Stanford Conferences is your strategic partner for all your virtual event planning needs
Conferences are the lifeblood of Stanford, playing an important role in supporting and advancing the academic mission of the university, while helping to foster a sense of community. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted our need for meaningful and productive connection, while forever changing the way we achieve that. And though the transition to online or hybrid events can seem daunting, Stanford Conferences is here to help you unlock the vast opportunities of the virtual meeting space.
Learn more about the process of working with our team to ensure an effective and efficient virtual event, down to the last detail. From understanding your goals, to creating a comprehensive project plan, to developing a post-event engagement strategy, our team of dedicated professionals are excited to collaborate with you.
What our clients are saying...
“Thank you so much, Stanford Conferences, for all of your help, guidance, and impeccable work to pull off our virtual awards ceremony. Christina and Brigid did an amazing job and everything went so smoothly.”
Susan M. Jones, M.A.
Executive Assistant to the Vice Provost for Student Affairs
"The help from Stanford Conferences is extremely valuable and we would not have a successful conference without your help. It is such a pleasure to work with your team. We literally could not have managed this event without your hard work and expertise!"
Ying Lu and Elizabeth Munoz
Stat4Onc Annual Symposium 2021
Department of Biomedical Data Science
Stanford University School of Medicine
"With only eight weeks to our POETIC summer meeting, after having to give up the idea of an in-person meeting in Banff, Canada due to COVID-19, we reached out to Stanford Conferences for last-minute setup and management of our first virtual meeting. Christina Cusack, our meeting planner, and her colleague, Brigid Neff, were able to create a two-day Zoom webinar for our consortium to share personal stories, clinical, and scientific knowledge and foster collaborations which inspire us to continue promoting early clinical development of therapies in Pediatric Oncology. Christina’s professionalism, flexibility, efficiency, energy, and creativity made our meeting a BIG success! We highly recommend using Stanford Conferences for your next meeting."
Stanford University School of Medicine
For any event, connection with your audience is key, and success lies in having the support and resources to help you reach your goals. Stanford Conferences offers a wide range of services tailored to suit your needs. Whether you’re planning a smaller, invitation-only conference, or a multi-day event involving more complex coordination, our expert team of Certified Meeting Professionals (CMP) is able to assist.
Our planners are also Digital Event Strategists (DES) and Virtual Event & Meeting Management (VEMM) certified and able to help you design and produce your next virtual or hybrid event.
Step-by-Step Planning Guide for Virtual Events
You can use this guide to plan every aspect of your upcoming event, but you don't have to go it alone. Stanford Conferences can support you from inspiration to execution.
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 two 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: Consider ways to engage your virtual attendees early on and let that engagement inform your content.)
- Will you encourage audience participation through the hand raise, chat, poll, or Q&A features or shared screen features?
STEP 2: Choose Your Date(s) Carefully
Do your dates conflict with a major University event? Not Sure? Visit the Stanford University Events Calendar, Academic Calendar and University-Wide Events page for dates to avoid. Best Practice alert: Remember to consider the timing of Big 5 Events - New Student Orientation, Reunion Homecoming, Family Weekend, Admit Weekend, and Commencement.
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.
- Host - This person will be responsible for technical aspects of your event.
- Co-host(s) - Backup to the Host with access to similar technical controls as the Host. Co-hosts can be responsible for tasks such as sharing video, moderating chat, launching polls, monitoring Q&A, removing disruptive attendees, and so on.
- Moderator(s) - This person or people will act as the on-screen emcee of your event. If you have someone within your department who is great on camera and an engaging speaker, you may consider asking them to moderate your event.
- 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.
- Speakers and Panelists - Your speakers & panelists should be subject matter experts.
STEP 4: Determine Technology Needs
All Stanford staff, faculty, and student Zoom accounts support independent hosting of Zoom meetings as an event platform. Here are a few useful link to help you get on your way to hosting your virtual meeting:
Additionally, UIT, with input from Stanford Conferences and event planners throughout campus, have also created a Virtual Event Technology Guide. While the platforms listed on this page have been identified as viable vendors for virtual event hosting, there are currently no enterprise-wide licenses for these products.
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. Learn how to protect your Zoom meeting here.
For help navigating Zoom settings and controls for your event, consult this page and scroll down to “Get Help” section. UIT also provides Zoom support and is continually updating their resource page and Zoom security recommendations. For UIT Zoom help, click here and scroll down to the ‘Get Help’ section. We encourage you to continue to check back to those links frequently.
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. Many tools exist for doing so, including Eventbrite* and Google forms. Zoom also offers a free registration feature with options to manually approve registrants and pre-assign attendees to Breakout Rooms (in Zoom meetings only).
*Note: Any Stanford-affiliated event for which a registration fee will be charged, must comply with Stanford University Merchant Services rules and procedures for accepting credit cards for Event Registration. Both Certain registration and Eventbrite are approved registration platforms for Stanford events. To establish a Certain or Eventbrite account for paid events, contact Merchant Services at firstname.lastname@example.org
Stanford Conferences is available to help you with your Event Registration needs! Contact us at: email@example.com
STEP 7: Publicize an event or make a campus announcement
University Communications can help you publicize events and make announcements. Stanford Report is an email sent every weekday to approximately 35,000 faculty, staff and other subscribers. Stanford organizations may purchase display advertisements in Stanford Report.
Best practice alert: Consider sharing events on social media channels and create a relevant hashtag. Hashtags create great visibility for an event and help you reach your target audience. When used to promote an event, the hashtag not only connects you with your followers, but your followers with each other.
STEP 8: Prepare Your Speakers
You should also be clear about the time commitment expected of your presenters. It is advisable to host at least one practice session with speakers and panelists to test set-ups, review the Run of Show, etc. Consider sharing questions that have been submitted by attendees in advance of the event to allow your presenters to prepare answers. When inviting external speakers to participate, obtain speaker release forms in order to grant Stanford permission to capture a presentation in audio and/or video format. This will help you promote the event to attendees and use photos and videos to share event content when the event is over.
Best practice alert: Create a welcome slide or video that will be play for attendees as the event kicks off.
STEP 9: Produce Your Event
Remember, a little preparation goes a long way. Key stakeholders should receive a briefing and agenda at least 24 hours in advance of the event. On the day of your event, consider having the host (the person responsible for the technical components of your event) sign in 30 minutes before the meeting’s start time to confirm settings, controls, and the video/audio connection. Speakers, panelists, and co-hosts should connect at least 15 minutes prior to test their connection, review the agenda and receive any last minute communications.
STEP 10: Follow-up with Attendees
After the event has concluded, 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.