of a burden on participants. Overall we are happy with this year’s results and we’ve been able to raise over $95,000 for BMC Pediatrics to date!” Reinventing how the ride was done posed some challenges for the organizers, but it paid off in more ways than imagined.

Top 10 tips and takeaways:

Though virtual events will never completely replace in-person experiences, they do remedy the gap. Here are our top ten tips and takeaways:

  1. Make it personal: In the absence of true face-to-face engagement, creating online event guides and individualized support for each participant can help. Online guides will outline what participants should expect.
  2. Build excitement: Combat ‘zoom fatigue’ with pre-mailers and interactive online components such as a website or an app. Pre-mailers will help ramp up the excitement in the days leading up to the event. Interactive components across platforms, such as a social media scavenger hunt or a twitter campaign can keep participants engaged during the event.
  3. Ensure accessibility: Make sure to send out clear instructions for logging on and navigating interactive elements. Make it as simple and snag-free as possible so you keep them engaged and coming back.
  4. Create a social media page: The page should be specific to the event. Use it for promotion and to keep everyone informed and engaged leading up to, during and after the event. It will also serve as a way to create a lasting ‘legacy’.
  5. Assign team captains: Those who have participated in the past and who can rally and inspire a team tend to make great advocates and team leaders.
  6. Provide options: Make sure to provide lots of different activity options to choose from so there are as few barriers to participation as possible.
  7. Give a team jersey: Send everyone team apparel to wear while doing their activities, just as they would if the event was in person. Branded team gear fosters unity and camaraderie and promotes your event long after it is over.
  8. Incentivize participants: Offer an incentive for referring friends and colleagues by using specially selected commemorative branded merchandise as the reward.
  9. Reward milestones: Set goals and milestones and reward people for reaching them by using social shoutouts and badges to recognize fund raising levels.
  10. Implement post-event touchpoints: Don’t miss the opportunity to keep the momentum going. Use social media to stay engaged, for example, ask participants to post a picture sharing a key takeaway from the event or wearing branded team merchandise. Make sure to create a unique hashtag they can use.


Learn more about Team BMC here.

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