Online events

Digital event formats: These are the 9 most important

Since 2020, online events have become an integral part of our everyday lives. But which formats actually exist and which format is best for a specific use case? We have summarized the most important ones.

Table of contents

Digital event formats refer to the various types of online events that can be held using the internet and digital technologies.

These events can range from small webinars, corporate events and online workshops to large virtual conferences and trade shows. The use of digital event formats has increased dramatically in recent years because they are convenient, cost-effective, and reach a global audience.

Online conferences offer the advantage of location-independent participation, are more cost-effective and reach a larger target group. Face-to-face conferences, on the other hand, offer a more personal experience, more direct interaction and a better networking experience. The choice of the right format ultimately depends on the objectives, budget and needs of the target group.

What are the virtual formats?

The choice of format depends on who the event is aimed at. There are formats that are especially suitable for communication with employees, such as 

  • Workshops
  • Town Hall Meetings or 
  • Virtual team events

For external stakeholders, on the other hand, the following formats are suitable:

  • Panel discussion
  • Keynote
  • (Press) Conferences
  • Virtual general meetings
  • Trade fairs
  • Roadshows
  • virtual showroom
  • Online webinars

Reading Tip: Case Study - How Better Orange hosted the first digital AGM in Germany

Virtual event formats at a glance

1) Webinar

Webinars are online presentations or seminars. They can be used for training, product demonstrations, or other types of informative presentations. Webinars can be attended by a large number of people, but are usually more interactive than a pre-recorded video.  

Online webinars are a popular format, especially in event marketing, to generate leads and share content with a large audience: These can be presentations or lectures that can be broadcast live or on demand.

It is also possible to share your own screen to be more specific on certain topics or to integrate certain gamification tools.

Depending on the complexity, it may be advisable to use a virtual event platform instead of tools such as Zoom or Go To Webinar in order to be able to map registration, participant management and webinar within one tool. All-in-one software offers significantly more comprehensive options than pure webinar software.

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Online webinars - the tool for customer retention and reach

2) Virtual conference

Virtual conferences are online events that mimic the format of in-person conferences, with keynote presentations, group discussions, and networking opportunities. They can be attended by large numbers of people from around the world and are often organized around a specific topic or industry.  

They often connect participants from many countries. They may be employees, customers or partners who need to be informed about new products and ideas. Such conferences facilitate exchange across national borders.

Conferences thrive on interactive elements and often have an inspirational character.

By using conference software , manual tasks can be significantly reduced. This leaves more time for the concept and other important tasks.

International conference

3) Live Stream

In a livestream , content is broadcast to a wide audience on the Internet (one to many). Both live and on-demand content can be streamed.

The recordings can be made with a camera as well as in an own studio. There are no limits to the professionalism.

A live streaming platform provides numerous interaction tools for attendees to interact with each other and the speaker.

A livestream via the familiar social media channels is suitable for very simple events. As soon as you want to approach the topic more holistically and focus on the participant experience, you should resort to an online event platform.

4) Online workshops

Online workshops are similar to webinars, but tend to be more hands-on and interactive. They can include breakout sessions, group discussions, and other activities to engage participants. Online workshops can be a good option for training or professional development purposes.  

5) Virtual fair

Trade fairs are events at which companies and organizations present their products or services to potential customers and partners.

An online trade show connects exhibitors and visitors interested in a particular topic.

Virtual trade shows are online events that replicate the experience of an in-person trade show with virtual booths, product demonstrations and networking opportunities.

Compared to real trade fairs, digital trade fairs often involve lower costs because you don't need dedicated staff. Instead, however, the costs for the platform must be taken into account.

Up to now, participants have been able to move around the digital trade show floor with a mouse, for example, or log in using an avatar. Augmented reality and virtual reality solutions are also popular with some organizers.

In the future, the metaverse will likely play a larger role in the implementation of virtual trade shows.

Reading Tip: Event Trends 2022: The future of hybrid events

6) Networking events

Networking events are opportunities for professionals to meet and connect with each other. Virtual networking events can take many forms, such as online happy hours or speed networking sessions.

These events can be a great way to make new contacts or meet with colleagues in a more casual setting.  

7) Online training

Online training is designed to impart knowledge and is used to train employees in a resource-saving manner.

Individual participants can use training software to complete their courses regardless of time and location. Companies can issue automatic certificates and track employee participation.

8) Online Summits

Online summits are large-scale virtual events that bring together experts and thought leaders from a specific industry or field. They often include multiple keynote speakers, panel discussions, and breakout sessions that span several days.  


9) Hybrid events

Hybrid events combine in-person and online components so attendees can choose the format that works best for them. For example, a conference may offer both in-person and virtual registration options, or some sessions may be held in person and others online.  

How to choose the right format?

Which format is most appropriate depends on complexity, number of participants, and target audience, among other factors.

For example, some event platforms have a participant limit for conferences, while livestreams can be more easily hosted for a larger group of people without any technical compromises.

Training is more suitable for internal stakeholders, while livestreams are more likely to be organized for external participants.

The role of interaction options such as live chat and surveys should be considered during concept development, as well as whether a moderator is needed to guide participants through the event and keep them coming back (e.g. through gamification).

Depending on the situation, it may make sense to host a hybrid event instead of an online event. This way, the advantages of both worlds can be used to create an unforgettable experience.


Digital event formats offer a number of benefits for organizations and attendees.

They are convenient and cost-effective as they eliminate the need for travel and accommodation. They also allow organizations to reach a global audience and increase the number of attendees. Webcasts also offer participants the opportunity to engage with the speakers and other attendees through interactive features such as Q&A sessions and chat boxes.  

However, hosting digital events also presents some challenges, such as the need for a reliable Internet connection and the possibility of technical issues. However, with careful planning and the use of high-quality technology, these challenges can be overcome.  

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