How to Think Outside the Zoom Box

Virtual attendees might look like they’re stuck inside a box. But with a little creativity, they don’t have to feel that way.


Digital events aren’t going anywhere. But that doesn’t mean that all meetings must descend into a Zoom gloom. Whatever platform you’ve chosen, the key is to bring your virtual event to life by incorporating live elements that beat the monotony of staring at a screen.

Virtual attendees might look like they’re stuck inside a box. But with a little creativity, they don’t have to feel that way. Transport both your event and its attendees to a place far beyond the login window with these suggestions.

Don’t Just Hit Send; Send it in the Mail

Thinking outside the Zoom box doesn’t mean you have to do away with boxes entirely. Remember the last time you ripped open a present or tore the packaging from a long-awaited online order? Receiving a message in your inbox is not as special as opening an envelope. Consider delivering physical invitations beforehand or having a package of branded items shipped to participants as a follow-up.

Remember when attending a conference meant free lunch? You can still cater to attendees, even if they aren’t all in the same room. Have a meal delivered to thank the group for their time and participation. 

Take Breaks

Nothing encourages Zoom gloom more than sitting at a desk all day. Include activities that get your attendees out of the chair and moving around. Get creative! Consider how yoga or other exercise breaks can help attendees relax in the comfort of their home, rather than feeling stifled in a conference-like setting.

Attention spans in virtual settings are even shorter than they are in-person. Even though your guests are free to log on and off whenever they want, schedule breaks to allow your audience time to process information, regroup and take breaks for things like lunch. Another tactic is to plan content in small bites. Consider taking a full day of programming and breaking it up into two hours of content per day, spread out over multiple days. This will allow attendees to attend the sessions that interest them the most and best fit their schedules. 

Make it Memorable

The right performer can actually make a meeting more productive and memorable. Consider an appearance from a well-known speaker, comedian or celebrity moderator as a way to engage, educate, motive and inspire attendees. Or, sprinkle in some unexpected fun and magic to your virtual meeting with a guest appearance from a professional magician. Tapping into talent from outside the leadership of your organization sets the stage for your attendees to listen to a message more carefully.

Include interactive participation opportunities for digital attendees throughout the event, rather than forcing them to sit through a one-sided viewing. Find opportunities to offer a personal connection whenever possible. If your event features a live-streamed performance, give guests a chance to address the performer. Or, if your meeting will feature presentations from key leaders, let participants ask questions and help direct the discussion.

Get to Know Your Audience 

Audience members want to participate. They want to network. And they want to learn. It may seem more difficult to encourage participation in a virtual setting, but in many ways, it can be easier. You can gain valuable insights and promote productive discourse before, during and after your virtual meeting.

Before the meeting, survey what attendees want to discuss. Then, allow audience members to share their thoughts with each other and the speaker via text or audio by asking relevant and engaging questions throughout the conference. After the event, follow-up with a wrap-up that includes a thank you for your time and attention, as well as relevant resources and appropriate calls to action. 

Don’t let virtual boxes constrain your participants and keep them from networking. Plan time for attendees to break out into small group discussions where they can focus on topics they are mutually interested in. Build in time to interact directly with vendors or sponsors through scheduled video conferencing or email lists. Consider setting up a version of speed dating to help connect the parties.

The ultimate form of Zoom gloom is feeling like a meeting was a waste of time. Keep your meeting objectives and purpose at the forefront of planning. Digital platforms offer a unique opportunity to host memorable meetings that reach far beyond the screen. Don’t miss your chance to shine, both inside and outside the Zoom box.

Joanne Brooks is the president of Creative Impact Group, a full-service global production company that specializes in live, virtual and hybrid events. With an extensive background in show business, Joanne coordinates seamless events that bring together talent, technology, marketing and design. With 40 years of experience, Joanne understands that while the platforms might change, entertainment remains at the core of a successful event.