Stanford Conferences is your strategic partner for all your virtual event planning needs
With ONLY 8 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.
- POETIC Team Stanford School of Medicine
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. As we navigate these unprecedented and challenging times, it is more important than ever to connect with one another, even as our ability to do so in person has been curtailed. And while the transition to online events may seem overwhelming, Stanford Conferences is here to help you unlock the vast opportunities of the virtual meeting space.
Connection with your audience is key, and success lies in having the support and resources to help you reach your goals. For this reason, Stanford Conferences offers a wide-range of services depending on your needs and type of event. Whether you’re planning a small meeting with few attendees, or a multi-day conference involving more complex coordination, our dynamic team of Certified Meeting Professionals (CMP) are here to help.
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.
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.
- 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
Stanford University IT (UIT) features a host of resources to help you determine what platform and/or format will be right for your meeting. Start by consulting this UIT Video Conferencing web page for online solutions and a range of video conferencing services that cater to your 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:
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. Eventbrite even offers a tutorial on setting up an online only event. 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.
Please 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 email@example.com
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.
For questions about event registration, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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. For more information on announcements, contact Kate Chesley at 725-3697, email@example.com
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
When inviting panelists and 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.
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 Stanford 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. Consider sharing questions that have been submitted by attendees in advance of the event to allow your presenters to prepare answers.
STEP 9: Produce Your Event
Remember, a little preparation goes a long way. Key players 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 60 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 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 has concluded, use Zoom to generate an attendee report (if Zoom was the platform used to execute the virtual event) 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.