Virtual Events Planning Guide

Virtual events have clear advantages over in person live events such as higher attendance rates, measurable results, and lower costs to name a few. Whether you are planning a new virtual event or transforming an in person event into a virtual one, use the following guide to ensure a successful event!

If you need additional guidance in planning your virtual event, please contact the Office of University Events at [email protected] or 718-990-6365.

To design your event, determine the following event details:

  • Goal and purpose of your event: Create a statement outlining your event goal. This statement can guide you throughout the planning process, refer back to it and update it to keep on track. The virtual event should offer attendees a unique experience that will keep them engaged for the duration of the online event.
  •  Target audience: Determine who will benefit or be interested in attending your virtual event. Include constituent groups who normally would not be able to attend a live in person event due to geographic location, or cost restraints.
  • Event Format: Determine the type of event best suited to meet your goals. Considerations may include: a lecture, a panel discussion, presentation, Q&A options, a conference or virtual fair, a main event or introduction session that breaks into more concentrated material between the audience and presenter(s).
  • Event Platform: Determine which digital platform will allow you to interact best with your audience. Determine if your event will be pre-recorded, live or hybrid (pre-recorded with live components). Take into consideration if you will have audience visible and unmuted during event.
  • Event Name: Determine the event name which will play a key role when marketing your event.

To determine the best date and time for your event:

  • Date: Choose your date wisely. Check against university academic and event calendars to avoid scheduling conflicts and confirm your program participants, co-hosts and moderator are available.
  • Time: Your virtual event should be kept under 2 hours. Consider multiple day events if your content will take more than two hours and can be broken up into sections. Also consider the audience’s time zone when scheduling your virtual event.

Once you determine the digital format needed for your event, you will need to work with your Marketing and Communications liaison and technology support team.

  • The University prefers the use of Webex Events for live virtual events. If you need assistance using Webex, you can view articles here.  
  • If you will have a pre-recorded event or pre-recorded components, complete this Resource Request Form and submit to your Marketing and Communications liaison.
  • Host: This person is responsible to begin and end the event, record the event and is responsible to manage the different technical aspects during the event on WebEx.
  • Co-Host(s): A backup to the host who has similar technical access as the host.
  • Moderator: Welcomes guests, reviews housekeeping rules, introduces panelists, speakers, presenters, moderates the Q&A, Chat and addresses anyone who “raises hand” or gives feedback.
  • Panelists, Presenters, Speakers: Present the content to the audience.

Initial Invitation: Invite your target audience.

  • Send your invitation via e-mail from the Webex event you created.
  • Send a formal and formatted e-mail to your target audience.
  • Promote the event via social media, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, if you want to reach a broader audience.

Things to consider and/or include in your communications:

  • The invitation should include the link to the Webex event and the password to enter the event.
  • If you determine you would like your guests to submit questions, or slides prior to the event, include a link or e-mail address they can reply to.

Website:  

  • Post the event on your department’s or school’s/college’s webpage, items should include a summary of the event, the registration link, and a bio of your presenters or panelists, where applicable.

University-wide Event Calendar:  

  • Post your event on the University-wide calendar, TeamUp, and include the registration link.

Reminder Invitation:

  • Send a reminder e-mail to your targeted audience letting them know that they can still register for the event.

Follow-up Communications: Can be set-up through Webex to automatically go out.

  • Between a week and three days prior to the event: send a Reminder email to registered attendees which includes the link to the event.
  • A half-hour before the event, send an Email reminder to registered attendees letting them know the event is about to begin.

Post Event Communications:

  • Thank you (for attending and your interest) communications to those who attended and registered for the event where you can share the slides/presentation and include a link to the recording of the event.
  • Survey – if you want feedback regarding the event or want to ask attendees what future events they are interested in, include a survey option following the event.

Webex Events allows for you to manage registration for your attendees.

Once the registrant has replied, you have two options on what happens next:

  • You can set up "needing registrant approval", where you can accept, reject or indicate a registrant’s reply as tentative.
  • The other option is not to require approval, and send an automatic reply to the registrant with a link to the event. The message sent to registrants can be customized when creating the Webex event.

