Expert Tips for Virtual Incentive Events

Expert Tips for Virtual Incentive Events

by Lynne Coyne

Recently, the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) held its annual SITE Week. One of the panel discussions was titled “How to Deliver Meaningful Incentive Events in this Digital Realm.”  

Lynne Coyne, CMP, CITP, manager of event services at Intuitive Conferences + Events and active SITE member, distilled the strategies and ideas that came out of the discussion into an article that originally ran in Motivate, published by the SITE Foundation. The story explores the challenges to virtual engagement and offers tips for overcoming them.

At this session, the panel discussed the challenges of creating ‘the wow’, as well as giving tips and ideas on how to engage and create meaning in the digital space.

The Challenges

A big challenge with creating real meaning or engagement in the digital space is assumption. Below are 4 of the big ones we hear a lot.

  1. People think that it is uncomfortable and awkward and that by missing the physical touch you cannot create the personal touch.
  2. Clients do not feel that they will get their ROI (return on investment) and that many are just not comfortable with the technology.
  3. Your audience is not tech savvy, they will not be able to figure out the platform.
  4. Digital is going to be so much cheaper as you do not have the hotel, food and beverage or travel expenses.

Of course, it’s not easy or plain sailing. We can certainly sympathise with presenters. When you are presenting digitally, and everyone’s camera is turned off, it is hard to get reactions or read the crowd.  However, that concern, as well as other assumptions, can be easily addressed. There are a number of statistics, tactics and elements that can be shared and instituted to combat these.

The Solutions…. Tips, Tricks and Ideas

While there is merit in some of these assumptions, it is nevertheless possible to deliver a meaningful event digitally. During our discussions our esteemed panel and participants brought forth some great ideas to create an exceptional incentive experience. Here are just a few ideas from our discussions:

Digital Tricks

  1. Make the event opt in so that people are all on camera. It is too easy these days to opt out. Interactions are more meaningful when you can see each other. Push people to get out of their shell.
  2. Keep the event lasting longer through communication and engagement before, during and after the event.
  3. Change the wording used instead of webinar refer to it as a discussion so that people know their participation is required. Also tell people the expectations around cameras, audio and interaction prior to the meeting.
  4. Realise that now you can go anywhere in the world, with no restrictions on location or time. Embrace that freedom!
  5. Encourage your attendees to step away from the “office” and take their device outside onto patio or somewhere else different.

Injecting Meaning

  1. Get creative and forge new ways of thinking. It’s time to create new partnerships and to change the format of the incentive. We have all done the standard agenda with galas, activities, and education but now we can shake things up. Take a risk.
  2. Use virtual gifting to increase the value of the incentive to the participants. Keep the exclusive gift experience you would normally have on site, but in a digital format.
  3. Make the experience tie into your destination. Use DMCs and CVBS and see what is happening in the area that you were originally going to go to. For example, the Van Gogh exhibit in Toronto, or virtual sailing in the Caribbean. Above all, create exclusive and customised experiences.
  4. Include family or companions in your communication. Involve others to help build excitement for your experience.
  5. Build networking right into the session. Make it engaging.

CSR Digitally

CSR is one of the most important new trends for Incentive Travel. This can also be done digitally and instil genuine meaning into a digital incentive. Some ideas below!

  • Digital tree planting in your neighbourhood
  • Partner with a give back
  • Use technology to show your impact. Reuse to inspire.
  • Ship materials to create kits for local organizations
  • Regional incentives- give food to local organizations

The Reality

Listen and Be Understanding

We need to remember what stakeholders are dealing with right now and cater to their needs to ensure buy in. Use data and the back end of social media to get into your audiences mind and understand what drives them better.


It is our role as incentive travel professionals to educate our clients and stakeholders on how we can achieve the same goals and even more in the digital realm. Their return on investment has the potential to be even greater as, given you are no longer limited by the size of the venue, you can expand your audience. You can create new customers and new opportunities.


While we need to provide education to our stakeholders, we also need to keep our skills updated. Our roles are shifting as well, as ‘Event Producer’ is added to our repertoire. Keep relevant (and sane!) by getting support from partnerships and embracing education opportunities from associations such as SITE.


Overall, is it possible to create meaning in the digital realm? The resounding answer as we have seen is YES. If we can capture the world’s attention and have people glued to their TVs watching events like the Olympics, then of course we can create the same emotional connection with our incentive experiences. It is important now more than ever to remember that everything must be intentional. We must use the new word ‘coopetition’ and work together to rebuild and to grow.

Some closing advice from our panel:

“Don’t be scared. Rely on each other and partnerships”


“Slow down, strategy will drive everything, be empathetic and top into each other”


“Be courageous, get scrappy, think outside the box and just keep going”



Meet our SITE Week Ideation Session Scribe:

Lynne Coyne has 15 years experience in the hospitality and meeting industry, including the last 13 years in corporate incentive event planning. Currently Lynne is the manager of event services with Intuitive Conferences + Events (I.C.E.), a boutique event planning firm in Canada. Lynne strives for excellence in all she does and has a passion for customer service.

 The original discussion was held at SITE Week, under the leadership of SITE thought leaders – Roxann Hendrickson (VP Experience Design and Marketing at Hawaii Meetings + Events) , Pam Shepherd (Former National Director of Hotel Sales for the Los Angelas Tourism & Convention Bureau) and Hillary Smith (Executive Creative Director for PRA Business Events).

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