Step by Step Planning Guide for Virtual Events

Need help?  Email [email protected] or complete an Event Management Inquiry.

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?  

  • What will be the 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.

  • Will there be a 30-minute presentation from a single speaker, followed by a 30-minute Q&A?

  • Could it be an hour-long panel discussion based on pre-submitted questions?  

  • Would breakout sessions be helpful for further discussion?  

  • What is on your event’s agenda?

  • How will you engage your attendees?  Best practice alert: You might consider a few different options to keep your audience engaged.

  • Will you encourage 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 University event?  Not Sure? Visit the University Events CalendarAcademic Calendar and Annual University Events page for dates to avoid. 


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 host.  This person will be responsible for technical aspects of your event.

  • The 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.

    • Welcomes attendees, curating an intimate atmosphere in a not-so-intimate virtual platform

    • Moderates chat, polls, Q&A

    • Removes disruptive attendees, if needed

  • Breakout Room moderators. 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.

  • Panelists and Speakers.  By building a skilled event production team, speakers & panelists will be empowered to give their full attention to engaging attendees with content. 


STEP 4: Determine Technology Needs 

Start by consulting this Zoom Web Conferencing guide from Computing and Information Services (CIS) to configure your Zoom account.  Then, determine whether a meeting, webinar or livestream is most appropriate for your event using this side-by-side comparison.  If you’re still unsure, email [email protected] or complete an Event Management Inquiry.

All Brown 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, fill out a media request form for assistance from CIS.

Remote CART is a real-time text service that allows event attendees to read what is being said on a laptop, tablet or smartphone. Some people may refer to Remote CART as live captioning.  For more details, connect to Remote CART.


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 a virtual protest or the sharing of inappropriate content by a rogue attendee.  

For help navigating Zoom settings and controls for your event, consult this check-list.  Brown CIS 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 brown.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 lings to registered or invited participants. Many tools exist for doing so, including Eventbrite and Google forms.  Eventbrite even offers a tutorial on setting up an online only event.

If your event is being recorded, it is important to include Brown's approved language on your invitation and registration forms. This will notify participants that their images and/or names will be recorded and potentially broadcast, and provide them with opt-out instructions if they do not want their identities captured. 

Zoom also offers a free registration feature with options to manually approve registrants and pre-assign attendees to Breakout Rooms (in Zoom meetings only).  However, opportunities to brand your registration page and communications are limited.

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 Brown community, register your event with the University Event Calendar and advertise in [email protected] Visit [email protected]n for a Tutorial on Listing Virtual Events.

Best practice alert: For Zoom webinars and live streams that are intended to be publicly available, including a Zoom URL in the "Virtual event link” field of [email protected] makes sense. For Zoom meetings, it’s best not to share the meeting URL publicly. ​

Become a part of Featured Events at Brown to share with a broader community.   Featured Events is a listing of University lectures, performances and exhibitions of interest to the general public. It is distributed to all news media in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts, including calendar editors.  View Featured Event Submission Guidelines.

Add your event to one of the Graduate Student Council listservs which can facilitate promoting your event to the graduate community.

Consider sharing events on social media channels, whether for defined groups, or events open to the public.  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 University or department logo when appropriate (consult the University’s policies on Brown name and logo use). 

Best practice alert:  Consider including a welcome slide that will be posted for attendees that join before the event begins.

Schedule a practice session with speakers and panelists to test software, applications, and your Zoom settings and controls. Review this list of best practice questions to ask speakers. 

Fill out a Dignitary Notification Form to alert appropriate campus departments of high profile visitors coming to the Brown campus.  Not Sure?  If you are inviting someone who is likely to draw significant media attention, such as a well-known lecturer, an entertainer or political figure, chances are you will need to fill out the form. 


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.

*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.