How to Engage Guests Before Your Virtual Event

Part of our Virtual Fundraising Event and Gala series, view more articles here – Virtual Fundraising Events

Fundraising season is looking a little different this year, as more nonprofits than ever have turned to holding virtual events.

And it’s presenting some new challenges—without the opportunity to connect with your would-be bidders in person, how do you get the word out about your upcoming event? How do you build the excitement and anticipation?

What’s a virtual event? Learn More Here
A virtual event isn’t restricted by a physical venue—the bidding experience available at a typical auction can be enjoyed from anywhere, as long as guests have an internet connection.

Remember that much of your audience is stuck at home, and many people miss the thrill of dressing up, going out, and socializing with friends. Embrace it! Your virtual event is a great opportunity for isolated attendees to enjoy the excitement and magic of a night out… all from home.

1. Create a #hashtag for the event so all your guests can stay in touch.

Who’s coming to the event? Who’s looking forward to the big night? This can help make your virtual event feel more like the social gathering that it usually is.

2. Contests work wonders in spreading the word.

People love to win stuff! Offer an enticing prize on your organization’s social media account. Use entries to get people talking—for example, ask contestants to follow, use the event #hashtag, and tag three friends.

3. Who’s “best dressed”?

The ritual of getting all dolled up is part of the allure of a fancy fundraiser. Build up some of that pre-event anticipation—and set the mood for giving—by encouraging guests to dress to the nines (at home!) just as if they were going out for the night. Encourage them to share photos using the event #hashtag, so guests can complement each other’s exciting new looks!


Partner up with a local boutique to promote great items from their store, and offer a prize for the best-dressed guest.

4. You don’t have to give up the food just because guests are participating from home.

If you’ve already paid for catering, your catering company may be able to offer those pre-paid meals for takeout instead, so guests can pick up their dinner before the event begins. This works well with local restaurants, too! Great food is one of the best ways to bring people together, even at a distance.

5. Keep the drinks!

This is a great opportunity to partner with a local winery and see what you can do to support each other. Ask about offering discounted bottles of wine that guests can come and pick up before the virtual event starts—and enjoy at home.

6. Already booked a bartender for the night?

Instead of serving, your bartender could virtually walk guests through the steps of making a signature cocktail at home. Many local bars and restaurants are now selling individual servings of cocktail mixes, so all guests need to do is add their own liquor to make a fancy specialty drink. Encourage guests to share their own fun drink recipes to keep the community spirit alive!

7. Your guests can still groove!

Music plays a big part in setting the mood and tone of an event. Have you already booked a DJ for the night? Request a playlist or stream that guests can listen to while they browse auction items—or create your own, and promote it leading up to the event.

8. Remember to keep things interesting.

It can be tough to pay attention to a stream for an hour, even with the right atmosphere. Your emcee should treat the virtual audience as if they were sitting there in person. Try punctuating the virtual event with short, exciting, or funny video clips. And don’t forget to show off the excellent items available in your online auction!

9. Try polls to keep audience participation going.

What was everyone’s favorite cocktail that night? Who was best dressed? What great auction item did you win?

Most importantly, engage with your audience to ensure they continue watching the event stream and bidding on auction items throughout the night.

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