Fourth in a series of COVID-19 posts by event organizer Lonnie Somers.

Whether you offer a virtual option, move to a virtual event, or have to cancel the in-person event and move to virtual, there are some great solutions to help you administer a virtual event. Generally, in the past (a whole two months ago!), a virtual event was usually just a way for someone to still support and/or be part of your event. You would allow them to complete the event whenever they wanted (sometimes within some time period of a few weeks), you would ask for them to post or share that they did the event on social media (but truly you didn’t need to verify or care if they did), and you would send them their stuff. They really had no other connection to the event outside of getting their swag and maybe posting on social media.

With the, hopefully short term, increase in virtual events due to cancellations or changing events to be virtual, the goal is to bring as much of the event experience to your participants. You want them to feel connected to you and to their peers in completing and participating in a virtual format. The great news is, that many tech companies in the participatory events space have quickly developed solutions or reformatted their solutions to help do this at very low cost or no cost to you as the event.

So how do you do a virtual event? It really encompasses what we mentioned how a typical virtual event works, except that now there are tools you can use to “bring” your event experience to your virtual participants.

Things to consider or options available:

Select a time frame for your virtual event to be completed in. The beauty of a virtual event is your participant can complete it at anytime or even over several days (such as a half marathon, they could complete it in phases). We generally recommend that you set some period from your original event date (if you can) of no longer than two weeks, but this will be up to you.

Set up a time frame (if applicable) for those that they have to register by certain time frame to guarantee their shirt and medal or other swag (this is also a great way to engage your sponsors by putting their coupons, swag, in the goodie bags) by the original or virtual date of the event. You can ensure those that register after, you can order additional shirts, medals, etc. but they will be fulfilled post virtual once the order has been filled. This helps to control your costs and guessing of needed shirts, medals, etc.

Determine how you will get swag items to participants. Will you mail everything to them? Have a pickup location with a partner (such as a running specialty store, which some are open for curb pickup and might be able to handle handing out people’s goodie bags from their store)? Or combination of both perhaps. (this can be a sponsorship opportunity)

Allow virtual participants to submit their times. There are various ways to do this from some of our peers that cost you nothing at all. Essentially, you or HAL Sports assisting, would upload all participants into the virtual system and that would send them an email to submit their completion of the virtual event. Some have results displays that show (not for awards of course since there is no way to verify a correct time and distance by true timing and course certification measures) who has completed the virtual event. Here are recommended tech peers that have these offerings (again HAL Sports can help set these up for you)

Bring sound messaging and photo collaboration walls to your event. Our wonderful partners at Motigo ( are offering some tools at low or no cost to you during this pandemic. Motigo is an app that essentially runs in conjunction with your participants smart phone and their playlist. Many people run now with their smart phones and listen to music. What the Motigo app does is once they start, it can play messages from you, your announcer, VIP, sponsor, etc. to them as they complete the challenge. For example, once they start, they could hear your announcer sending them off, then at say at each mile, you could have a message played from someone your event/charity supports, or from a celebrity/VIP, from the charity director, etc. You can help bring the meaning and sounds from the typical event to them. The best part is, all these messages are pre-recorded and are played when the person signs into the app and actually starts their virtual run/walk. Some other great features are you can allow the participants friends and family (peers, team members, etc.) send them messages to. This is a great way if you have social teams or fundraising teams as part of your event to encourage each other and create that comradery.

Motigo (as some other solution providers) also have a way for participants to upload photos. You can easily do this too by asking people to upload to a thread you have on social media, but the great think about some of the tech solutions is the ability for everyone involved to see all who are involved. You can see what one of our charity events, The Great Candy Run, did a few years ago with a photo wall. The added feature to this is you can put in phrases for participants to complete with their photo such as: I am running in honor of _______. This can create a very powerful visual to bring everyone together virtually.

Both of these can be a sponsorship opportunity!!!

Consider an event day live video kickoff. If you have typically had a celebration/festival, consider doing an event kickoff with your typical emcees on event day (regardless if the participant will do the virtual run/walk component that day or not) and do it live via zoom, Facebook live, google talk, or other platform that people can join via video. You can do all sorts of things from remembrances, someone singing the national anthem, sharing stories from those that your event/charity supports, recognizing fundraisers, etc.

Create a post virtual event video montage. Collect pictures, video messages, sponsors messages, etc. and create a three (3) to (5) minute video recap of the event. Have your emcees or announcers provide commentary and voice overs. Have a way to recognize and celebrate the virtual event.

Be creative. Think outside the box as a way to make your virtual event creative. Think of what sponsors and vendors usually are at your event. Is there something they provide that they can provide to the virtual participants? Maybe you have a food vendor that usually donates some food to the event. What if everyone that does it virtually gets something free or discounted from them? Or those that have alcohol at your event, perhaps the brewery would donate a free drink at some point, etc. Be creative in how your sponsors and vendors could be part of it.

More posts in this series:

COVID-19 and Events Series Post #1: Current and Likely State for 2020

COVID-19 Event Series #2: What should you be doing to protect your event

COVID-19 Events Series #3: What to consider in cancelling (or postponing) your event

COVID-19 Event Series #4: Considerations for moving to a Virtual Event



We have always been and always will be there for you to support you, your events, and your causes in any way we can. We always have your back and work hard to do all the research, find best practices, and help you navigate all the challenges you may face. We are here to make everything as easy for you as possible and be the experts for you, especially in crisis situations.

We are here to help, and here are some of the offerings we are providing to you under this pandemic at no cost or minimal cost.

Virtual Run Management – we can manage fully your virtual event in all aspects
Virtual Run Fulfillment – we will fulfill all your event packets, mailing, and distribution to participants
Consulting – we can provide additional consulting to your organization on any of the areas we have covered in this guide.
Video Messaging – Lonnie, who announces many events professionally, can record video messaging that can go out to your participants with updates and news about your event.
Virtual Event Announcing/Hosting – Lonnie is available to virtual host/emcee your event with live video, recorded sound, etc.

Need something else? Just drop us a line!!!


Photo by Brian Erickson on Unsplash