STEP BY STEP PLANNING GUIDE FOR VIRTUAL EVENTS
STEP 1: Design Your Event
It can be helpful to approach the design of a virtual event in the same way you would a live event. Ask yourself questions such as:
- What is the purpose or goal of this event?
- Who is the target audience?
- How many attendees do you expect?
- Create an agenda to ensure that a virtual event can successfully convey your message or answer the questions you are posing.
- What is the best format and length of the event?
- Best practice alert: Keep virtual events to no more than 2 hours and consider spreading longer events over multiple days.
- How long will you engage your attendees?
- Best practice alert: You might consider a few different options to keep your audience engaged. Consider encouraging audience participation through the hand raise, chat, poll, or Q&A features or shared screen features.
- These decisions will inform your next steps.
STEP 2: Choose Your Date(s) Carefully
Do your dates conflict with a major College event? Not Sure? Visit the Colby Events Calendar and Academic Calendar for dates to avoid. Or call the staff at campus events at x4735 for additional assistance.
Be thoughtful when determining the start time of your virtual event. For instance, if you are considering a “virtual brown bag event” at 12:00 noon – are most of your attendees on the East Coast? If not, you might want to re-think the event and timing.
STEP 3: Build Your Team
Who are the key players producing your virtual event?
Best practice alert: Besides the speaker or panelists, it is advisable to have a “supporting cast” of three or more assistants for any virtual event.
The Technical host. This person will be responsible for technical aspects of your event.
The Technical Co-host(s). A backup to the host with access to similar technical controls as the host, but with attention to attendees during the event.
Breakout Room moderators/Scribe. If including Breakout Rooms in your event (only available on the Zoom meeting platform), these moderators will facilitate a productive discussion. This may or may not be your event speakers/panelists. You may also wish to consider assigning a scribe for note-taking.
Meeting Moderators/Speakers. By building a skilled event production team, speakers will be empowered to give their full attention to engaging attendees with content.
STEP 4: Determine Technology Needs
Start by consulting this Zoom Resources guide from Information Technology Services (ITS) for an overview of Zoom and setting up an account. Then, determine whether a meeting, webinar or livestream is most appropriate for your event using this Zoom Webinars and Large Meetings Overview.
All Colby staff, faculty, and student Zoom accounts support independent hosting of Zoom meetings as an event platform. To record, livestream, host a webinar, or request additional support, please contact us at [email protected] or complete an Event Request.
STEP 5: Adjust Zoom Settings & Controls to Protect Your Event
Careful consideration of Zoom settings is critical to a successful event.
Best practice alert: Understanding Zoom settings helps to assure a smooth-operating virtual event Without the proper settings, your event could be compromised by uninvited participants.
Colby ITS also provides Zoom support and is continually updating their resource page and Zoom security recommendations. We encourage you to continue to check back to those links frequently.
Note: not all settings can be adjusted through the Zoom Chrome extension. To review and change your account’s settings, access Zoom through the colby.zoom.us portal.
STEP 6: Choose a Registration Platform
To further enhance the security of your event and reduce the risk of Zoom “bombing”, only provide Zoom access links to registered or invited participants.
Best practice alert: Consider scheduling reminder emails as your event approaches. If you are using visual components like slides and polls or facilitating Q&A, make sure to encourage attendees to join by computer and not by telephone in your pre-event communication. Otherwise, attendees may be disappointed by missing out on key content.
STEP 7: Advertise Your Event
Share event details according to your audience. If the event is open to the full Colby community, or more broadly to the wider public audience, register your event with the Colby Event Calendar and advertise on ColbyNow.
Consider sharing events on social media channels, whether for defined groups, or events open to the Colby community. For more information, email [email protected]
STEP 8: Prepare Your Speakers
When inviting panelists and speakers to participate, obtain permission to use images—this will help you promote the event to attendees and use photos and videos to share event content when the event is over.
If applicable, gather and organize content for a presentation, creating slides with the College or department logo when appropriate (consult the College’s policies on Colby name and logo use).
Best practice alert: Consider creating an introductory slideshow with audio (upbeat music playing) that will be available for early attendees to view before the event begins. The slide show can provide an opportunity to brand the event, welcome attendees, provide instructions, list speaker bios and an event agenda.
Schedule a practice session with speakers and panelists to test software, applications, and your Zoom settings and controls. Zoom advises: Schedule at least 30 minutes with your presenters and stakeholders a few days prior to your event to review the technology, discuss roles and tasks, and finalize your content to make sure that your day-of is as stress-free as possible.
STEP 9: Produce Your Event
Just as in an in-person event, a little preparation goes a long way. Key players should receive a briefing and agenda at least 24 hours in advance. On the day of your event, consider having the host (the person responsible for the technical components of your event) sign in 60 minutes in advance to confirm settings*, controls, and the video/audio connection. Speakers, panelists, and co-hosts should connect at least 20 minutes prior to test their connection, find the best lighting, and review the agenda.
Best practice alert: Advise speakers, panelists, etc. to avoid white and super dark clothing. Bright colors show up best over zoom. They should also avoid wrinkly or “floppy” fabrics and aim for crisp, textured fabrics instead.
*If your Zoom settings have been set to mute participants upon entry, disable screen sharing or video – don’t forget to give your presenters back their permissions. You can do this in the Manage Participants window.
STEP 10: Follow-up With Attendees
After the event, use Zoom to generate an attendee report and follow up to share recordings or resources that were discussed, conduct a survey to collect feedback from attendees that may help you plan future virtual events, and/or market future events.