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Virtual Event Planning Guide

Questions you'll want to consider:

  • What is the goal of your event?
  • Who are your speakers?
  • Who is your intended audience?
    • What level of engagement and interaction would you like your audience to have with your speakers throughout the event? 
      • Hand raise, chat, poll, Q&A?  
      • Breakout rooms?
  • What will be the format of your event? (lecture, conference, roundtable discussion, reception, announcement) 
  • Do you have budget for ASL interpretation and closed captioning services?
    • Best Practice Tip: Include a question about accessibility requirements in your RSVP form to ensure that you have captured your guests' needs.
  • Best Practice Tip: To keep your audience engaged, do not go past the two-hour time frame in any virtual space. 
  • Is registration required? How will attendees access the event? 
    • Will your event be password protected?
    • What tools/functions will you require to allow for audience engagement?
  • Please note that a Land Acknowledgement must be delivered at the beginning of an event or meeting. The purpose of this is to recognize the Indigenous inhabitants of the land and their continued presence on the lands that are being acknowledged.
    • Refer to the Land Acknowledgement Guide for both an in-person and virtual version of the land acknowledgement and to understand how to affirm the land, tips on pronunciations and more.
  • Refer to the Inclusion Lens Event Management Tool to ensure that from the planning to evaluating stages, your event is designed to involve all peoples.
  • Consult the Sustainable Events Certification Checklist to ensure that you event aligns with York University's sustainability efforts.

When would you like to run your event? Consider factors that will guide you in determining the most ideal date for your event. Visit the York University Events calendar to find out if your event may coincide with any others across campus. 

  • Is this a student focused event?
  • Who are your speakers, what are their availabilities, and will they be located in different time zones?  
  • Do you have international participants? Are there any international holidays to consider? 

Consider the purpose of your event when selecting your virtual event platform. All York University staff, faculty, and active students are eligible for licensed Zoom accounts just by signing in with their Passport York login information. For more information on how to set up your free account, best practices, video tutorials, and general guides please visit the Zoom at YorkU website.  

Only specific University departments own a Zoom Webinar license, for more information on purchasing your own webinar license as well as pricing, please see the Self-managed webinar options and pricing webpage or contact for more information. 

Refer to the Difference between Zoom Pro and Webinar webpage to determine which virtual platform would better suit the needs of your virtual event.

When delivering a virtual event, ensure you have a team that will manage all technical logistics. Within the Zoom platform, the host will have access to all controls and can assign co-hosts to assist. Co-hosts also have access to certain technical functionalities. 

Here are the technical features within the platform that the host can control: 

  • Record button  
    • Do you want to record your event for archival or sharing purposes? 
  • Live stream to an external webpage 
    • Are you live streaming your event to YouTube, Facebook or another external website where the event can be shared and viewed widely
  • Interpretation
    • The host can assign an interpreter from the list of panelists to provide language interpretation throughout your event. 
  • Closed Captioning
    • You may assign a third party closed captioning service to provide live captions, enable auto generated captions, or assign a panelist on the call to manually provide captions.
  • Managing chat, polls and Q&A
  • Access to manage panelists in a webinar 
    • Turn off camera or mic and ask to turn on camera 
    • Promote attendees to panelists or vice versa 
  • Access to manage all attendees
    • Remove disruptive attendees  
    • Allow certain attendees to speak in a webinar 

The co-host(s) have similar access with the exception of being able to live stream and assign interpretation.  

Attendees within a Zoom webinar do not have microphone and video capabilities. However, within a Zoom meeting, all attendees have the same access to enable and disable their own microphones and videos.   

Once you’ve determined whether a Zoom Meeting or Zoom Webinar platform would work best for your event delivery, you have to create and set up your event. 

How to set up your Zoom Webinar

How to set up your Zoom Meeting

Refer to the Virtual Event Toolkit for additional resources and best practices when it comes to setting up your event.

When feasible, it’s important that you schedule a brief rehearsal with your panelists and other key players (tech staff etc.) to review your event rollout (agenda), tech controls, and to ensure that everyone involved is comfortable with their technology and roles for the event day.  

If you are using the Zoom Webinar platform to deliver your virtual event, ensure you have selected “enable practise session” when setting up the event within your account. This will allow all your panelists to meet on the call before broadcasting your event live at which point your attendees will have access to join the call.  

Here are some rehearsal tips you’ll want to apply: 

  • Video clarity and appearance 
    • Is there enough lighting?
      • Sit facing a window, this usually provides a sufficient and visually appealing light source
      • Use a ring light or a lamp that will cast an even amount of light over your face.
    • Is there anything inappropriate in the background?
    • If Zoom backgrounds are in use, are they appearing correctly?
    • Make sure your panelists are sitting in front of their camera at eye level.
  • Microphone volume and clarity
    • To minimize background noise please advise your panelists to use headphones if available, to turn off all appliances and desktop application notifications if possible for the duration of the event.
    • How to disable notifications:
      • On Macs: Toggle on the "Do not Disturb" option which is located in the notification centre at the top right hand corner of your screen.
      • On Windows: Select 'Focus Assist' located in the notification icon on the taskbar and set it to 'Alarms only.'
      • Close your email window to avoid any email notifications from being heard by the audience.
  • WIFI Connectivity:
    • If you are experiencing any issues with your WIFI connection such as poor video quality, frozen screen, or loss of/poor audio quality, try the following steps:
      • Reboot your computer before connecting to your event.
      • Close all unnecessary tabs and applications on your computer.
      • Ask members in your household or space not to use WIFI during the time of your event, this will ensure the maximization of bandwidth.
      • Hardwire your internet connection, this will solve any issues of instability with your WIFI.
  • How to change display names within Zoom
  • Run updates to each panelists' Zoom account
  • Review the event rollout (agenda)
  • Practice screen-sharing
    • For those who may be sharing presentations or images during the event

On the day of your event, have your tech team arrive on the call 30 mins before you expect your panelists to arrive. Take this time to enable all necessary settings and controls and test out screen-sharing (if you have an opening slide) and audio. Your panelists should arrive at least 15 minutes in advance to once again test their software and video/microphone capabilities.  

Refer to the Webinar Prep Checklist to ensure all the necessary controls have been enabled. 

As part of the post-event process, it’s imperative that event planners gather feedback from their guests to assess what can be done differently next time to improve the overall guest experience. The Zoom platform generates reports which can help analyze the overall success of your event. These reports coupled with a follow-up survey to attendees will best inform next steps as an event planner.