You can accept, reject or indicate a registrants reply as tentative or an automatic reply can be sent to the registrant with a link to the event. The message sent to registrants can be customized when creating the Webex event.

You can download and save your registration information in an MS Excel document. Obtaining and saving participants information can be used for post communications, sharing content, and creating connections with attendees.

Now that your guests have been invited and have registered to your event, you will need to work on the content for your event.

You will now build the structure and content of your event. You can create a run of show and script outlining the roles of the moderator, host/co-host, presenters etc.

Provide your moderator with a run of show and script including housekeeping information they will need to announce on the day of the event. View housekeeping sample. The script should also include presenter bios, closing remarks, and a call to action if applicable.

Provide your presenter with a template and / or images for the event that can be used during the presentation as well as a copy of the script and run of show.

Schedule a practice session with the moderator, host, co-host and presenters one week prior to the event to test software, applications, settings and controls. Run through sharing of screens and presentations to ensure all participants are comfortable with the script and flow of the event.

Create and review a back-up plan in case of technical difficulty on the day of the event. Prepare an activity, conversation, ice breaker to keep participants entertained during the time the problem is fixed. Also, have a back-up plan ready in case the event can’t take place. Include verbiage of both scenarios in the script for the moderator to use should the need arise.

Tips to have a successful event:

  • Use a wired connection when possible, instead of WIFI, to ensure there are no interruptions during your event.
  • Close all unused apps, browser windows or programs on your device.
  • Make sure all programs being used during event and apps are up to date.
  • Test your audio connections. Try to use an external mic or lavalier and separate headphones. Using a laptop mic should be a last resort as they are designed to pick up extra noise.
  • Test your camera placement and lighting to ensure the audience has the best view.
  • Program participants should be lit brighter than your background. You should avoid harsh light and shadows in the background.
  • Clothing – wear clothing that will contrast with your background so that you don’t blend in, avoid green clothing if you will use a virtual background, avoid small prints, stripes and busy patterns.

Tips for Host and Presenters:

  • Screen Sharing: Have your screen share content open and displayed at full screen size, ready to present before the program begins. It is recommended to share your app window, pdf or image, not your screen since you will display your full desktop. Close or hide email windows, and anything with sensitive information and browser tabs.
  • Turn off screen notifications and messenger services. Turn off notifications noises on your device and other devices around your setup.
  • Double check special settings are configured correctly:
    • Allow or disable attendee chat, Q&A function, raise hand function, feedback
    • Allow or disable participants to start video and mute on entry
    • Allow or disable the ability for participants to share screen
    • Allow or disallow multiple screen shares at the same time

Forty-five minutes to an hour before the start of the event:

  • Host, Co-Host, Presenters, Panelists, Speakers, enter the session in practice mode.
  • Test screen share and remote control sharing
  • Test breakout rooms
  • Review host controls

Fifteen minutes before the start of the event:

  • Run a final audio webcam video and content sharing test
  • Monitor Q&A and chat for technical concerns from attendees
  • Check e-mails and Webex for last minute registration requests or log on concerns

Five minutes before the start of the event:

  • Mute all panelists/presenters until their presentations begin
  • Moderator ready to welcome attendees and let them know the program will start soon
  • Screen share a title slide and music as attendees enter and log on

Event start time:

  • Make sure presenters are ready
  • Start recording
  • Moderator to begin with welcome and housekeeping rules.

Recording:

  • Download the recording
  • Trim the recording and upload to St. John’s YouTube channel through your Marketing and Communications liaison.
  • Add captioning to recording

Communications:

  • Send out thankyou e-comm
  • Share Slides/Presentation and Recording
  • Request attendees to complete a survey, if applicable. Survey can also be set-up prior to event and sent to attendees following presentation. 

Q&A and Chats

  • Download Q&A and Chats from event
  • Share questions and information with presenters
  • Presenters to respond to attendees